In today’s age of always-connected devices and nonstop notifications, we all have more to do each day than the hours can fit. Crossing items off the to-do list always feels good and gives one a feeling of accomplishment, but have we ever stopped and asked ourselves – accomplishment towards what?
The ‘Busy’ Trap
Whenever I have stopped to ask myself that question, I have realized that I have fallen into the trap of being busy rather than being productive. Being busy often relieves us from the fear of sitting still and the pain of conscious thinking, while the really important tasks often get neglected.
We are often sucked into doing meaningless activities, either through algorithms running on our “smart” devices or through habits we have formed by emulating our peers rather than consciously choosing them. In other words, we waste most of our time doing meaningless activities that we have no time left for what really matters.
We keep looking for happiness in materialistic gains which never leads to fulfillment. While everyone is constantly fighting to achieve their materialistic goals, very few understand that these are mere empty pursuits, only adding to the vicious cycle of wanting more.
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Meaningless vs Meaningful
Everything that we do can be divided into either meaningless activity or meaningful actions. What I mean by meaningless activity is anything we do to only keep ourselves busy. Example – checking email and social media, hanging out with friends, or anything we do without a specific intention in mind.
In contrast with the above, any activity which adds meaning to your life, or takes you in the direction of a conscious intention (or a goal), is what I would term meaningful. It could be a business trip for one or spending time with their family for another.
What is meaningless and meaningful is different for everyone. Only you can define that. No-one else can make that distinction for you.
We are often focused on what is urgent or what seems important today that we end up ignoring what is really important for us in the long run. Only by being aware of our decisions, we can be deliberate about them to move our life in the direction we want to go.
“A man who procrastinates in his choosing will inevitably have his choice made for him by circumstance.” – Hunter S Thompson
Focus and Prioritise
Research has shown that not having the courage to live a life true to ourselves, not expressing our feelings when we should have, and working too hard are the top three regrets people have at the end of their lives.
Doing things that we find meaningful is essential to our well being. But how many of us spend time wondering about what gives our life meaning, and what is really important to us?
When we accept the standards and values others’ have set for us, we surrender our own will and judgment. By figuring out our own values, we allow our unique light to shine upon the world.
If we only follow what everyone else is doing and not take the time and effort required to find our own values, which are unique for everyone, we will soon find ourselves lost and confused. But once you have put in the effort and identified your unique set of values, motivations, desires, and talents; you can nurture them and let them guide you.
- What are you good at?
- What do you love doing?
- What need can you serve?
I believe the intersection of answers to the above three questions will be the most meaningful work for you. Once you have these answers, it will give you the clarity to prioritize tasks and the courage to say “No” to anything that doesn’t align with what you discover.
Answering these questions will require some sincere and dedicated effort on your side, but once you do that, you will have more clarity on how you define your meaningful work. I would also like to add that it is a continuous rather than a one-time process. You should revisit the above questions every now and then as a “health-check”.
Having the clarity about the “why” before the “what” and “how” of any action will ensure you create focused output that moves you forward, rather than the effort that just takes you around in circles. So the next time you think you have no time to follow your dreams, you know you have fallen into the trap of being busy with meaningless activities.