busyness and the power of choice

by Rici van Schalkwyk | February 23, 2022

2022 has arrived; in fact, it’s well on its way already. A new year symbolises change and fresh starts.

I believe that 2022 is even more than that. We have the rare opportunity for a complete reset. We can reset the perpetual cycle of busyness, bad habits and routines. Reset to something better when starting with ‘normal’ after the last two years of disruption and uncertainty.

In the words of Steven Covey: “If we keep doing what we’re doing, we’re going to keep getting what we’re getting.”


How often do you hear the following phrases?

“We are good, everyone is just very busy” or “I would like to get together, but it is so busy.”

We have created a society where busyness is a norm. We accept it as normal, in fact we expect it. A culture of busyness and unlimited choices, which are great, but only in moderation.

This culture requires us to never be idle, franticly fitting as much as possible into 24 hours, never missing an opportunity, constantly doing more to succeed. This busyness equals urgency and distraction, leaving us exhausted and overwhelmed.

Is this the legacy we want to leave?


To reset, we need to understand the “why”. Why do we have this culture of busyness? Why is it so hard to break the habit? Well, for most of us anyway.

I think it is part of our DNA. We started from hunter-gatherer origins. If you were not hunting or gathering, you wouldn’t survive. This concept remains part of our heritage. More is better.

If we think in economic terms, then economic growth is defined as “an increase in the amount of goods and services produced per head of the population over a period of time”. Thus, growth equals more, better, faster.

Who doesn’t want growth for themselves, their business, and their families? But what if our measures and perspectives on growth and hard work are no longer accurate?

Motivation behind busyness

Life has many pressures but being successful is probably near the top. Most societies measure success and importance by having more or being better. To be successful I must have more. To have more I must work harder and take all the opportunities I get. This thought process leads to a very busy life to prove my worth. You have value because you exist, not because of how busy you are.

For some, busyness has become an addiction. They enjoy being busy and rushing through each day because of the adrenal high it provides. Like getting addicted to extreme sports because of the feeling/rush it gives. Long-term this leads to adrenaline addiction and various other health problems.

Sometimes busyness just happens for a period, and then it becomes a habit. We are so busy with actions and executing that we stop evaluating what is important. Busyness becomes an easy or lazy choice.

For me, it is probably a combination of things that keeps me in chronic busyness.

So how do I reset? How do I break this habit?

Change the measurement of success

We need to redefine success, hard work and productivity for ourselves and our businesses.

Hard work is praised and celebrated in all cultures. But do we define it the same? Is hard work equal to busyness? Is busyness equal to productivity? And does busyness therefore guarantee success?

I think not. What if we measure success not by busyness but by positive impact?

  1. Measure success at work on positive impact rather than busyness.
  2. Measure productivity on the impact rather than busyness.
  3. And measure hard work on impact rather than the long hours.
This change in measurement shifts our focus and intentions.


One of the many effects of busyness is a lack or misuse of space. Physical and mental space.

The frantic pace of overscheduled calendars seldom leads to clean and organised spaces at work and home. We move from task to task, meeting to meeting, just doing the necessary. And for the more organised among us, we clean, organise and list. And then we have a list for our lists. Because our minds are desperately trying to keep up by filing everything everywhere. Then we buy more things to helps us get organised. This requires more energy and time yet again. Making us more busy and slower.

If we think in computer terms, defragmenting means that files are physically organised on the disc to reduce fragments and create larger areas of free space. This is important in keeping the hard drive healthy and to speed up your computer. The same principle applies to us. We need to take time regularly to organise our surroundings and minds. This is time and energy well spent in helping us live optimally.

Similarly, the more items on the disc of a computer the slower the processing time. The more things we have, the more time and energy we must spend organising. We need to declutter our space and minds.

For our surroundings this may mean getting rid of things that no longer serve us and not adding new items without getting rid of old ones. Decluttering our minds includes rest, journaling, exercise, and many more.

That allows for breathing space.


