We're busy. So busy, we feel stressed. Is there a way to do all the things we want to do in our 'busy-ness,' but without stress? I think so.
Being "busy" is still on the rise. At least that's what Google Trends tells us-- typing "so busy" into Google Trends shows a 15-year uptrend in 'business.'
The uptrend doesn't show a significant difference between men and women. Both are very busy. (Except women were VERY busy for a bit in April of 2016, maybe Hillary Clinton working hard on her campaign?)
I typed in the word 'busy' in Google trends for a reason. I have been noticing I keep saying it myself more and more over the last few years. "I'm so busy; I still need to do...(fill in a bunch of errands, excuses, ideas, self-imposed tasks, etc.)"
Of course, I have been more busy— becoming a parent of two kids brings with it a whole range of extra responsibilities. But it's not like the last 15 years everyone became a parent...
So I feel it's maybe a cultural thing multiplied by heavy Smartphone use. Less time left in the day when your attention is gobbled up by social media.
Timeboxing.. with a twist
To come to the bait (Stressless Productivity) that I left in the title of this article; There are some tricks to feeling less busy. One of which I want to discuss and explain here. Specifically, scheduling project-specific time without a quantified outcome for that time period.
You may have heard of 'Timeboxing' as a technique.
"In time management, timeboxing allocates a fixed time period, called a timebox, within [a] which planned activity takes place."
Here I want to change that timeboxing technique a little bit and replace the 'planned activity' for 'planned project.' This change looks small, but it is pretty profound, I think. Let me show you why.
Timeboxing tries to fit a specific outcome (of a set of tasks) within a set amount of time. What this does is try (really, emphasis on 'try') to be as efficient as possible in doing the tasks — used in the corporate world a lot, where time is money. Doing something within a timebox forces speed. Which is helpful in certain conditions (meetings, for example).
But it can also cause stress, especially when the tasks are unclear.
Having unclear tasks doesn't have to be a problem in your work, by the way. If the nature of the work is volatile or very creative, it is usually hard to say how long something takes.
So I think we can do better. At least for a longer-term project (weeks, months, or years).
What I do for longer-term projects, is to have a list of tasks, where I have prioritized each task. This way, I can allot time — let's say every day from 9:00 till 12:00 — to work on that project. Then I simply pick up the next task on my prioritized list for that project when I find myself in that timeslot. If I don't finish a task in those three hours that day, I'll continue with that task the next day at 9:00.
This adapted technique is much in line with something I highly value, which is:
"Quality over Quantity."
The quality of what I do is more important than how many 'things' I finish. The quality of multiple tasks in a row determines long term success, I find.
Of course, here you do have the demon of 'perfectionism' that can rear its head. How to deal with that is something else altogether.
What you can do with this newfound technique, is to say to yourself it's OK to continue with a task when you feel it needs more time.
You'll feel better finishing an assignment with quality. It sets you up for success long term.
But mostly it makes you feel less 'busy' — and thus, less stressful — because you are not restrained by time or quantity.