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Busyness is a trap: 10 quick & better ways to self validate

I recently published a post on why people think workaholics are sexy. The core principal I touched on was simple: Many entrepreneurs get huge secondary benefits from showing the world how flat-out busy we are.

Busyness is a psychological smoke-screen. It’s a pretend act that has everything to do with proving self worth to others and little to do with getting stuff done. The busy-act is an unconscious attempt at validation. It’s plea for help from entrepreneurs who want recognition from their loved ones.

After publishing that post, it seemed like I was attracting people with busyness issues. Clients were uncannily raising it, time and time again. Friends quizzed me about the same problem. Perhaps that post acted like some kind of pheromone for workaholics. All I know is… I couldn’t escape them.

After repeating all week, I decided to post this – my solution to the workaholic problem.

Note to some people: If I cut off our conversation and said “read my blog post that goes out on Monday”, don’t take it personally. It wasn’t you… it was the 26 “busy” people before you.

So, how do you validate yourself?

Validation is our psychological measure of our personal value, worth and success.

We all have a way of mentally checking our “done a good job” box. We all have a strategy for showing our peers, colleagues and loved ones that we’re valuable and needed. Not to mention how we show ourselves we’re valuable.

For a vast number of people, “busyness” is the primary form of validation. People feel if they can just show the world they’re busy, the world will assume they are busy doing important stuff. Sadly, this is seldom true.

The problem is not validation. Validation is very useful. The problem is validation through pointless busyness. If you’ve ever been guilty of this, perhaps its time to look at some alternatives.

Here’s a list of tried and true, Peter-Shallard-Recommended validation strategies for entrepreneurs. Each one guaranteed ten times more fulfilling than a burnout.

  1. 8 hour goal setting – set yourself a clear objective for the working day and call it success when you hit the target.
  2. Time at home – measure your success by the amount of quality time you get to spend at home. You pay a lot for your house… so go validate in it!
  3. Customer satisfaction – forget about money, focus on changing lives and making an impact instead. How would you feel if you measured your personal value by the number (and juiciness) of client testimonials you receive?
  4. Spread of ideas – you’re reading this on the internet. How far can you spread one really great idea? I can’t think of a better measure of your awesomeness.
  5. Influence – can you pick up the phone and secure a job interview for a trusted friend… just like that!? Pull some strings. Measure value and importance by influence.
  6. The look in your partners eyes – at the end of the day, what else really matters?
  7. Speed – how quick can you get today’s to-do list checked off? Do it twice as fast and prove yourself twice as smart.
  8. Leverage – Rock the 80/20 principal and move mountains. Brag about how tiny and well placed your lever was… not how hard you toiled.
  9. Don’t forget money – the world’s top entrepreneurs all describe dollars as the ultimate way of “keeping score”. Consider your week a good one if you earn lots, not stress lots.
  10. Leadership – mentor, coach and lead others to grow. Measure your effectiveness based on their progress.

Looking at this list, I’d actually bet that most entrepreneurs would give it a quick skim and dismiss it. Most business owners assume they’re already doing all of these.

Thing is, there is a huge difference between knowing this stuff and actually believing it. So many entrepreneurs can agree that these validation tactics are “important”, only to wake up to another day of busy. And another.

Changing the way you self-validate only happens through habit. That means setting the goals and planning the tactics that this list represents. Today, tomorrow and the next day. And the day after. And the day after that too.

The alternative? Read this list once. Forget about it. Get busy. Achieve less. Maybe have a meltdown. Keep doing the same things you’re doing now… and continue to get the same results you’ve always got.

That’s my final point.

Learning to self-validate better isn’t just for warm fuzzies. It’s really about shifting the bar of your behaviour and perception, so that you can rocket to all new levels of commercial success.

The more wholesome and rewarding your self-validation strategy is, the better you’re going to feel about your work and achievements. It’s no surprise that healthily validated entrepreneurs achieve more wealth and freedom than the rest.

Build a habit of positive, fulfilling validation and you’ll notice a rapid change in the results you’re capable of producing.

How could you start to validate more effectively? Got a form of validation to add to the list? Have your say in the comment section.


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  1. Great post, Peter! Thank you.

    It reminded myself what I use to do and some how got steered away from doing.

    Pick one thing from the list of things to do and decide no matter what, this will get done today even if it’s at 12 in the morning. For me, it would be one of the first things I would get done, because I can then say to myself, it was a very successful day even if it is 10:00 in the morning!

    How exciting when you focus on hitting the bulls eye that makes a difference and that really matters than shooting a bunch of arrows that hits the board, but getting tired in the process.

    Again, great post!

    Love it!


  2. If you’d like a tool for setting your goals, you can use this web application:

    You can use it to manage your goals, projects and tasks, set next actions and contexts, use checklists, schedules and a calendar.
    A Vision Wall (inspiring images attached to your goals) is available too.
    Works also on mobile, and syncs with Evernote.

  3. I wonder, actually, if it’s not better to just replace unhealthy beliefs with new ones:

    “If I’m uber-busy, everyone will see how hard I’m working, how valuable I am and know that I’m really someone they should care about,”

    would become:

    “If I’m so awesome in business that I don’t have to work as much and get to spend tons of time with the people who really care about me, they’ll think I’m so valuable it’s not funny.”


