Focus: The Antidote to Being Busy

In this post, you will learn to:

  1. Get rid of distractions that keep you busy
  2. Get present in the moment and focus on the task at hand
  3. Forever get rid of the overwhelm of being busy and have peace of mind in managing your time

So you’re busy! You have a to-do list that is a mile long and doesn’t seem to get any shorter. You’re in the office early in the morning ready to go and get things done. But at 8pm you’re still answering emails and totally exhausted and flustered because you haven’t gotten anything done. You have been super busy, but there was nothing accomplished. Nothing on the to-do list is done and you’ve added five more items.

Haven’t we all have days like these? The question is whether or not these days are something that occur once in a blue moon or are they the norms for us. Living day-to-day in this mode is stressful, it occupies our minds with constant worries and unfinished business, and it affects our health and well-being. We end up being constantly busy but producing very little results, finding respite once in awhile. What if we can turn this up on it’s head and have short spurts of stress with long stretches of enjoyment in life?

I learned in Aikido what it means to focus. I have had days where I have a lot things on my mind–problems with work, the arguments with my son, the project that needs to get done and the many steps that need to be hit to complete it successfully. When I have all those things going on in my head, I am not successful in my practice on the mat. I get poked in the nose or fall flat on my bum while being distracted by my thoughts. The failure of the practice becomes another thing that I didn’t accomplish in my busy day.

Thank goodness Aikido teaches to be present and focused. It is in my practice of Aikido that I learned to be present in the moment and focus on what I’m doing in the now. I discovered that I can take a deep breath, put aside all the things that’re bouncing around in my head, relax and focus on connecting with my partner, and practice the techniques and being in the flow. It’s amazing how the hour on the mat can be so transformative in who I’m being. I  can translate this lesson to the rest of my life.

Off the mat, I have developed a few practices that have altered my relationship with being busy.

  1. Get rid of your to-do list! That to-do list is the same things that keep bouncing around my head that I had to put aside when I’m on the mat. A little planning goes a long way! Take a look at that to-do list and your calendar. Make time to review your to-do list and put the items into your calendar. Make the appropriate timeslot to get the item done. If the item requires multiple timeslots, then make appropriate plan for the item to be completed in the timeslots necessary. If the item needs more consideration and planning, create a timeslot in your calendar to do so. You may also see that there are a lot of to-do items that can be given away or removed altogether. Develop your leadership skills and make requests of others to complete those items and manage promises to when they are complete in your calendar. If you find that the item is really unnecessary, get rid of it. Once this is done all those things floating around your head should now be accounted for and will not be bouncing around in there any longer. But if something comes up, get it into your calendar as soon as you can!
  2. Honor your calendar as your word. Your calendar is a place where you have given your word to accomplish something, even if it says “relax and nap” from 3-5pm on Sunday. You gave it enough importance to schedule it, make it a practice to honor your word about it. When you do what is on the calendar, you can focus on the task at hand and not worry about other things you have no control over at the same time. Now, this doesn’t mean that you can’t change your schedule. You can change it at anytime, but you should be aware of the impact to yourself and others when you do make a change. Most impacts are small and you can deal with them easily. Others may significantly impact your timeline for getting other things you want done or backs you up into a heavily busy time.
  3. Take time to get centered and plan. Just like taking a deep breath and getting relaxed and loose on the mat, you need to get centered and present in your life. A practice I have developed is taking 15 minutes at the start of my day to review my day using my calendar and get present to what I want to accomplish for the day. This is the time to make any adjustments and be clear on what your day will look like. The same practice to complete the day can be done in the evening before ending the day and put in any changes and schedule future items that came up during the day that you hadn’t scheduled yet.
  4. Short-term and long-term planning. Another practice to have is spending time either Sunday evening (recommended) or Monday morning and review the week of scheduled items. This is an opportunity to get present to the week and plan your week fully. You may find this practice can be expanded to your monthly, quarterly, or yearly planning as well. Each level may have less details, but you can have a clear idea what you are creating and what’s steps are appropriated.

Focusing on what is at hand and doing the work to plan for what to accomplish in your life is the antidote to being busy. This is a way to live a life of your choosing rather than being at the mercy of the different circumstances of life.

Enjoy your Day and See You On The Mat!

Thanh Huynh
Leadership, Executive and Life Coach – San Jose, CA – San Francisco Bay Area

If you would like to chat with me about how I can help you move forward in your leadership and life, please email me at

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