Successful People Aren’t Busy: The Secret to Reach Your Next Level of Success

In order to reach a true level of consistent, long-term success you must learn to master your own emotions, thoughts and outlook on life.

“Oh I am just so busy, I barely have time to think today.”

Believing that you are too busy to achieve your goals is the biggest lie we tell ourselves. We are only as busy as we believe we are, so busyness is not a fact, but a belief we teach ourselves. 

“Those who are wise won’t be busy, and those who are too busy can’t be wise.”

― Lin Yutang, The Importance of Living

In order to transform your life from busy to beneficial one must start being ruthless with themselves, how they spend their time and who they spend their time with. We also need to start being ruthlessly honest with ourselves as to where we are wasting time. 

The first question I have for you is how do you start your day?

Do you spend thirty minutes hitting snooze each day? Well, you are not getting a good sleep doing that, nor are you starting your day off on the right foot, so this technique needs to be adjusted. Either go to bed earlier, or set your alarm for later, but the act of hitting snooze puts us in this odd purgatory-like state where we are telling ourselves that we are not prepared for the day, we are not looking forward to the day and we are literally avoiding the forthcoming day. 

Starting each day with a positive, optimistic mindset is essential to have the tenacity to get through the tough bits each day is filled with. Each day is filled with little (or big) irritations, distractions, issues and problems. By starting your day with gratitude, positivity and the right footing (by literally getting out of bed and not hitting the dreaded snooze) these missteps may not bring you down as much as they have in the past.

Making time for journaling, meditation, preparing for your day and having a healthy meal are ideal for the morning, but start with baby steps. Slowly start integrating positive habits into your day and as one becomes normalized, slowly and steadily continue to add more and more until you have a strong, positive starting off point for the rest of your day.

If you stopped hitting snooze what inconveniences would vanish from your life?

If you are not running late for work, perhaps every red light which stops you will cease feeling like it is personally victimizing you.

If you are getting up on time, perhaps you will have time to make that pot of coffee you vow to make each night and actually save a few bucks this week.

If you are out of bed an hour before you leave the house, perhaps you will avoid that daily argument with your spouse about who is more behind schedule and who needs to get ready first, so that you can actually enjoy one another’s company before heading out for the day.  

“Go back to school? Are you insane? I can barely get through my day as it is…how would I ever add school to my routine?

When you think you are too busy to add another task or requirement to your life, you might be right. 

“It is not enough to be busy; so are the ants. The question is: What are we busy about?”

― Henry David Thoreau

As we add more onto our plate, we should also be good at removing items from our plate as well. Successful people are experts at cutting the fat. In order to be successful you have to be a good delegator. One thing that I have noticed that consistently impedes success is the inability of letting go. It is extremely egotistical to think that you yourself have to do everything yourself in order for it to be done right. 

Successful people are experts at cutting the fat.

If you honestly think that the world would stop turning if you did not do all that you do, you need to start getting uncomfortable. Every tiny task does not need to be done by you, nor does it need to be done the way you think it needs to be done.

I have a friend who will not let her husband clean the kitchen ever. It sounds like a terrible situation for her and a great one for her spouse, but when I asked her why she does not let him clean the kitchen she said, “He doesn’t know how to load the dishwasher properly.” I looked at her quizzically, and asked, “but he does fill it and turn it on?” “Yes,” she said quickly, “but it isn’t done the way I would do it, so I would rather just do it myself.” This is a clear example of someone outright refusing to make their life easier. News flash, there is no ‘right’ way to fill a dishwasher, as long as it is filled, the job is done well enough. 

Think about your own life and reflect on this example, are there things in your work or home life which you refuse to relinquish for a reason such as the one above? Can you see how silly they seem when you actually think about them?

“I am so busy and I have so much to do, but I cannot even begin to think about asking for help because I do not want to bother anyone else with my woes.”

Successful people are good at asking for help, delegating responsibility and understanding where they are needed and where they are not needed. 

“Never let your ego get in the way of asking for help when in desperate need. We have all been helped at a point in our lives.”

― Edmond Mbiaka

Asking for help is not a weakness, but a great strength. Understanding how you can scratch someone else’s back and how they can scratch yours is the magic of life. 

Perhaps at work you have a giant report due at the end of the month. Why not delegate certain aspects of it to your team, especially the ones who have acknowledged that they would like more responsibility? Do not take credit for their work, but rather, let your supervisor know that the final product was a team effort. You kill two birds with one stone this way, your report gets done, without you having to work until midnight every day this month and your staff feel valued, plus they get an additional project to add to their resume for forthcoming promotional opportunities. 

