When my kids were younger, I worked as a day trader on the New York Stock Exchange.  My life was exciting but extremely busy and stressful. At that time I dreamt of an empty calendar, free days at home, and having more time to read and relax. Essentially I wanted some boredom.

But now that the kids are grown and I have an empty nest, it seems I have even less time and I’m busier than before – and I am not an exception. A lot of us Americans are very busy and work way too many hours.

We are so busy, that in surveys US workers say they would prefer 20% pay cuts for 20% less work and more free time. We are actually one of the  busiest countries in the industrial world. In the U.S., 85.8 percent of males and 66.5 percent of females work more than 40 hours per week. The problem, of course, is that we set those expectations as a culture, not as individuals.

According to the International Labor Organization “Americans work 137 more hours per year than Japanese workers, 260 more hours per year than British workers, and 499 more hours per year than French workers.”

It’s true that being productive often means being busy, but it’s only true up to a point. For many of us, more work leads to more stress and a lower quality of life. Without time to unwind, take care of our home, spend time with loved ones, enjoy our hobbies, connect with friends, and generally live a more balanced life. Stress is the #1 cause of health problems – mentally and physically. And there are few things that stress us out on a consistent basis like work does, especially when it takes away from all of the other things that life has to offer. When we are tired at work we will more likely make mistakes and decisions are not going to be perfect…

….and even small mistakes can have big consequences.

As an example, in 1979, a passenger jet with 257 people on board left New Zealand for a sightseeing flight to Antarctica and back. However, the pilots were unaware that someone had altered the flight coordinates by a measly two degrees, putting them 28 miles east of where they were assumed to be.

Approaching Antarctica, the pilots descended to give the passengers a view of the beautiful landscapes. Due to the incorrect coordinates had placed them directly in the path of the active volcano, Mount Erebus.

The snow on the volcano blended with the clouds above, deceiving the pilots into thinking they were flying above flat ground. When the instruments sounded a warning of the quickly rising ground, it was too late. The plane crashed into the volcano and everyone on board died.

The more you have going on in your life, the more admirable you think you appear to others. In fact, it almost seems as if having less leisure time earns you a higher social status – some bizarre badge of honor to be worn with pride.

How are you piloting your life? Do you choose to be busy or do you have to be busy?

Here is a few signs that you maybe too busy:

  1. You can’t remember the last time you took a day off
  2. You consistently work over the weekend or late at night
  3. Activities like eating are always done in tandem with other tasks
  4. You’re consistently more tired when you get up in the morning than you are when you go to bed, and you dread getting up in the morning
  5. Canceling meetings with people so you can catch up with the work
  6. “Survival mode” is your only mode

I believe it is time for busy entrepreneurs, managers and leaders to take off their superhero capes once and for all; the notion of getting more and better work done with fewer resources is a profoundly damaging myth whose time has passed.

So how do we Find More Time;

~ having a few priorities and being good at prioritizing is more important than working hard. Successful people don’t waste their hours. They are very intentional about what they do.

~they reach out

~they delegate  

~they work smart as to opposed to hard. Working too hard means you’re also risking burn-out, so it’s good to know the signs before you’re forced to seriously tap out.

~they say “no”. You may be shocked to find that successful people deliberately reject certain activities.  That’s what “do less, then obsess” helps you accomplish. You do less work, better, so you can actually go have a personal life.

~Parenting is the most important job you’ll ever have. If you happen to be a parent, don’t forget that working long hours gets in the way of strong relationships with your children.

The benefits are that when you’re not busy, you have more time to think and play. More time to exchange ideas and experiences with friends and family. Most importantly, you regain self-worth and confidence without using the word “busy” as a confidence-booster. Eliminating busy means you’ve got time to finally think and develop both personally and professionally.

I met with a close  friend of mine, a few days ago. I asked her how she was doing, how her family was. She looked up, voice lowered, and just whimpered: “I’m so, so busy… I am so busy… I have so much going on.” If you are like my friend and need help organizing your life or your business, email us at contact@jagerconsulting.com to organize a free consultation with one of our coaches.