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How Getting (un)Busy Can Optimize Your Future Success


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Do you feel busy? It seems that nobody these days is able to say “no” to that question. Prompted by a physical mini-crisis, co-founder of AdVance Leadership Dr. Garland Vance, started analyzing the impact being too busy was having on him. The result was his new book, Gettin' (un)Busy. Through his organization, Dr. Vance energizes high achievers to live and lead intentionally.

Garland is an author, speaker, coach and consultant who helps companies succeed by developing the current and future leaders they need. After earning his doctorate in leadership, he authored Gettin' (un)Busy, which Forbes named as "one of the seven books everyone on your team should read.” He’s also the co-author of the forthcoming (un)Leashed Leadership, which will help companies develop the quality and quantity of their leadership pipeline.

How Do You Define “Busy?”

Everybody quantifies the busy pace of their life differently, but taking a step back and considering what the word means is helpful. Dr. Garland Vance defines the word “busy” as an overcommitment to too many good commitments. Notice the nuance of that statement.

When you take on too many projects at once, it taxes your personal capacity and negative outcomes can result. Garland says it’s like an all-you-can-eat buffet; there’s lots of food there that’s good for you but if you eat too much of it at one sitting, you’ll wind up sick. The stress that comes from being too busy is the same. It can harm us physically, mentally, emotionally, and negatively impact job performance. We need to learn to rewire our brains to let go of stress.

The Inability to Get (un)Busy Is Killing Us

Using a lively illustration, Garland helps us understand the impact overcommitment can have on us. Imagine you’re walking in the woods and come upon a bear. The bear moves toward you. In a situation like this, our bodies are designed to respond to the bear by going through a series of stages.

  1. The stress trigger (the bear appears)
  2. Our bodies release adrenaline and cortisol in response and at the same time, unnecessary systems are shut down
  3. We deal with the stress (run, shout, grab for a weapon, etc.)
  4. Our body gets rid of the adrenaline and cortisol it built up
  5. Recovery (we wind down)

When we’re overcommitted, our bodies respond in a very similar way. But when we get to stage three, the process is disrupted. Why? Because ANOTHER stress is introduced due to our overcommitment. Our bodies STAY in a high-adrenaline state and physical symptoms manifest.

Say “NO” to More Commitments Without Feeling Guilty

If the problem with our busy lives is that we’ve taken on too many good commitments, how do we solve the problem? Dr. Vance says we have to develop a new methodology for saying “Yes” or “No.” He suggests “No” as our default until we can slow down to evaluate the opportunity without feeling obligated or guilty. If we decide that we SHOULD take on the new commitment, we should do so by “defending our ‘yes’.” These three steps outline the process:

  1. Slow down the “yes.” Take 48 hours to think about the decision.
  2. Be careful (consider the ripple effect saying “yes” could have in your life).
  3. Subtract before you add (if you decide to say “yes,” you must remove something of equal or greater commitment to make room for the new obligation).

Dr. Vance’s insight is practical and life-changing for those willing to apply it. Listen to hear all the things he shares and to learn about his new book, Gettin’ (un)Busy.

Listen to this episode to learn about...

  • [00:35] The mission of Garland’s company, AdVance Leadership
  • [03:18] What inspired his book, Gettin' (un)Busy
  • [10:15] How being too busy is bad for our health
  • [14:04] Setting up boundaries between work and home

Listen to the bonus episode to find out why it's important to learn to take on less and how that gives us more time to do what we want.