Always fighting fires – how to avoid feeling “busy” everyday but getting nothing done

Do you ever get to the end of your day and wonder if you even achieved anything? “Busy” is our most common response when asked how we are and yet we can still feel like we aren’t doing anything with our days. How can both be true?

For me, it is usually when I allow the unimportant tasks to fill up my time, when I haven’t built margin into my weeks for the unexpected and when I haven’t prioritised according to what I really value or will make a difference. Living reactively instead of proactively can feel like I am constantly fighting fires.

We all have the same amount of time in our day. You know that mum that you admire and compare yourself with? The one who makes you wonder how she does it all? Firstly, she doesn’t do it ALL and it is likely just the highlights that you are seeing! Secondly, she has the same 24 hour day that we do. Maybe what is admirable is the way she approaches her time with intention and prioritises the important. You and I can do that too.

I often feel caught between the messages of “less is more” and “chase down your dreams.” I feel the pull to simplify my life and try to do less and yet be a person of purpose who follows the passions within her. They seem at odds with one another and as if they can’t both exist at once. I am learning what it looks like to honour both. MOPS has been a large part of that learning for me. The themes that have run through the past few years have spoken into both of these pulls. The underlying message is to “simplify in order to multiply.”

Simplify your commitments in order to multiply the effectiveness you have in the ones that are left. Simplify your weekly schedule in order to multiply the connection with those in your family. Simplify your expectations on yourself so that you can multiply the impact of the unique gifts that you bring to your world. Simplify your technology use in order to multiply the time in your day to follow your passion for craft, writing or building a business.

Let’s get practical with this.

  • Write an honest list of what takes up your time each day and week.
    Consider tracking your time. How much goes to social media? Are you getting enough sleep? (Cutting down on sleep to gain time in your day in order to feel more productive usually ends up with the opposite result!)
  • Prioritise what is important to you.
    Does your current schedule and the way you spend your time reflect those priorities and values?
  • Consider what distractions you are allowing in your day.
    For me, being drawn to distractions, like mindless social media scrolling, usually means I am avoiding something that feels hard. Actually doing that hard thing generally leaves me feeling better in the long run! Make a plan to cut down distractions and get curious about what is driving them.
  • Consider creating a weekly rhythm or block schedule.
    This was transformational for me. Multitasking is a necessary evil at times but is not effective as a normal practice. Decide in advance when in your week and day you will tackle housework, intentional family time, exercise and taking care of yourself, emails etc. Of course, this will need to be flexible but having a general plan that takes into account your usual commitments and needs is key.
  • Choose your top three tasks each day.
    Having endless to-do lists each day leaves us feeling like failures when we fall into bed each night with so much left on the list. Choose three tasks that you will aim for that day. The ones that are important and will leave you feeling accomplished at the end of the day. Keep a master list somewhere so you don’t forget the other things you need to get done but tackle them as a secondary focus. You’ll be amazed at the difference it makes. (I was sceptical at first too!)

So much of this comes down to the mindset and the perspective we take on our days. Honestly, it can feel good to play the “busy” card and get sympathy from others. It makes us feel like we belong in this world of overdoing things. Let’s create a new world together where we take responsibility for our time and what we say “yes” to, where we focus on what is important and where we recognise that so much of what we “have” to do is actually a gift that we “get” to do.

Jodi Koepke
MOPS Field Manager

Jo spends her days sharing words of encouragement for women in leadership, finding her way through the beautiful mess of parenting and relationships, and geeking out on technology. She is one of the managers for MOPS Australia, a writer and speaker. Her book “Stepping Up In Leadership” is available through MOPShop. Find more inspiritment at jokoepke.com.

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