Every day, we struggle to get our work done on time.  Despite our best intentions, our to-do lists keep growing and we often don’t quite finish what we have to get done. It is even more difficult to stay on task with all the distractions that vie for our attention in this fast-paced world, like text messages, emails, Facebook and LinkedIn. To take control of our time and to stay on task, we need to step up our inner game and the Bus Metaphor is one way to take control.

The Bus Metaphor

 The Bus Metaphor, as described by Steven Hayes et. al., concerns itself with you inner game. In this metaphor you are the bus driver. Your goal is to stay on route, which you do by staying on task and getting your work done on time.   There are many detours and side streets along the way, enticing you to stray from your route. Emails, text messages and social media apps represent the distractions, side streets, and detours.

Your bus also has passengers that encourage you to stray from your route.  These passengers are your feelings and thoughts.  Here are some of the passengers you may meet on your bus and what they may tell you:

  • Fear often catastrophizes and tells you that bad things will happen if you don’t answer that email;
  • Anxiety, closely related to fear, can manifest itself as the impostor syndrome, which whispers to you that you are not good enough or smart enough, discouraging you from driving your bus altogether;
  • Perfectionism tells you that your work is not quite ready to submit;
  • Avoidance convinces you to put off doing those unpleasant and difficult work tasks to tomorrow; and
  • Habit is the sly passenger that has trained you to respond unconsciously to email and text notifications like Pavlov trained dogs to respond to a bell.

 How to drive your bus – The five steps.

These are the five (5) steps for taming your passengers while driving your bus:

  1. Simply notice. During your day, notice the number of times you responded to texts, emails and Facebook, for example.  Notice whether you were being distracted or whether you were doing an important work task.
  2. Identify your passengers. Name the passengers you encountered during your distractions and describe the thoughts and messages they were telling you.
  3. Do not wrestle with your passengers. People try to kick their passengers off their bus or to ignore them by thinking of something else.  The more energy you put into wrestling with your passengers, the less you have for driving your bus.  Wrestling is a distraction.
  4. Acknowledge your passengers. Your passengers are just thoughts. They have no power over you. You can choose not to listen to them.  You can acknowledge their presence, and simply return to driving your bus.
  5. Finally take control by choosing to stay on route.

Victor Frankl, the famous psychiatrist who developed logotherapy, wrote:

“Between stimulus and response there is a space.  In that space is our power to choose our response.  In our response lies our growth and our freedom.”

The Bus metaphor puts you in that space between stimulus and response (i.e. the space between what your passengers are telling you to do and what you choose to do).  The ability to choose is the source of your control and arms you with the shield of resilience against the constant stream of distractions. The more you practice driving your bus the easier it will be to do. By upping your inner game this way, you will have more control over your to-do list.

This blog post was written by Ron Pizzo, a Pink Larkin partner who is also a Certified Professional Co-Active Coach and part of Dr. Polk’s ACT Pro-Social Mastermind group.  Ron works with professionals, leaders and teams to create more productive and resilient workplaces.