How I Saved My Sanity and Boosted My Online Business by Doing Less (and How You Can Too)

multitasking

Have you ever felt totally overwhelmed? Not just regular busy… I’m talking completely slammed, under the gun, over-committed, and hopeless?

You’ve been there before, haven’t you? As you mentally assess all the things you have to accomplish in the next several days, you begin to realize there’s no way you’re going to get it all done.

Then that horrible stunned feeling washes over you. You know the one.

You feel hot and flushed, there’s a knot in your stomach, and you notice a growing pressure in your head which you just know (in your non-medical opinion) is not just your garden-variety migraine.

Nope. This one is one of those Scanners head-popping headaches.

In your mind, you can picture the faces of the people who are depending on you to finish all those things that you have no earthly chance of finishing. You imagine what they’ll think of you if you don’t come through.

And it seems like this state is the norm for you. Every time you dig out, you get inundated again. It never ends.

Your weeks, your months, your years… and your life fly by you like a fast-paced, tense, pressure-filled blur.

You wonder…

How did you get this way?
What did you do to deserve this horrible situation?
Will it ever get better?

You feel exhausted, desperate, and defeated.

What If It’s All Your Fault?

You start to feel like maybe it’s a personal deficit. You’re not able to keep up. Maybe you’re not tough enough or smart enough or (fill in the blank) enough.

After all, we live in a fast-paced, busy world and you either adapt or die, right?

The hustle and bustle is unavoidable.

We’re so connected these days, you have to be constantly engaged in something just to keep up.

To get ahead you have to take on more than the next guy – and be busier.

If you’re not a multitasker, you’re falling behind.

Finishing a task at the last second is commonplace – and that’s how you do all your best work anyway, right?

So if all that’s true, there’s no end to that horrible, stress-filled grind. The whole thing is out of your control, so you’d better just buckle up and prepare for the bumpy ride.

But here’s the thing. That’s all wrong. It’s just not true.

You don’t have to live that way.

And it’s not out of your control.

Why The “Busy Myth” Is so Dangerous

The real problem is that you have somehow managed to convince yourself that being busy and moving fast is a valuable thing.

Although it’s a widely accepted belief across the globe, Americans (like yours truly) are especially guilty of believing that working at breakneck speed, keeping grueling work hours, not taking breaks or vacations, working on huge volumes of projects at a time, and losing sleep over work is somehow related to quality, productivity, and success.

Busy = Good is a myth.

It’s not just an opinion. It’s not a matter of preference. It’s a fact.

Let’s look closely at a couple specific Busy = Good related myths.

The Myth of the 11th Hour – Pressure is Not Your Friend

I know you’ve heard someone at some point say, “I do my best work when I’m scrambling to meet a deadline.”

Absolutely, positively incorrect. If you believe that, you’ve brainwashed yourself into believing it.

The real truth can be found in this Harvard Business School study by creativity researcher Teresa Amabile. She followed 177 employees in 22 different project teams for up to six months. What she found might just blow you away.

Sorry to be the one to burst the bubble for you, but Amabile’s study showed that not only are people less creative under intense time pressure, but people believe that they are more creative during those times.

Did you catch that? Under intense time pressure, you incorrectly think you’re more creative (productive). But not only is that wrong, but the study revealed that creativity dropped for three straight days after the day of intense time pressure.

Mind blown?

How about this…

The Myth of the Multitasker – Worse Than Smoking Dope?

You may also feel like multitasking is something that we all need to accept and embrace in today’s day and age. That seems to be the message: That multitasking is what smart, productive, successful people do, right?

Not so much. In reality, multitasking wastes time.

See, people technically don’t multitask… we just jump from task to task quickly and often. And as we switch gears, the “ramp up-time” actually costs us productivity.

If you’re a pro-multitasking kind of guy or gal, the news just gets worse from here.

Multi-tasking doesn’t just waste time. It also negatively impacts your memory and can even make you come off as… well… stupid.

Yeah. I typed it. multitasking3

As it turns out, multitasking can drop your IQ down further than getting stoned. Yep. Stoned. High. Partaking of herbal recreation.

Before anyone gets the wrong idea… I’m not saying marijuana makes you smarter.
(I’m pretty sure there are some conclusive studies about that, too)

It’s just that multitasking is worse.

It sounds far-fetched, but the findings in the study by the Institute of Psychiatry at the University of London prove it. 1,100 British workers were studied and the findings showed that multitasking (specifically with electronic media in this study) caused a greater decrease in IQ than blazin’ a fatty or losing a night’s sleep.

