The Art of Not Staying Busy

How to de-clutter your to-do list

Image by Tumisu

Reality check: you like being busy. We all do. We live in a “busy culture” where drowning in work is a way to appear successful, meaningful, and productive.

The more you can fill your day with stuff to do, the better it makes you feel about yourself. And the less you accomplish. It’s the busyness paradox: when you’re busy, you panic and feel the time is scarce. Your ability to focus narrows, and you enter the tunnel where immediate, low-value tasks capture all your attention. There’s no long-term vision, no planning, and overall, no growth.

So, how do you stop being busy?

1) Write down what you need to accomplish each day

I’m a big fan of the old to-do list. This way, “I have so much to do” becomes a list that includes a specific number of tasks. When you write it all down, you have a clear image of what needs to be done. It helps you visualize your day. Plus, you have a chance, to be honest with yourself: if you have twenty tasks on the list, it might be wiser to rethink everything and develop a new plan.

Ideally, you want to write your to-do list the evening before. Yes, before calling it a day, take five or ten minutes to plan for tomorrow. This exercise helps you stay organized and helps you start every day with a clear mind.

2) Prioritize

When you have too many tasks on your list, go for what matters the most. Here are two things to keep in mind in the first weeks of doing this exercise:

  • Twice a week, eliminate one time-consuming task from your daily routine— anything that can be outsourced, postponed, or delegated. You get more time to focus on what makes the difference in your business. After a few weeks, your to-do list will look differently, allowing you to accomplish more in less time.
  • Put the essential tasks first. If it’s burning or the hame-changer, make it a top priority. There’s no meaning in filling the most productive hours of your day with work that barely impacts your results. By the time you arrive at the essential things, you’re already tired and in no mood to make a difference.

3) Label tasks

In my to-do list, I divide tasks into four categories:

  • stuff I love doing
  • things I don’t like, but I must do
  • tasks for my business
  • client work

This system gives me a clear image of how I spend my work hours. It’s also an excellent tool to keep a balance in my job. Last but not least, it keeps my feet on the ground: if my to-do list is full of client work, I shouldn’t be surprised there’s zero business growth. On the other hand, if I keep postponing the activities I love doing, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that I feel tired, bored, and unproductive by Wednesday.

Labeling tasks helps me balance what I must do and what I like doing every day. It’s also a way to make sure I keep up with client work without sacrificing my business.

4) Put a time frame on every task

Another thing you can do to be less busy is staying realistic about how many jobs you can finish each day. When you write your to-do list, put a time frame next to each task.

If you don’t know how much time you need to finish something on the list, estimate, or put the time you’re willing to spend on that. This way, you ensure you don’t have more tasks than work hours at the end of the list.

This trick helps you focus on what you’ve accomplished each day instead of crying over what you “should have done.” Not only will this routine help you plan your days better, but it also helps you boost your confidence.

5) Plan to rest

Make room in your to-do list for some “doing nothing” time. If you don’t give yourself some time for self-care, no one will. Make yourself a priority—there’s no job and no business if you’re not around.

Put yourself on your to-do list; make this mindset shift. When you prosper, your clients will have better results, with a significant impact on your business.

Some “me time” will add clarity of thought, purpose, and what you want to achieve. It’ll help you figure out the next steps for your career and how you want to handle the new challenges.


Do you want to take a closer look at my to-do list? I publish it sometimes in my Facebook group, Business Ideas Made Clear, where I also talk about how you can put your ideas in order.
You can also buy your copy of “
My Daily Planner for Business Growth” and start planning your days like a pro.

Writer, mother, journalist, content marketer, day-dreamer, chocolate lover, freelancer. Not necessarily in this order.

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