3 Warning Signs You’re Too Busy To Succeed

We feel most alone when we are busy. Running. Rolling through stop signs because we don’t have three seconds to pause. Tailgating the car in front of you. Telling white lies to explain away our inability to be punctual.

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Last April I remember being caught up in such a time.  I was sitting in a coffee shop in Seattle. I remember the girl across from me had a large white coffee cup that carried one of the most irritating statements an A-Type personality could read. It said, “You have as many hours in a day as Beyonce.” And as ridiculous as this might sound, the reality was difficult to swallow.

How is it that some people are able to achieve far greater progress, success, and freedom than others with the same amount of time?

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This question had been on my mind for several years. Let me tell you why: I’ve been an entrepreneur for 13 years. Launched my first company at 18, second at 21, third at 23, and the website you’re on is number eight. I was married at 24, bought our first house at 25, published a book at 26, millionaire at 27, bought our second house at 27, father at 28, had 50 employees at 28, the cover of Entrepreneur Magazine at 29, National Bestselling Author at 30, and bought our first farm a few months before I turn 31.

The point is this: I know busy. But more than that, I know how to escape it.

Success hasn’t always been my story. In those early years of self-employment (18-25), I lost thousands of hours of wasted time. I lost my heart, my friendships, my enjoyment, and my focus.

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Because busy is an addiction. It’s a mirage. It tells people that more effort equals more progress. And that’s simply not true.

It wasn’t until the summer of 2011 when an older gentlemen pulled me aside and asked me to explain the four highlights of the previous year. I couldn’t do it. It was a blur. I was so busy making a living I couldn’t remember my own life. I missed the first year of my marriage, the death of a friend, and the needs of my very own brother. It was at this point I realized busy could be dangerous.

As I matured in this new awareness, I began understanding the difference between success, progress, and busy.

I had a light-bulb moment. Successful people develop a system for moving ideas through to completion. Onto the plate, work the idea, and then off the plate. It looks something like this:

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On the contrary, busy people are very effective at getting ideas onto the plate and even working the idea. But they lack a reliable system for getting them off.

And just like our eyes can be too big for our stomachs, an addiction to busy can leave your life with a plate of ideas you’ll never be able to finish. It looks something like this:

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Success requires a great deal of ingredients. From strong relationships and a well-organized life to fanatical focus and a commitment to a set of non-negotiables. When these areas fall, your race toward success goes with it. And more often than not, busy is the barrier to our success. On that note, here are three warning signs you’re too busy to succeed.

1. Always Taking Plan B

The word compromise is used in two different senses, one typically positive and the other typically negative. The good sense of compromise is finding common ground with another person, as in reaching an agreement about a difficult course of action affecting both of you. The bad sense is being untrue to your core values and beliefs, as in selling out to achieve some short-term goal.

Busyness often forces us to make negative compromises in areas we’d rather not. Areas that are essential to the success recipe. Maybe it’s missing time with your kids. Maybe it’s being on your computer after 6 pm. Maybe it’s not eating healthy or exercising. Maybe it’s not going to bed at a decent hour.

Whatever it is, busyness often forces us to take Plan-B. And a Plan-B routine typically ends as a Plan-B life.

Question: Does your schedule often force you to make negative compromises? If so, what are you going to do to change that?

2. You’re Relationships End Up In The Kiddy Pool

In the crunch of priorities, where do your relationships fall? The deep end or the kiddy pool? For most busy, driven individuals with countless demands on their lives, keeping up with friends often gets pushed to the side.

But you can’t treat relationships like a hobby you’ll take up when you have more time. Family and friends must remain a priority as they are an integral part of rest, joy, and growth. Three crucial components of successful living.

We must be intentional about forming and building solid relationships. Rushed “catch-up” chats and text messages don’t count. Like any other area of growth, relationships require an investment of real time and energy.

There’s nothing exciting about being wealthy, known, and alone.

Question: Are you too busy to catch up with people? Are you investing into friends and family? Or are you just checking in when it’s convenient for you? 

3. Your Socks Don’t Go There

Organization is a requirement of success. And “busy” is “organized” arch-nemesis.

Researchers at the Princeton University Neuroscience Institute published the results of a study they conducted that proved physical clutter negatively affects your ability to focus and process information.

