Being Busy Was Just An Excuse
How to motivate yourself to do the important things in life.
I worked a little over 2 years managing two multidisciplinary clinics in Singapore. I had awfully long working hours, a ton of stress and deadlines to meet. My relationship with the patients and the monthly pay checks were probably the only two things that kept my sanity in check. I had no real life outside of work, work was my life and I was too busy for anything else. I started to blame my work commitments and the perceived lack of time as an excuse to ignore my personal goals and the things that really mattered in life. I wanted to explore the world, build an online e-commerce platform for passive income, I wanted to read and write more but I had no time.
“It’s not how much you spend but how you spend your life that matters”,
They say a truly successful life begins when you start living on your own terms. You decide what to do with your own time. Your life, your rules. After many months of soul-searching, I decided to quit my job and try live a life without obligations or time-constraints to see how my life unfolds.
As I was handing in my resignation, I thought to myself,
“I would be so productive!"
"I will work on my online business, start a new website, exercise more often, read more, attend seminars, and explore Singapore and the world…”
"I will be living my life on my own terms..."
I was finally going to be "that guy" you read about on the internet. Someone that works on whatever he’s interested in, makes good money for it and at the same time have the freedom of time. Unfortunately it's been exactly seven days since I became unemployed and nothing much has changed. I haven't been exercising, my e-commerce website is still offline and by the looks of it, it was going to stay that way. More time didn't mean more productivity or more results.
(2018 March: This article was written about 2 years ago from the date of this review. I've been exercising three-four times a week for the past 6 months, read 34 books in 2017, travelled to three different countries in the past three months, all the while managing a clinic in Clementi, Singapore! As I re-read what I've wrote here 2 years ago, I would like to further add that asking the right questions and having a strong WHY to everything you do will lead to much improved productivity and results. Knowing how you want to live your life and why needs to come first, the time and the resources will naturally follow.)
Why Being Busy Is Just An Excuse
I always had the habit of managing time when I should have been managing my attention. Being busy was the easy way out for me. Because I was busy, I didn’t have to make the tough decisions in life. I told myself that I was too busy to build an e-commerce website. I was too busy to exercise. I was too busy to read.
I had so many small things to do, never had any time for the bigger things and I still felt productive. Because I was so busy, I appeared hardworking. When in reality, my busy-ness was a just a form of procrastination that stopped me from doing things that actually mattered the most.
By being busy, I lived a life of reaction. I answered emails, showed up for work, went to meetings and still had piles of things to check off on my to do lists. By being busy, I avoided making the tougher decisions in life. Ignored the things that mattered the most. I was too busy to do anything of real value because I had no control over my life.
The first step to freedom and true productivity/motivation is to accept that busyness is an addiction! It's cool to look busy and showcase your appointment filled calendar. It's nice to feel productive when in reality, you are not adding any more value to your life and your goals. Why would you want to work 9-to-5 for someone else's dreams and procrastinate on yours? You're not busy, you're procrastinating.
Set Your Goals The Right Way
I always had clear goals outside of work. For each goals, I would recite affirmations and even build vision boards. But none of them ever came to fruition because I was too busy. I would blame my schedule and lament, "only if I had the time to...X, Y and Z!"
My busyness wasn't the problem. I was just using it as an excuse to blow off my incompetency. I had goals but I didn't know how to achieve them. Big goals without specific direction were just too audacious for me and naturally, I pushed them away and focused on the easier things in life. Showing up for work that I have been doing for the past 2 years was far easier than starting an online business from scratch.
Big audacious goals (such as setting up a new online business) are important to spark ambition, inspire and engage us to visualise a bigger picture. But without proper support, these goals can also crush your morale. As goals become stale and remain unrealised for some time, I started to blame my external circumstances.
"I don't have enough money."
"I'm too busy."
Don't get caught up with the Law of Attraction fad. There are no short cuts to success. This is where SMART goals come in (Don't get me wrong! LoA work when done right but proper planning and execution is part of LoA).
What Are SMART Goals?
SMART goals are used to break big goals down into concrete plans and bring structure.
- SPECIFIC: Who, What, Where, When, Why, Which. Define the goal as much as possible, with no ambiguous language.
- MEASURABLE: From and To. Can you track the progress and measure the outcome? How much? How many?
- ATTAINABLE: How? Is the goal reasonable enough to be accomplished? How so?
- RELEVANT: Is the goal worthwhile and will it meet your needs? Is the goal consistent with your long term plans?
- TIMELY: When! Establish a sense of urgency by putting a time limit. Prompts you to have better time amangement.
The purpose of SMART goals is to be more specific with your big audacious goals and break them down into smaller, actionable steps. The key here is to be as specific as possible, down to the finer details - where, when, what and with whom? The chances of you executing an action is more likely if they are specific, simple and actionable. Don't worry if your broken down SMART goals are too simple! "A journey of a thousands miles begins with a single step".
If you want to learn more about setting SMART goals, I highly recommend that you read this article from YourCoach.
Now that you've accepted being busy as just an excuse and broke down your BHAG into smaller, actionable SMART goals, what's next? The final step is to build resilience and persistence.
Know How To Self-Motivate
I’ve always been a goal-oriented person but only when there were pressure and deadlines to meet. Myself in workplace is perfect example. With each deadlines to meet, I forced myself to perform and maybe that’s why I excelled at work but never really in my personal endeavours. Such a foolish thing to say but the lack of pressure from above (employer) and the absence of a deadline in my personal goals made me lazy.
Studies cited from the book “Smarter Faster Better” by Charles Duhigg, suggests that “people who know how to self-motivate earn more money than their peers, report higher levels of happiness, and say they are more satisfied with their families, jobs and lives.” Then how can we master self-motivation?
According to researchers, the best way to self-motivate is to give ourselves control and authority over our actions, surroundings and lives. In other words, to motivate ourselves, we must feel like we are in control (have an internal locus of control) and be responsible.
Instead of having an “Internal locus”, I was living my life on “external locus of control.” I was, or at least assumed, that my life was dictated by external factors and my surroundings. I wasn't responsible for my own life, too busy blaming my external circumstances for my shortcomings.
Related Reading: How Tony Robbins Helped Me Shape My Destiny
Are we really that busy? To honest truth is NO.
We are busy because we fail to prioritise.
Because we are not asking the tougher questions in life.
Because we are afraid to take responsibility.
There is a list of single mom entrepreneurs who get more things done than most of us! It's time to accept that no matter what we do, we always have enough time to work on our dreams/goals. It's a choice and it all begins by accepting responsibility for your own life.