Read about it in this Chicago Tribune article.

We don’t even have to get into the effects of stress, anxiety, and fatigue on your health, do we? You and I know it’s downright devastating to the health of your body and mind.

So what’s the point of all this?

The point is that between doing poorer quality work, wasting time, and becoming dumber than if we were to smoke dope, there are some really compelling reasons NOT to burn the candle at both ends, work too hard, or take on too much.

Think about it. How might it affect your clients when you try to fit too much in and jam-pack every minute of your day? What’s the impact on your work when you’re slammed and dead, zombie tired?

Over time, if you continue down that road, do you think your clients are more likely to remain satisfied? Or might they become disillusioned by the slowly eroding quality of your work?

Time for a confession…

How I Saved My Sanity and My Business by Slowing Down

There’s a widely held belief among authorities and aspiring authorities in the blogosphere that says if you want to be seen as an authority, you need to be come off as all-knowing, always persevering, and always right.

And even when online authorities do “show their scars” – it’s done in a milk-toast, whitewashed kind of way. Like some people do in job interviews where they repackage a strength and try to sell it as a weakness.

Interviewer: “So, Bob… what’s your biggest weakness?”
Liar Bob: “My biggest weaknesses are that I’m far too loyal to my employer, I care too much, and I work too hard.”

Oh, please. If that tripe doesn’t gag you, nothing will.

Anyway, I can’t bring myself to do that to you. I feel compelled to share the unvarnished truth about one of my weaknesses with you. And although it may sound like a re-packaged strength, it is not. I assure you. It’s a bad thing I’m working really hard to correct.

I recently learned that I take on too much and have a tendency to agree to projects that I shouldn’t. You need to weigh out the advantages of a project vs. the investment (of time, money, effort, etc.) you have to put into them.

What I have to be very cautious of is agreeing to projects that don’t weigh out properly, but I feel compelled to “help” with because I’m so fond of the people or companies asking me to do those projects. You’ve probably done the same thing at one time or another. Let me give you more insight in to what I mean…

You may or may not know this about me, but I’m also a professional copywriter. I write sales pages, sales letters, eBooks, video scripts, email swipe, and all other kinds of online copy for many different clients.

There are two clients in particular who come to me again and again with copywriting work. They’re both big names online that you’d recognize, and they’re both really great people who I not only respect, but personally like.

To make a long story short, in a very brief period of time, I agreed to two assignments from one, three assignments from the other, and yet another assignment for a referral from one of them.

The referral was difficult and uncomfortable to deal with from the get-go. None of the other five projects were anything particularly daunting, but when I looked at them all together as a whole, I saw this huge, insurmountable obstacle. All I could see was a tangle of projects and deadlines that I couldn’t possibly have sorted out given my other business commitments.

Eventually, after some panic and a great session with an excellent business coach, I saw my error. I separated from the difficult referral, hired some help for my copywriting business, and lightened my work load significantly while retaining both of my favorite clients and keeping my copywriting practice in tact.

In the end, it all turned out well for me, but it could have gone very differently if I had stayed over-committed and not communicated quickly and honestly with everyone. The quality of my work could have been greatly affected – possibly resulting in lost clients and an unhealthy business.

Is It Time for You to Slow Your Roll?

When you stop pushing so hard and decide to slow down, some interesting things happen.

  • Your mood becomes lighter and more positive
  • You have more mental clarity and vision
  • You make better decisions
  • The quality and crispness of your work remains high
  • You’ll have more time for other things and other people

All of that adds up you a happier (and healthier) you, happy clients, and a sane time management strategy that can help you continue to grow your business without doing yourself in.

If you’re anything like me, this slow thing is all well and good, but you might be skeptical that it’s just an excuse to work less and be… you know…. lazy. Could I just be encouraging people who are already prone to taking life waaaaay too slow to go even slower?

I suppose that’s possible. But first, I know my readers and they’re not bunch of slackers. Secondly, it’s pretty easy to tell if you’re someone who needs to slow down. Honestly answer the following questions…

  • Do you feel intense anxiety when you think about your work/tasks?
  • Do you feel like there’s no end in sight to the work you have to do?
  • Do your goals and deadlines feel out of reach?
  • Are you losing focus on one task because you’re worried about other tasks?
  • Are you regularly missing time with friends or family because of your work load?
  • Do you find yourself dreading the work you used to love?
  • Are you physically and mentally exhausted?
  • Are you losing sleep over your work?