Make sure that you are utilizing your role and your team appropriately. Whether you are in a managerial or team position, be firm with your boundaries, clearly understand your roles and responsibilities and utilize your time effectively. If you have time to socialize at work, I would argue that you are not as busy as you claim to be. Be harsh with yourself and ensure that you are assessing your life unbiasedly. 

Delegating responsibility, at work and at home, is critical to reach your next level of success. 

 “We need to do a better job of putting ourselves higher on our own ‘to do’ list.” —Michelle Obama, former First Lady

You cannot be killing it at work if you do not have a balanced household. Work with your spouse to see how things could be more balanced. If you feel that your daily household tasks are bogging you down, why not ask the love of your life for a helping hand? I cannot think of anyone who would be (or should be) more eager to help you. 

Learn to understand where your presence and energy are best utilized. Stop saying ‘yes’ to every invitation you are sent. You do not have to go to an acquaintance’s birthday party, which will eat up your entire Saturday night. 

You do not have to go to that never-ending committee meeting, if you have just reasons why it is not adding value to your department and remove it from your calendar. 

You do not have to chat with your annoying colleague every morning for fifteen minutes, if it does not bring you joy. 

You do not need to go to every Sunday dinner at your in-laws house, if it does not lift you up, but depletes you. 

Cut out the stuff which is not serving you and you will multiply the time you have for progress and pleasantries.

“I am so stressed that I could just curl up into a ball and cry.”

Individuals who are successful are cool, calm and collected. 

One of the best pieces of advice I ever got was from a horse master. He told me to go slow to go fast. I think that applies to everything in life. We live as though there aren’t enough hours in the day but if we do each thing calmly and carefully we will get it done quicker and with much less stress.

Viggo Mortensen

It is super hard to convey an aura of success if your outward appearance is frazzled. If you never seem to know where your keys are, are running late for every meeting, or just look stressed you will not be seen as a person who others will see (or want to see) as in charge. 

How you are perceived by others is important, especially in the workplace. No one wants to work with the person who is always jumping to conclusions, stressed out or complaining about being overworked. Learn to manage your emotions first and manage your time second; you will realize that a lot of your time issues had to do with how you perceived things to be versus how they actually are. Realize that how you dress, how you react and how speak is noticed by others.

“I work so hard, I just do not understand why I can’t catch a break!”

In order to be successful and happy in life you must learn to cut out the bullshit from your day.

“Some of us are busy doing things; some of us are busy complaining.”

― Debasish Mridha

You have to learn to organize your day, time and mind to only focus on the things which better you and your life. When I meet someone who is trying so desperately hard to improve themselves or their circumstances and is unsuccessful, I know that there is (probably) an issue with execution.

Disorganization will keep you busy, but not with the right things. 

If you are not an organized person, your day controls you versus you owning your day. In order to be successful, you need to be in control of each and every day. A disorganized person spends most of their day chasing their requirements. They run around, haphazardly, from one event to the next, barely able to register what is happening, let alone enjoy their coffee. 

When you organize your day, plan for it, prepare for it and are ready for events, duties and tasks before they can get ahead of you, you are on the road to success. You are able to control the events coming at you and clearly determine what needs your attention and what is unnecessary drama. 

When you take steps at removing disorganization or poor planning from your routine, you will see your time to begin to expand. You will leave for work refreshed, rather than exhausted before the day has already begun. You will savour your morning coffee and lunch because you will make the time to mindfully prepare them and also have the time to enjoy them. 

The energy to be successful comes from taking proper care of yourself and your needs before the needs of others. We are of no service to others, personally or professionally speaking, when we are depleted of energy. 

“I couldn’t get everything I needed done today, but I will work twice as hard tomorrow.”

You stop doing before your to-do list is done. 

“A day can really slip by when you’re deliberately avoiding what you’re supposed to do.”

― Bill Watterson, There’s Treasure Everywhere

A person who is struggling to achieve success also struggles to complete tasks. If you spend a lot of time each day negotiating with yourself (or others) why a task can be put off for another day (or longer), you are working against yourself. The energy you are expending justifying sitting on the couch instead of doing the tasks you need to do is probably greater than just doing the task itself. 

It is sometimes shocking how something which has been nagging you for days, weeks or even months can sometimes take so little time to actually complete and remove from your life. 

I had a closet which needed organizing which was on my mind for months. It plagued me, it stressed me out when I was trying to relax and it irritated me (mentally and emotionally) every time I saw. Simply looking at the mess made me feel bad about myself. It was a constant reminder of how I was letting myself down. It allowed me a reason to be hard on myself, in an unhealthy way, which depleted me of energy, rather than giving me the energy to do smart work.  