    1. James, it’s a great idea – if only it were that easy to snap your fingers and transform the belief *just like that*.

      Sadly, beliefs are fairly deeply ingrained and require some psychological wizardry to transform. Which is just as well, because otherwise I wouldn’t have a job! 😛

  4. I consider myself a productive person, but I don’t have any need to validate myself to others. Often I can be found in my pajamas until 4PM because that is what I find comfortable. That’s my work ethic. If friends come over throughout the day and think I am the biggest bum in the world, so what?

    The busyness trap is especially prevalent here in the States. People seem to take an unconscious pride in being too busy to even enjoy themselves. I know. It doesn’t make sense. Yet I see people boast about this self-sacrifice all of the time.

    The whole work-hard culture in America is exactly what motivates me to seek alternative career options, especially those in passive income.

    >”Brag about how tiny and well placed your lever was… not how hard you toiled.”

    Exactly. I hate to use a cliche but…it’s about worker smarter, not harder. Plenty of people can work their brains out and find themselves not getting anywhere. Sometimes it is like trying to lift a building with your bare hands…you can try as hard as you want, but without any leverage you are just wasting your time.

    “Give me a place to stand and a lever long enough and I can move the world.” – Archimedes

    Another great post Peter!

    1. Thanks Steven, I think you’re spot on. That particular validation strategy (leverage) tends to be the one used by some of the most successful entrepreneurs I’ve ever met… so it’s definitely a good target to lock in on.

  5. As an independent professional it would suck to be a busy bee and work so hard that you don’t know when the day ends and the night begins. Is that why we became independent in the first place, to exchange one tyrannical boss with dozens?

    Me, I would rather spend my day leveraging the 80/20 principle and making money off a few clients, reading Twain, doing awesome and relaxed work and occasionally look at the blue sky flecked with clouds than scramble around all day putting out fires that others or I might have lit earlier.

    I am going to copy down this list and stick it in front of my desk.

    I am not sure about others but one of the ways to validate myself is to be able to take a vacation when I feel like it, subject of course to me not slacking off on customer service.

    Does it feel like you need to be chained to your desk 24/7/365 to complete your tasks? You better start looking for a 9-5

    1. This is a great point Bhaskar – some entrepreneurs really DO work crazy, 70 hour weeks to make less money than they did at their old 9-5 jobs.

      If you’re not making freedom, bank or a difference… what’s the point?

  6. Thank you Peter! Great points as always.

    Everyone needs to stop and realize that even if we worked 20 hours a day there would probably still be stuff that we “could’ve” or “should’ve” accomplished. At some point you have to determine what is realistic for a typical day and find satisfaction in accomplishing that.

    I’m guilty of always looking at what I didn’t get done rather than what I did accomplish and let the guilt of the “didn’t get done” overwhelm the good feelings of what I did do. I have found that making a list of what I really want/realistically need to accomplish in a given day to be a good way of marking the finish line. If you’re in a race and don’t know where the finish line is, how do you know when to stop? When I do things that I didn’t originally have on the list I also add them simply so I can have the enjoyment of crossing them off and helping me to realize exactly what I did accomplish in the course of the day.

    Keep the inspiration coming Peter! The truth sometimes hurts but it’s the pain that makes us realize something is wrong in the first place!

    1. Hey Darin! Thanks for joining the discussion with your kind words 🙂

      I think you raise a good point. A lack of ability to acknowledge when it’s “been a good enough day” is one of the key factors that lead to busyness burnout. I think every entrepreneur would be guilty of having unrealistic expectations for their own performance.

      This is sometimes a good thing too though. Hmmm.

  7. Hi Peter,

    I’ve got one major validation check: Did I love my life today? I don’t splinter my life into work and play, instead I ask them to dance together. I get “high” doing things I love – writing, encouraging, investigating, cliche-busting, creating beauty, solving the puzzle, making people laugh, learning something new, appreciating the mystery of it all.

    It’s been my experience that most folks avoid doing the things they love — that those things have been pushed down so far they don’t even know what they are anymore. Way too many folks believe that enjoying your life is not possible, that one must adhere to the generic, one-size-fits-all blueprint.

    My mission is to debunk that belief. Great post!


    1. Hey Giulietta – I love the passion behind this comment!

      I sometimes have to do stuff that I don’t love… but I love where doing that stuff *gets* me. Does that count? 🙂

  8. The one phrase that struck me was “People feel if they can just show the world they’re busy, the world will assume they are busy doing important stuff.”

    I can have my calendar loaded and be stacked up with client deliverables and I’ll feel “busy”. If anyone was looking at my output and commitments, I look busy. But am I busy doing the right things? Along with my self-validation is a self-awareness of what things I’m doing that are keeping me “busy” that actually could be delegated or eliminated altogether. I think the actions you listed are a good benchmark for evaluation. Thanks!

    1. Hey Christy,

      I know what you mean – that’s a whole other kind of dodgy busyness…. especially prevalent amongst those folks stuck “working in the business, not on the business”.

  9. My “busyness” quotient has “runneth over!” … Sorry, one last validation of my “busyness!”

    Great reminders of how important positive habits are and how problematic bad habits can be. Better yet, thank you for sharing ways I can lower my “busyness” and raise my satisfaction. Thanks again!

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