Are You Busy Being Busy?
We’ve all felt it..
- That feeling of being so busy, you daren’t jump off that hamster wheel for fear you'll never get back on.
- The mental exhaustion when you’ve got a hundred things to do and every single one of them feels urgent.
- The repetitive lifting of your phone and scroll, scroll, scrolling, ‘just in case’ there’s something interesting. Then the guilt-bomb of getting sucked into virtual nothingness yet again when you could have done something productive.
As a coach, I’ve lost count of the times I’ve heard the following:
“I can’t take a break as there’s always something that needs doing.”
“Whenever I think I’m on top of things, something else crops up.
“I’m scared if I stop for a moment, I’ll miss something.”
Maybe you can relate.
Maybe you’ve said the same.
And as a business owner, I totally get it.
Any of you dear readers who run your own business will appreciate that it’s super-rewarding, but also a super-exhausting rollercoaster of emotion. It takes time to find the ‘off-switch’, if you find it at all.
But regardless of what you do, it’s all too easy to get sucked into the busyness vacuum. And the worst of it? Many of us wear our busy like a badge of honour. How many times do you respond to an innocent, ‘how are you?’ by offloading how much you've got on? If anything, it’s become the stock response for many of us.
The reason is rooted in value.
In modern society, being busy has become synonymous with purpose and importance. It signals to both yourself and the outside world that you are filling your time with action – by doing the stuff that matters.
But here lies the quandary.
You may fill your time with the stuff that looks important, but really doesn’t matter. In short, you’re busy for the sake of it.
Don’t be daft? I hear you cry! Hear me out.
Being busy hides a multitude of things.
1) It hides your feelings.
If your so focussed on something, that you don’t have time to think, well then (and I’m stating the obvious here), you literally don’t have time to reflect,, to ruminate, to plan - to have those difficult conversations with yourself that you’ve perhaps been avoiding.
2) It covers up a lack of focus.
You might know what you want your life to look like and you might be busy getting there, in which case, fair play.
More often than not, however, you may have an idea or a general sense of purpose, but no real plan of how to get there. In this instance, you are filling your time with the things makes you feel like you are taking action, but the action is of limited worth.
The fear of missing out comes into play here too. You may feel the need to be constantly switched on and tuned into opportunity, but as we’ll discuss in a moment, the busier you are, the more likely those opportunities may be to slip by.
3) It gives you a reason not to..
We’ve all said, ‘I didn’t do X as I was too busy’. Sometimes it’s true, we genuinely haven’t had the time to do something we should have. But often, busyness diverts us from the things we should be doing but find uncomfortable, or simply don’t want to do. Last minute Christmas shopping anyone? Tidying the cupboard that’s a dumping ground for your household crap? Cramming for an exam the evening before a dreaded exam? Going to the dentist? Phoning your nan? Nah, too busy.
But, aside from the psychological pitfalls of eternal busyness, there are other reasons why you should just slow things down.
· Because running on empty isn’t good for you.
· Because moving at 100mph means you whiz straight past the good stuff without properly seeing it.
· Because it’s hard to have focus if you’re feeling overwhelmed.
But the biggest thing?
Your enthusiasm can tank and your confidence can fall off a cliff. That leads to demotivation and procrastination and before you know it, you feel like crap and it’s harder than ever to pick yourself back up. (At which point you may chuck even more into your schedule to try and overcome those feelings, which merely confounds the problem.)
What can you do about it?
Give yourself permission to slow down. To stop. To breathe. To take stock. To prioritise.
I am a massive advocate of allowing yourself to just ‘be’. For some people, that might look like meditation, for others, it might be a walk in the fresh air, listening to the world around you.
Whatever it is, your body needs a break. Your brain needs a break in order to function. It’s not just important, it’s crucial to finding any kind of balance in your life and feeling truly confident and fulfilled.
2) Chuck busyness and success in different buckets
Success and being busy are not mutually inclusive. Yes, high achieving people tend to look busy because they have a high level of output, but often they have a high level of output precisely because they are focused and targeted in how they use their time. There’s a lot less faffing and a lot more doing. (If you want a good reference point for this, try Steven Covey’s ‘The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People’.)
3) Work out what do you want (what you really, really want)!
Firstly, you need to establish what success means for you (we’re so conditioned to attach it to material goals, that we often forget that it really boils down to fulfilment).
Next, it’s about how you get there without busting a gut for the rest of your life. It’s about working smarter not harder. It’s about working out what meaningful action you can take but equally what action you won’t take.
Ask yourself this question, ‘What am I saying no to by saying yes?’
4) Recognise that you can’t sprint a marathon
I’ve lost count of the times I’ve discussed with clients how bad they are at relaxing and how guilty they feel for switching off. But it’s crucial to accept that you can’t sprint a marathon. You need to slow down in order to speed up and that’s nothing to feel guilty for. If it helps, schedule in your down-time to give it extra weight and then savour every moment!
5) Create the habit
As with everything, our brains prefer the familiar, so make the stop time consistent and regular. If you start to create a routine, it will become a ritual and you will find your rhythm.
At the end of the day, it’s simple: slow down to speed up.
I promise you’ll come back feeling better for it.
P.S. If you’re not in my fab, free community, The Confidence Build for Women, head on over to meet a fab, sympathetic and supportive bunch of women just like you or drop me a message if you’re struggling (firstname.lastname@example.org)