When I finally realigned my energy from thinking about the problem to (finally) fixing the problem I was amazed that it took me less than thirty minutes to correct this issue and remove it from my life. Less than thirty minutes, but I allowed this problem to fester for an entire season. Upon reflection of this situation, I now always try to plough through and get the work done, especially when I know it will take fifteen minutes or less. 

“Therapy, yoga, meditation, and exercise? Who has time for all of that?”

A person who does not take care of their mental and physical health will always struggle to reach their peak levels of success.

“Mental health needs a great deal of attention. It’s the final taboo and it needs to be faced and dealt with.” – Adam Ant

You cannot be successful without doing right by yourself first. If you do not make your mental, physical and emotional health a priority, there is only so far you can go on grit alone. In order to attain long term success one must be resilient. In order to become resilient an individual must understand how to rest properly. If you ignore your body, and the clear warning signs it delivers to you during peak stress, your ability to do will be jeopardized. 

Once you learn to make yourself a priority and care for yourself the way you care about growth you will master the art of long term success. Once you are no longer battling it out with yourself to do more each day, but rather understanding how to strategically align your energy with the things that matter most, you will be winning like you have never won before. 

When you realize that an hour long walk after dinner with your puppy is actually more beneficial to your success than trying to cram in another hour of work, you are thinking long-term gains instead of short-term wins. 

When you begin to realize that making the time to prepare a healthy lunch instead of grabbing cheap takeout or not eating at all is better for you in the long run, you are no longer fighting with yourself, but on the same team. 

When you realize that an evening out with a loved one is not a waste of time, but an essential use of time for making significant connections with others, you will start utilizing your work time (even more) smartly. 

Once you start integrating your work time into a balanced, healthy lifestyle that is when you will start working smarter instead of harder. You do not need to work on your professional goals every minute of every day in order to be successful, rather you need to start spending your working minutes more critically.  You will work hard, but not necessarily more.

A successful person takes advantage of the seemingly insignificant minutes in the day. 

“How did it get so late so soon?”

― Dr. Seuss

Fifteen minutes on the train to work should not be wasted time. Ten minutes between meetings is not the time to scroll Instagram. The thirty minutes before bed are not meant to be spent staring blankly at your television screen.

Once you start seeing the worth and value of every minute of every day you will begin to find so much lost time. You will start to realize that you do have time to read a book a month, if you start to utilize your commute to work better. 

You will start to realize that you can be fully prepared for each meeting, if you spend those seemingly insignificant moments between meetings to go over the agenda, read over the previous meeting minutes and take quick notes on what you need to address with your colleagues. 

You will start to realize that the thirty minutes before bed are the most critical moments of the day, where you can reflect on what went well for you, where you can improve in the future, prepare for the forthcoming day and spend a few moments meditating to quiet your thoughts and prepare for a good night’s rest. 

“There is so much to do and such little time.”

As I continue to grow older my responsibilities towards myself and others continue to grow.

I never say I am busy though because I do not have a busy life, but a life which is full. I have a life of purpose and I spend my time on the things which matter and have learned to delegate, ignore and remove responsibilities which are not essential to my life’s happiness, success or pleasure. 

I have learned that as my responsibilities grow in importance I have very little time for insignificant and silly stuff I use to. I no longer have a weekend to wallow over a rude comment from a co-worker, trying to decipher what they ‘truly’ meant from their passive aggressive words. 

I no longer have time to fret about if the baseboards are clean before guests arrive. 

I no longer have the energy to stay in a position which I have outgrown and is no longer challenging me. 

I no longer would accept a relationship which is not making me a better person.

Yes, there is so much to do and there is only a finite amount of time, which is why we should quit spending time as though it were infinite. 

See today as the opportunity to be who you want to be. Do you want to be the person who was late for work because they slept in and could not find their key for thirty minutes? Do you want to be the person who ate a fast food burger in their car, while watching YouTube videos during their lunch or the one who mindfully packed a salad and joined friends outdoors for sixty minutes of recharging? Do you want to be the person others go to, to complain, be lazy or complacent with or do you want to be the person others go to, to be challenged, motivated and recharged to try and try again?

Success is not an endpoint, but a lifelong journey. Some days you win and other days are learning opportunities. Waking up each day with a positive mindset and the determination to make today a good day is half the battle. Do not weigh yourself down with all the days you have failed in the past, but learn from them. Take your learnings with you in stride, but do not carry them around as proof as why today cannot be better than yesterday.

Every single day is another opportunity to build the life you dream of.