Clutter competes for your attention in the same way a toddler might stand next to you annoyingly repeating, “candy, candy, candy, candy, I want candy, candy, candy, candy, candy, candy, candy, candy, candy, candy …” Even though you might be able to focus partially, you’re highly aware that a screaming toddler is also vying for your attention. The disorganization eventually wears down your mental resources, and you’re more likely to become frustrated. Another trait not helpful for success.

If your goal is to focus, finish, and process information with power, you must operate at a pace that allows the daily clearing of clutter from your home and work environment.

People often believe messy is normal. It’s not. It’s a sign of a person too busy to be responsible.

Question: Is your car, office, and home well organized or on a reliable cleaning schedule? Or are things always piling up?

Because success is counterintuitive. More work doesn’t mean more results. We can spin our wheels and add to our plates until we turn blue in the face, but we must realize…

There are no shortcuts, only smartcuts to success.

Are you too busy? What signs do you see? How do you feel when you’re busy? Let me know in the comments below.

Need Help Getting In Control?

Success requires two things: A dream and discipline. But one thing remains true… A dream without action is merely a wish. If you’re looking to take control of your life and to create a business that fuels your passions, consider enrolling in our 12 months, online entrepreneur and leadership coaching program.

Author

Dale Partridge
Dale Partridge is the Founder of StartupCamp.com. He's also a keynote speaker and author of the Wall Street Journal & USA Today Bestselling book People Over Profit.

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  1. Have you ever heard of Einstein’s quote about a messy desk? “If a cluttered desk is a sign of a cluttered mind, of what then is an empty desk sign of?” I have always hated it! haha I know some people justifying their disorganization with Einstein’s quote and therefore his intelligence.
    I loved the article! thanks for sharing your mistakes on your early startups.

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  2. Lisa says:

    A Colleague suggested look you up before studying, and Im so glad I did. I’m a salesrep for a company, and sometimes feel overwelmed with the ideas and always want to do more and end up with to much on my plate. Im eager to get my live in control coz I realy love what I do and would love to be more productive that just being bizzy. Thank you Dale, following every step to become the best I know I can be:)

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    • Happy to be a resource for you, Lisa! Keep doing the good work!

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  3. Ugh… talk about calling me on my sh*t. I am a compulsive workaholic (daughter of a successful workaholic father whom I idolize). I love my business and I love working on new ideas. I work 80 hrs a week, my house is a mess, I start new projects before my last project has been fully realized. I take time from work only for my kids (and then not enough) and my husband is fed up with what I do… I always have the feeling that if I am not working I am not being productive.. I feel guilty sitting idle (or enjoying leisurely activities)… I grew up with the belief that hard work equals success…. if that were true I’d be a millionaire…. sigh… I don’t know how to get off this ‘wheel’ ….

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    • Thanks for sharing, Jana. I appreciate your honesty, and that very same honesty with yourself and trusted people in your community is what will help you get off that treacherous wheel. I believe in that, and YOU.

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  4. It is as if this post was written just for me. Over the past few months since discovering your existence, yoyr words of encouragement has made such an impact on me; for the first time I feel like I can actually achieve success. Thank you Dale!

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  5. Dale, I have been following you on many social platforms for some time, but this is the first time I have felt compelled to comment. This article contains an extremely important message. I just wrote about this topic and its impacts on my own life in a blog post three days before you posted this one. My post is here if you are curious: http://lauraonleading.com/2016/01/23/oversubscribed-the-silent-impacts-of-stress-in-our-lives/. I feel we are at the beginning of a social movement to take back our lives and make single-tasking popular again. Keep up the fantastic work! – Dr. B.

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  6. I’ve recently been on a minimalism kick. Getting all the unloved and unnecessary stuff out of my home has helped so much in getting me focused on the right things. Thanks for the insightful post Dale!

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  7. Larissa says:

    Typo on #2. “You’re” should be “your” Just a heads up 🙂
    Brilliant article, as usual!

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  8. Mieke Van Der Vyver says:

    Very helpful, thank you Dale! Agree with all the comments above!

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  9. Brittny Angel Miller says:

    I honestly just cried, this article was a wake up call for me! It read like my diary. I work easily 65- 70 hours a week (most of the time more, I’ve recently pulled a 86 hour week). I’m the most unhappy, unhealthy, and unorganized I think I’ve ever been and I’m fixing to turn 30 in Aug. I’ve been feeling like the last 7 years never happened, like I just woke up and realized my life has been this giant hamster wheel of wake up at 3am, work, maybe eat (if I remember ), leave work later than I wanted or planned, drive home get ready for bed and repeat. I’m currently saving to join Startup camp and in the meantime trying to figure out how to slow down enough to do it. How do I get off this wheel? I really can’t thank you enough for doing this and I’m honestly excited about something other than sleep for the first time in a really long time! If you have any advice, please comment.

