Not Busy, Focused
13th September 2019
A minimalist's reflections on the difference between being busy and being focused.
It’s Friday. Hurrah! You feel so ready to take a break or press pause on those endless to-do lists. Been another busy one, right? The problem is busyness doesn’t guarantee effectiveness. This is why you might feel simultaneously frazzled (after working your socks off all week) and frustrated at the lack of progress you’ve made lately on the projects that are important to you. The difference between being busy and being focused is huge:
The former involves the typical tropes of productivity – anything to keep our hands moving, to keep going, to keep the conveyor belt in motion.
Being focused, on the other hand, involves attention, awareness, and intentionality. People sometimes mistake my focused time for busyness because complete focus apes many of the same surface characteristics as busy: namely, the majority of my time is occupied.
For me, busy is a curse word. I grimace whenever someone accuses me of busy, my facial features contorting and writing in mock pain. I respond to this accusation the same way each time: “I’m not busy, I’m focused.”.
– Joshua Fields Millburn, The Minimalists
When you’re not busy, people might think you’re lazy or inefficient. Or that you don’t know what you’re doing. Worse, they might realise they don’t need you. None of that matters when we get clear about priorities and become intentional about the work we want to bring into the world.
What projects do you want to focus on this season? What impact do you want your work to have and what are the conditions that help you focus best to get it done?