We’re going to get down and dirty straight off the mark today with a few truth bombs about busyness.
Busyness is self-serving.
You rock up late (again) for a catch up with your best friend. You’ve cancelled the last two times so it’s a miracle you even made it this time. She’s lucky to have your attention – with everything you’ve got on your plate at the moment coffee seems like a luxury, but anyway, you’ll have to duck off early, you explain, because you’ve got a list of Very Important Things to get through before the day is out.
At this point, what do you reckon she’s thinking?
“I’d kill to be that busy! Look at her, all frazzled and frantic-like, and would you check out that to-do list. Wooooweee, that thing is full. Totes jealous!”
1. The blunt version: Who cares. We’re all freaking busy.
2. The crushing version: Seems like I’m a burden on [insert your name's] time – just another task that’s been slotted into her over-scheduled life. Time to pull away for a bit.
Eek. Pretty sure none of us want to leave our loved ones feeling like that, but there’s a chance we already have. Many times over. Like Socrates said: “Beware of the barrenness of a busy life.”
Busyness is a cop-out.
Busy has become synonymous with avoidance – a culturally polite way of saying no. The use of busyness as an excuse for not getting back to someone, or reneging on a commitment, is almost an epidemic in itself but it doesn’t mean it’s any less frustrating when you’re on the receiving end.
Busyness is also a magnificent way of avoiding the things we don’t want to face. When you pay attention to the times you say you’re too busy, you just might find that those are the times you’re up against something that’s making you uncomfortable.
Ask yourself: what am I running from?
Busyness makes you the victim.
Have you ever noticed how we refer to busyness like it’s something beyond our control? Like we’re the victims of this external force that renders us so helpless we have no choice but to give away our power?
“I wish I wasn’t so busy,” we whine.
Let’s be honest: you don’t have to be. Re-adjust and revaluate. There’s nothing impressive about martyrdom.
Busyness is arrogant.
Get truthful for a moment? Does saying you’re “too busy” make you feel important? Even just a teensy bit?
The undertone of “I’m sooooo busy” is boastful and seeped in approval – a badge of honour to wear proudly when insecurity tells you that you need something to justify the way you’re spending your days.
+ “How was work honey?” “Busy, ridiculously busy, I’m exhaaaaaaaaaausted.” (also known as I do lots, therefore I am)
+ “Sorry I didn’t get back to you last week – I was so busy!” (also known as You weren’t a priority)
+ “Actually, I can’t make it tonight sorry, super busy, story of my life!” (also known as My life is more important than yours)
And here’s the kicker: we’re reluctant to let go of being “too busy” because our identity is so wrapped up in this busyness that we don’t know who to be without it. Ouch.
Sure-Fire Cures For Chronic Busyness
1. Busy or overwhelmed? Make the distinction.
There’s a big difference in being busy and being completely under the pump.
When I’m passionately engaged in something, doing work that energises me, I find busy is my sweet spot. I thrive on it. If you’re anything like me, you’re always more productive when you have lots on the go, but the tasks need to be manageable and the expectations around when those tasks have to be finished need to be realistic. We all know what enough means to us and what too much feels like and that yardstick moves depending on our personality types and the kind of work we’re doing.
By definition, busy means being actively and attentively engaged in work or a pastime.
But what about feeling too busy or overwhelmed? Sucker-punched by stress? This is where things speed up, heads spin, chaos reigns supreme, desperation kicks in and we want to go foetal. We go from having lots on our to-do list to a state of being overpowered or overcome in mind or in feeling.
Personally, I find this happens to me when too many extra demands are placed on me – sometimes through pressure I place on myself, but mostly through external circumstances. I’ve created a busy life for myself with things I like doing and that are relevant to this part of my life (my job and relationships are necessities, my blog is a passion, and my wedding is something that is making me busier temporarily) but it’s when extra things get thrown into the mix (last minute work projects with tight deadlines, late nights that keep me away from doing the aforementioned stuff) I feel stress start to claw it’s way into my life.
Which leads me to…
2. Learn what to say yes and no to.
Priorities, priorities, priorities. Evaluate whether your busyness is momentary or whether it’s something that’s impacting your happiness long-term.
Start uttering that powerful two-letter word more often. Saying no doesn’t have to be negative – it says that you value the work/ person too much to put in a less than stellar effort.
3. More often than not, busy is a choice.
The choice to make our lives so full lies with us. There’s nothing empowering about shrugging our shoulders and moaning about being at the mercy of our to-do list/ inbox/ Twitter/ Facebook.
Worse still, this then becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy – we think we’re stuck in this tumultuous existence where there are never enough hours in the day to do what we need to do, and so there aren’t (being overly busy is also a wonderful way to get nothing done at all – have you noticed that?)
Hone in on what’s important by making a list of the three non-negotiable tasks you need to get done on any given day and pull back from the rest. Know your limits.
4. Be mindful of your words.
Be aware of your energy when you find the words “I’m too/so busy” rolling off your tongue. Often, just talking about how busy you are can amplify the feeling, and instead of making you look in control and able to juggle a million tasks with aplomb, it can make you sound frantic and frazzled – the complete opposite of a person in control.
Busy is an interpretation. You can choose to see it negatively, as something that depletes you, or you can tell the world you’re energised, productive and grateful to be living a life full of experience and opportunity.
Choose your words wisely and take the power back. Busy is a choice. Own it.
When it comes to busyness, I’m certainly not immune to lamenting how much I have going on in my life and it’s something I’m working on changing for good.
I’m making a conscious effort to limit the use of “too busy” in my vocabulary and paying attention to when I use it and how it makes me feel, which is really insightful. There’s an emotional response when you talk about being stressed or overwhelmed – it’s like your heart starts racing a bit faster and adrenalin kicks in, which we all know isn’t a good thing! Time to let go of that story. Life is only overwhelming if we allow it to be.
+ How about you? Do you catch yourself talking about how hectic your life is, or find it hard to slow down and relax? What do you do to combat the feeling of being “too busy?”