Sign up for the BETTER newsletter

You have been successfully added to our newsletter.

NBC News BETTER brings you wellness news and tips to make the most of your mind, your body and your life.

How to stop being so busy and get more done

To be effective, you have to do "all the right things," not "all the things."
by Julie Compton /  / Updated 
A big solution to not being busy is saying ‘no’ ... a lot.
A big solution to not being busy is saying ‘no’ ... a lot.Oscar Wong / Getty Images
Get the Better newsletter.

“Busy!”

It’s the response Darius Foroux always got whenever he asked coworkers how they were doing.

The Dutch businessman and blogger said the word “busy” first began to puzzle him when he briefly worked for an IT research company in London.

“I thought to myself, ‘That’s not the answer to my question,’” Foroux told NBC News BETTER.

Foroux said he began to realize that a lot of people equate busyness with success. But he came to believe that busy people aren’t necessarily happy.

The 30-year-old made a decision: he would quit being busy for the sake of being busy. He stopped filling his calendar with meaningless to-do’s, going to social gatherings out of obligation, and saying ‘yes’ to things that didn’t appeal to him.

“I was like ‘You know what? I don’t want to do all these things. I think it’s a waste of my time,’” Foroux said.

Instead, he opts for writing and blogging, watching TV and spending more time with his girlfriend and family, he says.

The businessman has some advice for putting “busy” to rest and filling your life with purpose.

Stop saying you’re busy

Foroux said part of his not-being-busy philosophy includes never replying “busy” when someone asks how he is.

“I think the kinds of words you use and the way you communicate to people is something that should really fit with your ideals, because if you truly believe that you’re busy, you probably act that way, as well,” he said.

To be efficient is to accomplish many tasks, but to be effective is “doing the right things.”

Only do things that make you happy or bring you closer to your goals

In order to better spend your time, Foroux says it’s important to understand the difference between being efficient and being effective. He said it’s an insight he learned from the theorist Peter Drucker.

To be efficient, he explains, is to accomplish many tasks, but to be effective, he says, is “doing the right things.”

“The right thing is some task or activity that brings you closer to your goal,” says Foroux.

Learn to say ‘no’

A big solution to not being busy, explains the blogger, is saying ‘no’ a lot.

There are always tasks you can’t say ‘no’ to, especially if they are part of your job, he acknowledges. But we often have the power to say ’no’ to more than we realize, he explains.

For instance, if a close friend asks you to help plan her wedding, you may feel pressured to say ‘yes’ even if you cringe at the idea.

“Just look at yourself,” Foroux urged. “Is that really you?”

Ask yourself if that is really how you want to spend your time. If you’d rather do something else, he says, don’t be afraid to say ’no.’

Know yourself

Getting “busy” out of your life starts with learning to know yourself, according to the blogger.

“If you want to say ‘no,’ if you want to apply this piece of advice, I would start by getting to know yourself and just really think about: Who are you? What do you like? And say ‘no’ to the things that you just truly don’t enjoy doing,” he advised.

Other questions you should ask yourself when deciding what’s worth your time, Foroux says, are: What is my role? What am I trying to achieve?

“To answer those questions, I think you need some self awareness,” he says. “And that’s where I started, as well, is developing self knowledge. I would say just understanding yourself, knowing who you are as a person.”

Slow down

Putting “busy” to rest doesn’t mean quitting your job and abandoning your responsibilities, Foroux explains. It simply means slowing down and becoming more conscious of how you really want to spend your time.

“I do work a lot,” Foroux says. “But I also make a lot of time for reading, spending time with my family, things that are important to me. And I have to know myself to make time for those things, and say ‘no’ to everything else.”

How to put “busy” to rest:

Stop saying it. Your words shape your life more than you realize. If you want to be less busy, stop saying “I’m busy.”

Think of what you're doing in terms of goals. Understand the difference between being efficient and being effective. To be efficient is to get a lot done, but to be effective means you only prioritize those tasks that make you happy or bring you closer to a goal.

Just say ‘no’: Ask yourself: Is this something I really want to do? If not, the answer is a simple ‘no.’

Know what you want. Getting “busy” out of your life starts with learning to know yourself. When prioritizing your life, ask yourself: Who am I? What do I like? What is my role? What am I trying to achieve?

Take it down a notch. You don’t have to quit your job and your responsibilities to be less busy. Take a breath, slow down, and become more conscious of what you desire.

NEXT: The busy trap: How keeping busy became a status symbol

Want more tips like these? NBC News BETTER is obsessed with finding easier, healthier and smarter ways to live. Sign up for our newsletter.

Get the Better newsletter.
MORE FROM better