Did you answer “yes” to more than a couple of those? If so, you might want to take some time to reflect on what you’re doing and why. It may be time to slow your roll before something bad happens. Consider the following…

  • Take time to look at and, if necessary, reassess your goals.
  • Make a list of high-leverage activities that actually move you and your business forward – and devote most of your time to those.
  • Find ways to remove stress-inducing tasks and activities from your life as much as possible.
  • Bring in some help to complete some of the more basic tasks – or the tasks that stress you out.
  • Remember that NO ONE gets your best effort when you’re overwhelmed and over-extended.

You deserve happiness and success out of your life. Your family and friends deserve the best ‘you’ that you can give them.

And the world deserves… no, needs your best work.

Maybe it’s time you slow down and give it to them.

 

What do you think?

Do you have a tendency to go too fast and take on too much?
What’s that feel like for you?
What do you do to fix it?

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About Gary Korisko

Gary is a battle-tested sales and marketing pro, copywriter, coach, and business strategist who teaches how to create worthwhile work on Reboot Authentic. Connect with Gary on Google+ and Twitter.

24 Replies

  1. “Busy = Good is a myth.” That’s a fact, Gary, and it’s something I am trying to outgrow, too. Watching my adult daughters in their own struggles as entrepreneurs I say, “Honey, you don’t have to be SuperWoman. It’s impossible, you know.” And then I realize I’m talking to myself, too. Duh… they learned it from me.

    1. 🙂 Yeah, Mia.

      It’s an easy trap to fall into. If you’re an ambitious person, it’s almost a certainty that you’ll find yourself there at some point. The trick is to realize it and correct the situation as soon as you can.

      Nice to see you!
      Gary Korisko recently posted…How I Saved My Sanity and Boosted My Online Business by Doing Less (and How You Can Too)My Profile

  2. I definitely have a tendency to take on too much. Which is why I’ve now decided to focus on one thing in my business – and have one goal. This gives me some anxiety too!

    One goal seems like it’s too little. But the many tasks that build up to achieving that one goal are beginning to mount up! So I find that I need to keep simplifying.

    But for someone who likes control, actively simplifying fills a need 🙂
    Razwana Wahid recently posted…Professional or amateur: You decideMy Profile

    1. I agree. Isn’t it interesting how simplifying can feel so “not simple?”
      Gary Korisko recently posted…How I Saved My Sanity and Boosted My Online Business by Doing Less (and How You Can Too)My Profile

    2. Roue

      I’m with you on that. I used to take on everthing that the world hurled my way, but these days, I’m all about delegation. Although there are some tasks that I still need todo myself, there are others that can already very well be delegated, like lead generation and stuff. I use http://www.connequity.com for this. For other tasks, I use freelancers. It’s easy enough to do, once you get over the initial hurdle of conveyingwhat you want done and what-not.

  3. Excellent post!

    Where it gets difficult for me is when it comes to your suggestion: ‘Make a list of high-leverage activities that actually move you and your business forward.’

    It’s not so easy to pinpoint ‘high-leverage activities’. Maybe this could be another interesting post?

    One of the problems in a busy life that some of our dreams and long-range goals get lost because we don’t assign time to move toward them because the activity can’t be classified as not ‘high-leverage.’

    In particular, I’m interested in how to reach LLR goals (Long-Long-Range Goals are ones that you want to complete in the next 3 to 5 years or longer). In most busy lives, these LLR goals get lost in the day-to-day struggle to survive.

    In my life, for example, writing a novel and winning a mountain bike orienteering race are LLR goals.
    The problem is that LL goals often slip off the radar in a busy life.

    I’ve found that the key to working toward the LLR goal is to spend between at least 15 minutes each week working toward them. This ‘slow-drip’ strategy keeps your goal alive and lets your creativity quietly work toward your goal in the background.

    1. I think a “High Leverage” post is a great idea.

      The short and sweet version is that anything that moves you forward today is high leverage. Activities that get you new clients, new relationships, new sales, etc.

      Make sense?
      Gary Korisko recently posted…How I Saved My Sanity and Boosted My Online Business by Doing Less (and How You Can Too)My Profile

  4. I think we are witnessing the birth of a new religion – Work!

    I’m very glad to read this post from an agnostic about this new religion.

    I’m lucky that I have usually been in control of my own time. Being able to go slow is hugely important to me – both for my own sanity and the quality of my work. Many thanks for this post.