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    • There’s a cost to change. The question is are you willing to pay the price. Looking forward to seeing you at camp in the near future.

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    • Brittany I am right with you!! But I am 48 and have been “busy” since I was 16. I have very few friends and family members that I talk to on a regular basis, take almost no time for myself and have moved 9x in 3 years due to a divorce and other circumstances. At each place less and less got unpacked. At this point i have been living in my “new” place since October (its February) and I’m still surrounded by boxes, totes and have been feeling so stuck. I have friend that recently became a business coach and she has lit a fire under me. If I hadn’t already committed to her course I would be signing up for this one I think (and I may still do that later anyway … never too much education from people who know what they are talking about) In the mean time I have written down all 10 books from one of his other posts and will be reading those in my “spare time” – best of luck to you – and thank you Dale again for being you.

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  10. Coming across this article, and ESPECIALLY that diagram, was a huge wake-up call. I feel like my entire life the past few months has consisted of me piling more and more apples onto my plate. I’ve been so busy with and excited about all of these ideas, yet at the end of the week Iook back and think, “Did I get anything done this week?” I’m not going to allow myself to throw anything else onto the plate until I’ve taken care of what’s already there.

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  11. Susan Wagers Johnson says:

    This is the best bio of me I’ve ever read – “…an addiction to busy can leave your life with a plate of ideas you’ll never be able to finish.” I’ve spent the day, yes the entire day, cleaning off my desk and dealing with the piles – thrown away or filed away. I’m shredding my ‘Pile-It” license and committing out loud to you and all of Camp, I will “operate at a pace that allows the daily clearing of clutter from your home and work environment.” 2016 is my year and Startup Camp is my foundation

    Wow – what a great article! Thanks Dale.

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  12. This is great! Lately I’ve been feeling “busy,” and I don’t like being busy. I prefer efficiency, because busyness is just stressful. While reading this I realized I’ve been putting off cleaning my room the past few days in favor of working on some projects, but your point about messiness really hit home! I work so much better when I’m in a clean, organized, and well-lit space. Thanks Dale 🙂

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  13. Virginia Wallace says:

    You are correct – there is “activity” and “productivity”. My husband is one that feels that if he is running around he is being productive. Although he has created many successful businesses – he goes from one new business to the next!
    Regarding the comment with Beyonce’ — she also has a staff to guide her and do many of the tasks for her.” I’ve been self-employed for 25 years and I had to clean my own house, buy and mend clothes – go to PTA and chair other functions.
    She doesn’t do her own hair or make-up or run her sound board while she’s singing.

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  14. Brent says:

    Great article. If I could afford to enroll right now i would, but this article has been very helpful this morning with helping to organize my class schedule, work schedule, and eliminating things to make room for a startup schedule. Thank you Dale.

    Proverbs 23:4

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    • Thanks, Brent! Look forward to seeing you at StartupCamp soon.

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  15. Thanks for this Dale! My wife and I are wanting to pursue some creative endeavors this year and work towards being self-employed. We spent this past weekend at a cabin in the mountains getting clear on our vision for the year. We created an “ideal week,” which has cleared away what’s making us busy and given us a filter to view our priorities through. We vow to NOT let busy keep us from succeeding!

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  16. Tom Alexander says:

    Wow Dale.. I swear you wrote this for me this morning! This past week has been about reevaluating “busy” and getting my life back in order. I am a prime example of this post. Thanks for all you do!

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  17. THANKS for writing this! In your diagrams above, do you see an “idea” as starting something large like StartupCamp, or starting something smaller like StartupCamp YouTube Channel? Or both?

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    • I think it can work for both. Some meals are smaller than others 🙂

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  18. Terial Lee says:

    Too busy….for the past few years I’ve wondered why it was so hard for me to complete task and focus. I understand why. I spoke with a friend about being lost on how to start my business. She suggested a few people to research, you were one of those people. The things you teach and say speak to me, you’ve answered so many questions I’ve ask over the years. I am enrolled and I thank you for the help.

    Reply

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