Time management: learning to be less busy

You have choices as to what to do, how long to take, how relaxed to be, and how free to be.  Photo by Samantha Gades on Unsplash

What is busy-ness? It’s trying to fit so much in to a fixed period of time, that your mind or body uses more resources than usual, and has fewer resources than expected for other things.

The main factors are, therefore:

  1. Fitting a lot of activities in
  2. Having only a fixed time available
  3. Using more personal resource than usual
  4. Having less personal resource available for other things
The reason that this is an important definition, is that the knowledge of what is happening gives us mastery over our choices.

For any activity we accept, we actually have four choices:

  1. Whether to accept the activity
  2. How much time to allow for it
  3. How much energy to apply to it
  4. How much space to leave for other things
If you want to become overwhelmed, then accept more activities, allow less time for each one, apply maximum energy to each activity, and leave no space for other things to emerge.

Equally, it you want to become less busy, focus on four golden rules:


Learning to say no determined whether you will be able to reduce your activities.  If you can’t say no, then you will find yourself getting dragged in to more and more, until you are overwhelmed.


Many things do not have to be done when someone says they have to be done.  Learn to negotiate an earliest and latest completion date for things.  If someone consistently tells you everything has to be done now, then perhaps distance yourself from that person – they themselves are unlikely to be a good planner.


If your culture if ‘work hard, play hard’, then you are asking to get overwhelmed regularly. In contrast, learn to move more slowly, breathe more deeply, take more time to think and talk.  You have a choice as to how much energy to apply to your activities.  If you run all the time, you will be tired regularly.  If you learn to walk, then you will be well-paced, and quite possibly have better judgement.


I am fond of empty bowls – I have them around the house.  They remind me that spare capacity is beautiful.  Beautiful people leave space in their day to stop and be with others.  Busy people are always denying others time because they have another priority.  But learn to become an ’empty bowl’ – you will listen better, be more aware, be more flexible, and will have more time for others.



Do I feel busy?

Have I accepted too many activities?  Have I agreed to short timescales?  Am I applying too much energy to them?  Have I left enough space for other things?

Can I learn to say no, quietly and politely?  Can learn to negotiate healthy time frames?  Can I pedal softly for much of the time, walk instead of run?

Can I be an empty bowl, full of space to see and hear the world around me, full of flexibility, and full of time for others’ needs as they emerge?

If I feel busy, it is the accumulation of many decisions I have made in the past.  But if I can start to make better decisions, then I can become relaxed again, more spacious, kinder.