How to become the boss of busy

boss-of-the-busyExhausted? Tired? Overwhelmed by how much you’ve got to get done? And that’s just before lunchtime. You’re not alone.

By Alison Hill. 

Busy has become a status symbol where whoever’s the busiest wins. We wake up in the morning, world rushing at us, throw a coffee over our worries and rip in – hoping against hope to ‘get it all done’.

The result of this constant state of busy is that we snap quicker than we should, we get caught up doing what we think we should be doing and we disconnect from the people we love the most. Busy is the boss and, even though it’s not one of those bosses we rave about, we are its faithful servants, turning up full pelt whenever it snaps its fingers.

It doesn’t have to be this way. You can become the boss of busy, finding calm among the chaos by focusing on purpose (why this?) and progress (what’s next?). Here are three strategies to put busy in its place:

Stop before you start

Having enough time is not a problem that most of us face. Our days are already chock-a-block. Then comes a new great idea – yoga, meditation, Samba lessons with the dreamy guy from down the road – but when are you going to find the time? In order to become the boss of busy we’ve got to look at what we can stop doing, before we start taking on board new habits.

Consider what would you lose (hint: stress) and what would you gain (hint: time) if you stopped doing the following, for example:

  • Staying up after 9:30 pm.
  • Taking your phone with you everywhere you go.
  • Staying back late/arriving early at work.
  • Going to every meeting.
  • Taking work home.
  • Sending emails after hours.

Get clear on what matters

Amid the busyness, we begin to feel as if we’re losing sight of ourselves, putting the things that matter to the bottom of the pile – until we have time. But here’s the thing: busy isn’t going away. So get clear on your values, on what matters to you here and now, and put them at the top of the pile. When stuck in a busy day, ask yourself, ‘Why am I doing this?’ 

If your answer is ‘Just because’, or ‘That’s the way it’s always been done’, or ‘Because I should’, then challenge yourself to focus on what else matters to you. Get clear on what’s the most important thing for you right now – and do that. Some days the most important thing might be to just go and have lunch.

Choose the action that gets the traction

Don’t you love a rhyming tip? And this one is worth paying attention to, because there’s every chance that you’ve found yourself busy, caught up in the daily grind, yet are still freaking out because you feel like you’re not getting anywhere. We become the boss of busy by obsessing about making progress, by choosing the actions that move things forward.

Think about the actions that give you the best traction. It might be that you need to pick up the phone and connect with potential clients, rather than worrying about putting up that poster around the office. It might be catching up with a friend who always leaves you inspired and energised, rather than stalking them on Facebook. It might be getting up for a run at 5.30am – rather than rolling over – because whenever you do your day is better. If so, set that alarm, put out your exercise clothes and make sure it happens.

Alison Hill is a psychologist and co-founder of Pragmatic Thinking, a behaviour and motivation strategy company. An international and in-demand keynote speaker, Alison is also the best-selling co-author of Dealing with the Tough Stuff and Stand Out: A real world guide to get clear, find purpose and become the boss of busy (Wiley $27.95). For more information, visit or contact

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