The Busyness Syndrome

Busyness

Have your ever run around putting out fires all day, racing to appointments, plowing through emails, and getting to 5 or 6 PM with the sick realization that you haven’t even started the most important work of the day – like prospecting? 

Behavioral science is showing us that humans are addicted to novelty.  The email ends up feeding that addiction. Whether it’s the ding of a new email or the ping of a Facebook message, we stop everything to check it out.  

From the book, Atomic Habits, there is a common mistake that often happens to too many of us. The error has to do with the difference between being in motion and taking action. They sound similar, but they’re not the same.

When you’re in motion, you’re planning and strategizing and learning. Those are all good things, but they don’t produce a result. Action, on the other hand, is the type of behavior that will deliver an outcome.

Here’s a couple of practical examples:

  • If I outline 20 ideas for articles I want to write, that’s motion.
    • If I write and publish an article, that’s action.
  • If I email 10 new leads for my business and start conversations with them, that’s motion.
    • When I set an appointment, that’s action.
  • If I search for a better diet plan and read a few books on the topic, that’s motion.
    • If I eat a healthy meal, that’s action.

Sometimes motion is useful, yet it will never produce an outcome by itself. It doesn’t matter how many times you talk to the personal trainer, that motion will never get you in shape. Only the action of working out will get the result you’re looking to achieve.

If the motion doesn’t lead to results, why do we do it?

Sometimes we do it because we need to plan or learn more. But more often than not, we do it because motion allows us to feel like we’re making progress without running the risk of failure. 

Most of us are experts at avoiding criticism. It doesn’t feel right to fail or to be judged publicly, so we tend to avoid situations where that might happen. And that’s the biggest reason why you slip into motion rather than taking action: you want to delay failure.

It’s easy to be in motion and convince yourself that you’re still making progress. You think, “I’ve got conversations going with four potential clients right now. This is good. We’re moving in the right direction.” 

Motion makes you feel like you’re getting things done. But really, you’re just preparing to get something done. When preparation becomes a form of procrastination, you need to change something. You don’t want to be planning merely. You want to be practicing.

Sendhil Mullainathan suggests thinking about our schedules as less like a pantry that we cram anything and everything into, and more like an art gallery where we intentionally decide what is most important and how to arrange it so that everything fits. He recommends setting alerts to help us remember what’s important when we start to fall into the scarcity trap.

“Once we’re short on time, we’re already in a bad situation,” Shah says. “But if we learn to manage the time beforehand, we can keep that from happening in the future.”

Some ideas to get out of motion and into action:

  1. Work expands to the time you give it: Set a specific time for each task.
  2. Set a schedule for your actions: Basic time blocking.
  3. Pick a date to shift you from motion to action: set hard deadlines.
  4. Switch your feelings: “I don’t feel like it” to “Let’s get this done!”

 

About the Author
Mark is the Chief Executive Officer of JP & Associates, a rapidly growing full-service real estate brokerage. He is focused primarily on expansion and productivity. He has invested nearly 20 years in understanding the inner workings of high performing real estate agents, teams, managers, and leaders in major markets across the world. In prior assignments, he served as a Business Coach, in progressive leadership capacities for the 5th largest US-based real estate brokerage firm; in sales and customer marketing leadership capacities for a major consumer goods company; and served a stint in the US Army, Medical Service Corp. He was later recalled to active duty during the desert storm campaign.

Mark is a father of 3, lifelong learner, Spartan and adventure athlete. He earned his MBA from California State University and a Behavioral Change Certification from the National Association of Sports Medicine. A number of years ago he decided to make "One Helluva Move" and not play it safe, and since then in his spare time he has climbed the world’s tallest free-standing mountain - Kilimanjaro; completed the Spartan tri-fecta, the LA Marathon and the world-famous Iowa border to border RABGRAI ride among other crazy adventures.