Sifting – Chapter 14: The Busyness Trap

This posting is part of a series on my book Sifting. If you have not read the previous postings, please visit the menu above (click on Sifting) for a chronological listing of any previous chapters. Thanks!  


Chapter 14: The Busyness Trap

Bob: So, what is the main obstacle that prevents people from pursuing their calling?

Sift: Busyness.

Bob: Huh? Businesses somehow cause all these problems?

Sift: No, I mean busyness spelled B-U-S-Y-N-E-S-S. People clutter their lives with activities that seem important to them. They confuse frenetic motion and low-value activity with meaningful and purposeful action.

Bob: I totally get that now. I don’t think I would have understood the real significance of what you just said before the call from Mr. Dawson. It’s strange; earlier today, I was convinced that so many things I planned to do this week were so important. And then I got the call from Mr. Dawson, and now none of those things are important. I know I am getting a bit philosophical, but I remember having similar thoughts when I watched the coverage of the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center. I specifically remember the scene on TV when papers were floating down, zigzagging through the air on the way to the ground. I thought, “Just a short time ago, I’ll bet a lot of people thought those papers were so important, and now they are totally meaningless and insignificant.”

Sift: That’s what happens, Bob. People get caught up in a whirlwind of busyness, and it makes it difficult to discern what is really important and what is not. Unfortunately, sometimes, it takes a disaster, cancer, a car wreck, the death of a loved one, or some similar event for humans to break the cycle of getting caught up in their busyness trap. But that’s not the way things have to work. Do you remember the Pareto Principle you learned about in college?

Bob: Yeah, I think it suggested that you get the majority of your results from the minority of your efforts.

Sift: Exactly. Another way of thinking of the Pareto Principle is that the majority of your efforts do not matter.

Bob: Huh. Interesting. I guess that is another way of saying the same thing.

Sift: You mentioned changing your mind about what was important after the call from Mr. Dawson. Let me ask you a question. How difficult would it have been for anyone to convince you of that before you got the call?

Bob, did you hear my question?

Bob: Uh, yeah. I was thinking about it. That’s an interesting question. My guess is that it would have been almost impossible to convince me of that before the call.

Sift: That is true with everyone caught up in the busyness trap. Therefore, one of the first practical steps you can take – if you desire to get on the right path in life – is to learn to pace yourself appropriately and purposely build some time for reflection into your daily schedule. Speaking of reflection time, it is late and we have covered a lot of new ideas. I think this would be a good time for you to get some rest and process some of these ideas. We can talk more about specific ways to escape from the busyness trap tomorrow.

Bob: Huh? How can I get rest and process ideas at the same time?

Sift: That is one of the purposes of sleep. Your brain works while you are sleeping. It reinforces learning and connects new memories to existing memories and works to make sense of the events of the day. I want you to consider doing something first thing tomorrow morning before we talk again.

Bob: What’s that?

Sift: Do you have any kind of notebook you can use as a journal?

Bob: Sure, I keep a notebook in my briefcase to make notes on follow-up actions.

Sift: Good, when you get up in the morning, start writing about whatever is on your mind in your notebook. Don’t be concerned with grammar, sentence structure, punctuation, or anything else like that. Write extemporaneously and just capture your thoughts on paper. You can stop in the middle of a thought and switch to another thought, if you’d like. Let your thoughts go wherever they seem to want to go. Try to write at least one page, or for at least ten minutes, if you can. More and longer is fine, but don’t worry about that either. Just keep thinking and keep your pen or pencil moving.

Bob: Okay, I’ll do it. Will you be here tomorrow?

Sift: Yes. If you want to connect with me, you know how to do it now. If you have any difficulty, just relax, breathe in deeply, exhale slowly, and think of me. Then ask a question.

Bob: Got it. Goodnight, Sift. Thanks for everything!

Sift: Goodnight, Bob. You are welcome.


End Chapter 14

Author’s Notes:

Main takeaway: Busyness is usually counter-productive for those who desire to joyfully and productively participate him life.  

  1. Why do you think some people value busyness so much?
  2. Does the 80/20 Rule (Pareto Principle) apply to you, or are you somehow exempt from it?
  3. Do you know people who confuse frenetic motion and low-value activity with meaningful and purposeful action?


 The entire book will eventually be posted on this blog. However, if you want a copy for yourself, or as a gift for a friend, you can find it at this link: Sifting

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