Being Busy: The Right and Wrong Ways To Do It

Successful creatives tend to be pretty busy. It makes sense—creatives think of cool ideas, and the successful ones pursue those ideas with all they’ve got.

But this can quickly become overwhelming. We throw ourselves into our projects … and then this leads to long hours, side projects, and a lot of juggling to keep all those balls in the air. I’m certainly guilty of this.

The “work smarter not harder” mantra is a pretty common mentality. But the truth is, if you really want to pursue your passions with full force, you need to be working both smart and hard. Just watch how the successful creatives you admire are always hustling (or read about it in some of our Creative Careerist interviews).

There are helpful tactics we can use to ensure we use all that busy-ness to accomplish things. And there are bad habits that and hold us back, as if we’re running on a treadmill: working hard and never getting anywhere. Yes, that’s right—there is a right way and a wrong way to be busy.


  • Know your goals. Use them to prioritize.
  • Keep a running to-do list so that you always know what needs to be done most.
  • Know what is most important to you, what else matters, and what can be dropped.
  • Always have tools ready to take advantage of an unexpected spare 5 minutes.
  • Harness those small moments of inspiration—capture every idea with a note.
  • Say yes to opportunities
  • Say no to time sucks
  • Know the difference between opportunities and time sucks (see  point #1).
  • Make time for fun and rest. Both of them. They are not the same thing.


  • Saying yes to any opportunity that comes your way.
  • Doing the same thing over and over, without stopping to assess the results.
  • Experimenting with a wide array of tactics, without stopping to assess the results.
  • Working without goals. Also: performing work that does not bring you closer to one of your goals.
  • Focusing only on the short-term work right in front of you.
  • Failing to make time for the slow work to meet long-term goals.
  • Never pausing to take a break.

How do you keep yourself moving toward your goals? What are your biggest challenges?

For me, it’s always tempting to do the fastest chores first, which can sometimes take up all the time I have available, leaving my most important, more time-consuming tasks undone for days.


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