“Busy” has become a popular synonym for success, and it needs to stop.  Busy does not equal success.  Checking off every item on an endless ‘to do’ list does not automatically translate into success.  It doesn’t. We need to stop being ruled by the cult of “busy”, unshackle ourselves from our thoughtless “to do” lists, and start thinking about success differently.  Here is a five-step process to get you started on your journey of success.

Step One: think of yourself as a high performer. As someone who adds the right value, at the right level, given one’s role at the time.  Everyone should strive to be a high performer, to think of ourselves in these terms.  It is liberating, freeing, and life-changing.  Why?  Because it forces us to think about the value we are adding, as opposed to things we are getting done.

Step Two: define success for yourself.  This is difficult and will take time, but with intentional self-reflection it is possible.  You need to know what success means to you, what you want success to look like in your life.  It will be different for everyone, and it should be personal.  An exercise to help with this is to identify the things that add the most meaning and the most value to your life.  There are no value judgements here—it is your life.  But I do have a caution: do not let those pesky social comparisons sneak into this process, as they will only lead to living life according to someone else’s definition of success.

Step Three: chunk.  By the time you get to this step in the process, you should be thinking in terms of value, not tasks, and should have a clear vision of what success looks like for you.  Chunking will help you organize your life accordingly, helping make those “to do” lists value-adding.  Break your life down into those things that add the most value and meaning in your life, and use those as the main headers on your “to do” list.  Now, instead of prioritizing what is already on your “to do” list, prioritize what gets added to your “to do” list.  If something doesn’t add value, and doesn’t move you closer to your definition of success, then is shouldn’t even be on your “to do” list. If it does not fit under one of your headers, then it shouldn’t get your attention.

Step Four: say no.  Steps one through three build your framework of success.  Use that framework to vet requests, to think intentionally about how you spend your time and effort.  If what you’re doing isn’t adding value, and isn’t moving you closer to your definition of success, then why do it?  You shouldn’t.  Say no, and don’t look back.

Step Five: yearly check-ins.  People grow, develop, and evolve.  We pass through different seasons of life, each offering unique perspectives.  Knowing this requires yearly check-ins with ourselves.  Are we still adding the right value?  Has our definition of success evolved?  And if it has, have we adjusted accordingly?  Have we changed the headers on our “to do” lists?  Yearly check-ins force us to reflect, to adjust, and to focus on our lives.  It is good to step off the treadmill of life once a year to check-in with ourselves.

Stop being “busy”.  Start enjoying what you are doing.  And work hard because what you are focused on adds value to your life, and moves you closer to your definition of success.  These five steps will help you navigate your journey of success.

(Originally published by the Reading Eagle Business Weekly on 2-25-19)