    1. A new religion – Interesting take, Evan. And unfortunately, not too much of a stretch!

      Thanks much!
      Gary Korisko recently posted…How I Saved My Sanity and Boosted My Online Business by Doing Less (and How You Can Too)My Profile

  5. I’m too busy to comment on this, Gary, and I have a deadline I’m scrambling to meet so quit bugging me!
    Okay, I get a little short-tempered when I’m busy 😉
    Great article on a topic that most of us overlook because we’re too busy multitasking and wasting our time.
    Bobbi Emel recently posted…How good are you at bouncing back? Take the quiz!My Profile

    1. Yeah – it’s easy to get bogged down and have to put off important things like mastermind meetings and such 🙂

      Good to see you, Bobbi.
      Gary Korisko recently posted…How I Saved My Sanity and Boosted My Online Business by Doing Less (and How You Can Too)My Profile

  6. Ack! This is the story of my life! Im going to try and take some of these things to heart because something has to give.

    Welcome back Gary!
    Marianne recently posted…How to Create a Killer Watercolor Header Using Crayola Paints and an iPhoneMy Profile

    1. Hey Marianne!

      Unfortunately it’s epidemic. Just imagine how we’d all tip the “quality” scale if we slowed down just a bit.

  7. Gary, this just convinced me to say “no” to something I was considering. 🙂

    1. Hi Bree.

      Well, only you can judge whether you’ve said yes or no to the right thing. But if it felt right for you, then it probably is!
      Gary Korisko recently posted…How I Saved My Sanity and Boosted My Online Business by Doing Less (and How You Can Too)My Profile

  8. Excellent post. As a copywriter myself, I can definitely relate a lot, sometimes it just gets so hectic, with too much going on. That’s when it’s best to step back, breathe and go back in with a renewed sense of purpose and clarity.

    I’ve been using Fiverr for a while to outsource the grunt work. You can get a VA on there for three hours for $5. Now, you get what you pay for, so they won’t be able to do the finer things, but they’re very useful for assembling spreadsheets for posts like my Ultimate Reading List for Entrepreneurs, or doing some research.
    Jon recently posted…If You’re Reading This, Please Go Away!!My Profile

  9. I believe in balance.

    Working too much and being too busy actually makes me feel more sluggish as time moves on. And… if I don’t stop myself, I’ll be forced to step by something else (usually sickness/stress). I wish I could do more each day, though.

  10. Last time this happened with me and I took complete off from the online world.

    I switched off my phone, disconnected from internet and spent 5 days in mountains area.

    Slowing down actually makes your mind more relaxed and you start your work with more energy when you get back in action again.

    Thanks for the tips.
    Kulwant recently posted…HostGator Black Friday Deal 2014: Grab 75% Discount CouponMy Profile

  11. Hi Gary,

    Real talk here on slowing down. I am on a social fast. I check social once weekly now, for like 20 minutes. I only do 1 thing daily. 1 day, I write comments on authority blogs. 1 day, I write my post for the week. 1 day, I write articles for clients. I check email daily and may double up on leaving comments on blogs, as well as writing my posts – take a minute to write 6K words 😉 – but I won’t do more than 1 task, and checking my email daily.

    What a relief. I was weak in rushing forward, as of last week. My mind raced ahead to 3 things to do, combined with 4 other things. So much to do so little time.

    Now I have 1 thing to do daily. So little to do so much time. Different vibe, different level of detachment, and more peace of mind and different results. I love the art of slow. When slow moving, you see the details failures miss and experience the situations that hurried folks never get to experience.

    I learned from traveling the world for the past 43 months that if you want to see more places, and if you want to experience more places, you better slow down. Ditto on blogging.

    Love this post! And your blog!

    Ryan
    Ryan Biddulph recently posted…12 Tips to Gain TrustMy Profile

  12. I have learned to take only the projects that I really care for to lessen my load. Sometimes, if you’re too greedy on work, you’ll never find pleasure in what you are doing.
    Lem Enrile recently posted…List of Recommended Horror AnimeMy Profile

  13. Hello Gary,

    This is a great article. After reading it, I enjoyed. You are right, myth is important to become a success for business.I will share this post with my all follower.Thank you so much,

    Regards,
    Komal Gupta
    Komal Gupta recently posted…Best Full HD Mercedes Benz Car Wallpaper for Desktop BackgroundMy Profile

  14. jossef

    WOW… nicely descriped my main issue is results, i do work hard but when i do not see results fast i get in a very deficult state and I just feel i need to quit. It is hard when you run a business and you need results fast

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