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Wake Up: You’re not “Too Busy”

I’m always thinking about ways to summarize themes that come up with clients. The people I get to work with simply amaze me, and their challenges are often universal.

As I plug away on writing my book, I’m becoming obsessed with the opportunity of integrating the aspects of our lives that are the most important to us.



Just about everyone I’ve ever met has been challenged with making time for what matters most.
We know at some level that our best life honors what I call our 5 non-negotiables: Soul, Vitality, Family (relationships), Art, and Work. Where we struggle is how to consistently make time for those in our day to day.

Yesterday a friend and mentor– one of those people who accomplishes mind-boggling levels of stuff in every arena of life– told me he was now building his own guitar 2 days a week. He has dreamed of going to a little woodworker shop in PA, rolling up his sleeves, and learning the art of guitar luthiery. We both laughed at how crazy his timing is, in light of other pressing projects. We agreed there’s never a good time.

His commitment to revisiting his dream, and completing the guitar is inspiring. There are certainly many days when clocking in to write the book feels crazy. There are always looming deadlines for consulting projects, or a stacked day of coaching calls waiting to get rolling.

What’s haunted me, is that writing the book is something I’ve dreamed about for at least 10 years. There are millions of ways to share ideas, but the stamina it takes to work long-form always appealed to me. Some of the greatest satisfaction in my life so far has come from making the longterm commitment– 19 years of marriage and counting, running a marathon, and building a business.
The reality of course, is that showing up on any given day to these endeavors is less glamorous. We’d typically rather be the spouse on the honeymoon, the marathoner at the finish, or the entrepreneur when revenue hits the hockey stick of growth. And let me tell you, we’d MUCH rather be the writer giving a packed reading the day the book is released.
The rest of the work is completely humbling and tedious at times, but exhilarating when it flows.
Writing, building a guitar, or doing something frivolous (yet awesome) with your kids doesn’t usually make it onto the weekly schedule. However, aren’t these the things we’ll remember on our death bed? I pictured my buddy’s hand-made guitar getting handed down through his family, or getting busted out at campfires. The point isn’t to sell them. It’s to create something, to get lost in the making of a beautiful life.
And so, I press on. On my better days, the book is writing me.


As I drove to the gym this morning to get a quick run in, I randomly chose this podcast episode by Tim Ferriss. Tim of course is well-known as a juggernaut author, podcaster, and early-stage tech investor. He’s built a monster podcast by “teasing out the habits and rituals of world-class performers across many disciplines.”
There are certain episodes of his that I’ve loved, and many more that just aren’t that applicable in my day to day.
This morning I was so grateful to stumble upon his recent talk with Debbie Millman. A snip of her bio is below. This little transcript on the excuse “I’m too busy” is so clear, and spot-on. I cued it back a couple times while I was on the treadmill, then had to come home and type it out.
This gets at the heart of the Full-Life Integration framework, but should also be a wake up call for our “Glorification of Busy-ness” culture. I’ve had too many talks with clients, or prospective clients who want things to be different, but hide behind the notion of being too busy to pursue, or invest in lasting change.



Debbie Millman, on The Tim Ferriss Show Podcast:

“Busy is a decision. I say this all the time ad nauseam, and here’s why. Of the many, many excuses people use to rationalize why they can’t do something, the excuse ‘I am too busy’ is not only the most inauthentic, it is also the laziest. I don’t believe in too busy.

Busy is a decision. We do the things we want to do, period.
If we say we’re too busy I believe it’s shorthand for ‘not important enough.’ It means you would rather be doing something else that you consider more important. That thing could be sleep, it could be sex, it could be watching Game of Thrones.
If we use busy as an excuse for not doing something, what we are really— really saying, is that it’s not a priority. It’s not as important to us. 
Simply put, you don’t find the time to do something. You make the time to do things. 
I think we’re now living in a society that sees busy as a badge. It has become cultural cachet to use the excuse ‘I am too busy’ as a reason for not doing anything we don’t feel like doing. The problem is this: If you let yourself off the hook for not doing something for any reason, you won’t ever do it.  If you want to do something, you can’t let being busy stand in the way—even if you are busy!
Make the time to do the things you want to do, and then follow through and do them.”
# # #
Debbie Millman is the President Emeritus of AIGA, the editorial and creative director of Print magazine, and the author of six books. In 2009, Debbie co-founded the world’s first masters program in branding at the School of Visual Arts in New York City, which has received international acclaim. Debbie is the founder and host of Design Matters, the world’s first and longest-running podcast about design, where she’s interviewed nearly 300 design luminaries and cultural commentators including Massimo Vignelli and Milton Glaser. As a designer, Debbie has designed everything from wrapping paper to beach towels, greeting cards to playing cards, notebooks to t-shirts, and Star Wars merchandise. She’s the author of 6 books. Her artwork has been exhibited around the world.
You can listen to the full 38-minute episode and show notes here.

