Not just normal, run-of-the-mill life busy-ness, but the kind of frantic running from one task and obligation to the next, never-catch-up kind of adrenaline routine that leaves them feeling depleted.
These are the people who are using their phones to answer work email in bed late at night or returning phone calls in the bathtub and in the car on the way to work. Veteran multitaskers who are always connected, always running late, always trying to squeeze one more thing onto that calendar.
I’ve been one of them. And it’s no fun. It’s exhausting.
Functioning at their best? Not hardly. Enjoying life? Who has time for that?
If this sounds like you, I’ve got a few simple questions. They’ll take a few minutes to answer, and I urge you to take the few minutes. Especially if you’re thinking you don’t have time to think about this right now.
What’s keeping you so busy? Is it truly necessary? Or has busy become so ingrained that you automatically answer So busy! when asked how you are — before you’ve even considered the question?
(Go ahead. Think about this. I can wait.)
Our Western culture encourages our bad habits. In some cases, so do our workplace cultures, and even our families. But in the end, we are in charge of how busy our days are, and whether that busy-ness is feeding us or tearing us down piece by piece.
We all need to slow down once in a while. For our brains, our bodies and our experience of life. As humans, this is how we are built.
Often, when I tell people to slow down, I get one of two reactions:
Slow down? I can’t slow down. I have responsibilities. My boss, partner, family, kids, project, goals wouldn’t allow that.
That sounds perfect. I really need to just get away. You know how long it’s been since I’ve had a vacation, a moment to myself, five minutes to think, etc.
Right. This is the kind of busy that tears us down. It doesn’t feel good when we’re burning at both ends. Yet a lot of us are addicted or conditioned to living that way.
And so, I ask: what are you going to do about that?
(Once in a great while, someone instead tells me that they are just busy enough and feeling balanced. That’s how I feel most of the time, and if this is you, too, you know how nourishing it feels.)
Of course, there are times in our lives where busy becomes a fact of life. Where the juggling act we’re undertaking would earn us top billing with Barnum & Bailey and we get results.
Sometimes that’s necessary. In the short-term. But it’s never sustainable. Juggling is a trick. As a way of life, it can cause serious imbalance in your body and your mind. And there’s no way it will produce your best thinking. Or your best life.
Many of us hesitate to talk about this because it’s so easy to use busy as an excuse for something else.
You can’t fail to reach your goal if you’re too busy to start working on it.
You can’t break that bad habit if that habit is what allows you to stay so busy.
You won’t have to face that tough conversation or decision if you’re too busy to think about it.
You must be a pretty important person if you’re that busy.
See what’s going on there? Busy can be a mask we’re using to get some other need met. It can be a way to manage what we’re afraid of. It can be a means of avoiding setting boundaries that might feel challenging. It can be insidious.
If non-essential busy has become a way of life for you, I invite you to reconsider the impact that it’s having on your life. How is that choice feeling in your body? Does a quiet mind feel like a pipe dream to you? What’s all this busy-busy doing to the quality of your work? What about the quality of your life and your relationships?
There’s not just another way— there are many. Creating more space and more balance is entirely possible.
Want to try? Here are 3 little experiments to play with:
- Look at next week’s calendar. Eliminate everything that is not essential – just for this one week.
- Carve out 10 minutes at the start and end of each day to do nothing. Nothing at all.
- Plan a mini-vacation. It can be a week or an hour, whatever fits your real-life schedule right now. Use that time for something you really want to do.