Your Secret To Being Busy, But Calm

Some of the busiest people I know are also the most serene, and they do a lot. This is how they do it.

Adem Turgut
5 min readFeb 6, 2023
Photo by Radu Florin on Unsplash

Use a dedicated to-do list.

In my experience, people manage their to-do lists in two ways. They use their calendar, or they have a dedicated space or tool for their task list.

Using your calendar for specific tasks can be highly effective. It allows you to block out time to focus on completing one of your to-do items. It also supports “time-boxing,” limiting the amount of time you have to complete the task. This can help avoid procrastination and perfectionism.

However, calendars, especially for work, tend to be noisy. There are events for group meetings. Social gatherings. Webinars and meetups. Your next Yoga class, and so on. Calendars can also be outside your control, with events popping in and out throughout the day. This can lead to distraction and overwhelm.

In contrast, a to-do list can be highly focused. A piece of paper can list only the tasks you want to do today. This is YOUR list and only your list. This a reminder of the need to focus on the things you can control. This means you can get through your list of tasks with few interruptions. It doesn’t come with the same baggage as your calendars, such as the aforementioned alerts and pop-ups.

Although I refer to a piece of paper as a to-do list, there are many apps just for keeping track of tasks and innumerable posts on Medium devoted to comparing and contrasting these offerings. It’s just a matter of trying out several apps until you discover one you enjoy and that fits your workflow. Your calendar is not the place for your To-Do lists, but it is a powerful tool for helping you get things done on those lists by allocating specific times for certain tasks.

Check in with yourself.

Photo by Caroline Veronez on Unsplash

When you are overloaded and overwhelmed, you need every bit of support you can get. However, it isn’t enough to rely only on support from others. You need to be your own coach. This means being able to check in with yourself.

An easy way to do this is to write a personal blog, like a “weekly update.” This can be private and intended for an audience of one (yourself). Each week, write a few paragraphs about:

  • What you accomplished last week.
  • The challenges that you overcame.
  • The things that you learned.
  • The things that you are grateful for.

You can also use your blog post to plan the week ahead. Note down the top 3 outcomes that you want to achieve. Highlight anything that you are looking forward to doing or experiencing. These are ideas to get you started. You can tailor your content to whatever works for you. Alternatively, you can spend a couple of minutes every morning or evening to pause and ask yourself some basic questions (like the ones mentioned above).

The benefit of self check0ins is to fold. First, it offers a moment of reflection. When you are busy, you tend to worry about what’s coming to appreciate what has been. Second, by giving yourself a moment to pause and look forward, you can help organize your thoughts and prime yourself for the day/week/month ahead.

Take regular breaks

Regular breaks will reduce stress and avoid burnout, allowing you to focus and be more productive. Depending on your line of work, breaks can also be used for physical activities such as stretching and walking. It allows you to replenish your batteries and rest your mind. It can even give you a new viewpoint, allowing you to return to your activity with fresh thoughts.

Most people recognize that taking pauses is necessary and beneficial. People may feel guilty about taking time away from work, especially if those around them are still working. Others may be concerned about falling behind in their work, adding to the overall sense of overwhelm.

Failure to take breaks, in my experience, is an ineffective strategy. Hard-to-satisfy itch, such as checking social media alerts on your phone, may eventually capture your attention and distract you from your task. Instead, you should make it a habit to take appropriate pauses for your workflow.

The Pomodoro Technique is a time management technique that divides work into 25-minute intervals called “pomodoros” and is separated by brief breaks. The aim is to work for a brief period of time with a strong focus and then take a break to renew the mind. These breaks also serve to eliminate distractions and increase mental focus while working. The length and frequency of breaks can be varied according to personal desire. Still, a common Pomodoro plan comprises working for 25 minutes, taking a 5-minute break, and repeating this cycle four times before taking a long rest.

Keep notes

Photo by Jess Bailey on Unsplash

It is common to see people take notes during a lecture or in a meeting while someone else is talking. Less common, however, is the propensity for one to take notes while they are quietly working alone.

However, our mind can only hold so much in the short term. The idea of “working memory” refers to the amount of data your conscious mind can hold and manipulate to complete a task. Our working memory is limited — around 3 or 4 items, max. This means that relying only on your mind to store information while completing a task is sub-optimal.

When completing a tricky task, try noting your conscious thoughts and working through problems on paper (instead of in your mind). You should find that it improves your focus and facilitates better organization of your thoughts. Note-taking can also make it easy to collaborate with others (if you need to) and improve your creativity and support your decision-making.


Using a dedicated to-do list, checking in with yourself, taking regular breaks, and making notes will help you stay active, calm, and productive. An organized list of things to do can help you stay on track and get things done. Self check-ins provide time for introspection and preparation. Taking breaks regularly has been shown to decrease stress and boost efficiency. Taking notes is a good strategy for dealing with working memory constraints and ensuring critical information is not forgotten. These guidelines can help you stay organized and minimize stress even under the shadow of a tsunami of work.



Adem Turgut

CEO of SolveXia (Enterprise Process Automation), Writer and Efficiency Enthusiast