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7 Responses

  1. KC – great idea but there is a sea of inspiration. As you describe above, even our favorite podcasts are hit and miss — finding the one that resonates and merits becoming a “regular” (even for lifelong learners) is a challenge. I like the idea of “connections with impact” — as a measurement of success. Did I discover something new and did I do something different as a result? For instance, I love both your framework and Jonathan’s buckets — I have sketched my quarterly plan/goals accordingly but tend to wake up and meditate first (thanks to you) and keep a super simple journal of gratitude and progress (vitality/connection/contribution) thanks to him. I listen to a lot of NPR podcasts – Invisibilia and WorkLife with Adam Grant are my current favorites, Gretchen Rubin, Healthy Dose (I work in healthcare technology), sometimes GLP, sometimes others. Everyone is interviewing great people but the difference with the episodes that stand out are….”I did (or thought) something new as a result” — entertainment is key too and I think you are a standout there — loved your shared Easter experience. The fine line between being perceived as “inspirational example” or “self-centered guru” is different for everyone. I loved GLP camp last year but it’s not an “every year” thing for me — maybe every 3-5 years…. Other things that have resonated for me are Tara Mohr (Playing Big – book) and Tara Brach (meditation podcast). The list could go on forever and I am extremely influenced by what seemingly “like minded people” suggest. Look forward to whatever you put out there in the world.

  2. Love this idea KC. However, is it really “making time”? Clearly we all have the time – making time (to me) implies we are “too busy” which according to Debbie Millman is a crock (thank you for the link will listen tomorrow on my walk) so perhaps there is another way of talking about it.

    For me, it’s the saying no to things I really don’t want to do so I can do the things I want to do. Also (and this is a recent aha moment on the tail of our chat the other day) I really feel guilty doing the things I want to do – even if it is leading me to somewhere I want to be – vs the doing things I think I need to or must do to get “there” that I really dislike.

    So, I think you are on an excellent trajectory. And yes! This shared conversation is a fantastic idea!

    Go for it!

  3. I have always been motivated by hearing about people who are so passionate, they just do it, and everyone thrives. I have had times like that, that no matter what else is happening, I focus on my ‘zone of genius’ and no-one around me suffers, in fact we are all elevated. Not to compare, but when I hear entrepreneurs with 4 kids, a full time job and a side hustle just loving their lives, I get motivated!
    I think of people I know who use their whole brains, scientists who do art, doctors who write books, the ‘Einsteins’ who use their imaginations, and I know that it is possible. They have found ‘flow’.

    I find Gay Hendricks concept of ‘Einstein Time’ inspiring… I think you have a great idea.

  4. I’d definitely listen! and i love the footnote about not making it about glorifying how busy and perfect/ put together they are. I’ve had to ditch some podcasts b/c instead of inspiring me, hearing stories over and over of moms who have their shit together seemingly all the time, just made me feel inadequate. (yes I realize this is my issue :)).
    Also LOVE that quote. Any time I hear anyone say they’re ‘too busy’ or even hear myself use that excuse, I think the exact same thing – that all it means is I didn’t prioritize whatever it was. If you want to do something, you do it, no excuses. And if you don’t, that’s totally fine and acceptable 🙂 Just own that the reason you’re not doing it is because you just plain don’t want to (enough) or aren’t inspired to.

  5. I had to make time to provide feedback 🙂 Its on my hand written to-do list along with finish taking notes from KC’s Meditation Prep Kit for the 30 Day Meditation Challenge.

    If I understand your specific feedback request, I would definitely benefit from you pod-cast. Going back to the “too busy” quite often I deep something a high priority (such as wanting to provide feedback) but its about having the mental space to do it. I needed some quite time, to read & reflect. The topics of meditation, managing life priorities, identifying non-negotatiables, having tool-kits and reference sheets (as as the one you provided recently) are all relevant and helpful for my life. And audio coaching of these topics in the form of pod-casts are most definitely useful when I am in the car (often driving back and forth), but as a multi-tasker aside from ruminating on thoughts, or trying to bring my attention back to the divine through chanting, its good to listen to your thoughts on topics that align with my values or feel like they serve my journey. The content you email after each day of meditation, that content is immensely useful and relevant, to the point where I am like, uh…how did he know I am in this stage or space in my struggle. So that specifically, would be helpful.

    So yes to pod-cast, yes to supporting materials, and yes to this forum. I appreciate all that you have provided thus far, and in some small little way I hope my feedback is a way to reciprocate and express gratitude.

    Thank you!

  6. The thing that irks me about articles like this is that, however well- intentioned, they consistently fail to recognize that there are circumstances in life where you are in fact “Too Busy” to follow your passion or work on your health or do the thing you want to do. Most of the advice here seems to center around re-prioritizing your choices or responsibilities but there are times in life when that is simply not possible. If you are working full-time in a demanding profession or attending school, have young children to raise, have a spouse who travels or are a single parent, and have other responsibilities like caregiving for an elderly parent, where is your space to re-prioritize? Which one of these responsibilities can you jettison? I am in a situation like this and, after reading a number of articles telling me my lack of personal time was “a matter of choice” and that I simply had to prioritize better, I finally realized that this is BS and that there are in fact times in a person’s life where personal fulfillment has to take a back seat to non-negotiable responsibilities. It will not always be the case but for right now, I have to back-burner some of my personal needs and goals to the circumstances of my life. I would like to read an article that acknowledges that there are such times in a person’s life and, if you are in one of these periods, the fact that you do not have time to build a guitar or learn Sanskrit or pursue whatever your long-term goal is not a reflection of your lack of willpower or laziness or poor prioritization skills but simply a reflection of your current stage of life. This too shall pass and you don’t have to feel bad about it while you are in the middle of such a period.

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