Busyness serves as a kind of existential reassurance, a hedge against emptiness; obviously your life cannot possibly be silly or trivial or meaningless if you are so busy, completely booked, in demand every hour of the day.Damn straight. I'm important, see? Unfortunately, all this busyness has me totally stressed out, so I'll probably need to go to a stress-reduction workshop or something to cool down.
So what can you do about the stress and frustration that comes from unmet expectations? You have two choices: Either change the reality around you or change your expectations...
But often the reality around you is difficult to change...In my experience, trying to change reality isn't usually a stress reliever, it's a stress creator. A small thing — like changing my seat on an airplane — can be such a pain that even if it works it's often not worth the struggle. And the bigger things — like getting more accomplished in a day — can be even more frustrating. That last example is especially frustrating because it's an expectation I have of myself so I really believe it should be in my control.
Which leaves us with what I've come to believe is the best strategy for reducing stress: Change your expectations...
If changing your expectations proves too hard, your next best move is to get some perspective.
Imagine a scale from 1-10 with 10 being the worst reality you can imagine. Like living in a war zone or being in the World Trade Center on 9/11. Maybe 9 is a serious illness that most probably will result in death. Perhaps 8 is something that will forever alter your life, like going to jail or an accident that puts you in a wheelchair. Let's say 7 is something that temporarily alters your life like losing your job or having to move out of a home you can no longer afford.
Do you see where I'm going with this?No, dude, I don't at all see where you're going with this. You're taking forever and I'm way too busy to just sit around reading your whole article. Can't you just give me the Cliff Notes or something?
Incidentally, that HBR article is one of the better things I've read from HBR in a while (if you remember, I've been a little tough on them in the past), and I recommend you take a look at it. Unless you, like me, are just way too busy, in which case... you're probably not still reading anyway.