Time is a limited resource and busyness is having more things to do than the time we have available. Therefore it seems very counterproductive to spend time to save time, but so is spending money to make money, and yet most of us have investments.

Breathing space can be defined as “an opportunity to pause, relax or decide what to do next” or “some time in which to recover, get organized, or get going”.1

With the rapid advances in Artificial Intelligence (AI) most human activities can be replaced. But there are a few areas that make humans unique. Like the ability to think, create and genuinely connect with others.2

How much of this limited resource of time do you spend on thinking, creating, and connecting?

We need a clear mind to make good decisions. Determine when and where you do your best thinking. Invest your time wisely.

Control and choices

So often you hear: “We’re so busy, but that’s life. What can we do?”

As if busyness is inevitable. If you are currently part of the working population, when do you think you will be old enough/rich enough/experienced enough to do something about it?

You will never be able to do everything, know everything and handle everything. There is simply too much. We cannot control everything, but we can control our choices.

We have the power of choice.

We can choose how to react and what to do. Sometimes those choices will be hard. Saying yes to one thing means saying no to something else. It is the basic law of economics; demand and supply. The supply of your time is limited, and demand is high. Choose wisely even when the choice is brutal.

Sometimes saying no to opportunities or letting things go will feel like a loss, but evaluate the choices against your values, priorities, and goals. Mourn that loss and re-evaluate opportunities on a regular basis.

Not choosing is also a choice.

Attention and focus

The digital age has brought with it many benefits and opportunities. As with all good things, if not used responsibly and in moderation there are unintended consequences.

Technology has made it possible for us to always be available and in contact. For most this means never being ‘off-duty’ and resting. During meetings, phones cause so much distraction that the value of the meeting and having diverse opinions around the table, is completely lost.
Coffee breaks that should be spent on genuinely connecting with others are spent on social media. Most conversations never go beyond superficial transactional topics.

Virtual meetings allow us to save the time and cost to travel. We can meet with clients or colleagues on the other side of the world, while sitting at home.
Steadily the number of meetings we attend have been getting out of hand, but since the pandemic it has multiplied exponentially. Most spend day after day in back-to-back meetings, while simultaneously doing some ‘productive’ work during those meetings.

This busyness and multitasking makes our minds completely unfocused. It is like trying to focus on driving while in the middle of a blizzard. The snow keeps distracting you. Busyness and multitasking cannot be sustained long-term. It slows us down. Diminishing our productivity. A computer with multiple windows open all the time, operate slower. Too many tasks to maintain simultaneously.

Focus your attention.

Focused attention allows us to think, create and connect in a way that is unique to us. That is the value we bring to work, meetings and family gatherings.

Rather choose to attend less meetings but be fully present and attentive at those you do attend.

Good busy

Being busy is not all bad. It is the “what” and the “why” that we need to revisit. Be busy with the right things. The right things will differ for each of us because we value different things and have different goals.

Define what success is for you. Place a value on the activities that keep you busy. Are these activities adding value to the life you want? If not, re-allocate that time to things that matter to you.

Clear space in your physical environment and mind to allow for breathing space. The time saved on maintaining and organising ‘stuff’ is better spent on making a positive impact. That includes time to rest.

We cannot be busy all the time and expect to be productive. It is not realistic. Nature has seasons because of the importance of a period of rest. There is a natural rhythm of growth and rest. Using a computer without recharging it makes it slower and slower, until it shuts down completely. Computers must shut down to properly install new software.

This is true for us as well. Create a healthy work rhythm3. During your workday have periods of intense focus and then a short break in-between. Unplug and recharge on weekends.

The power of choice is yours.

At wauperform we believe that having a healthy allocation of your time will make you happier and more productive, ensuring a positive impact. Connect with us. We will gladly assist you with the process.


  1. Breathing space Definition & Meaning – Merriam-Webster
  2. Tony Crabbe – Busy
  3. Carson Tate – Work Simply


Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *