How To Stop Being Busy

Have you ever…

  • Mentally rehearsed your to-do list before getting out of bed
  • Started your day feeling already depleted and dragging your feet 
  • Had lunch at your desk so you could catch up on emails
  • Rescheduled self-care and fun with friends in favour of ticking one more thing off your list

Yep.  So have I. Welcome to the ‘I’m too busy to tell you how busy I am’ club.

We grew up believing the gold stars we earned meant we were good students and therefore good people.  And the more gold stars we racked up the better we were. 

Over the years we may have traded in gold stars for praise from our boss or admiration from our co-workers but we’re still trying desperately to prove we’re contributing.  We’re valuable family members, teammates, employees.  We’re still trying to prove that we’re important. And busyness has become our favourite tool for showing everyone how indispensable/ loveable/ needed/ worthy we are.

It’s all about identity & perception.  

Brené Brown says “healthy striving is internally focused” (For example being productive feels good.  It gives us a sense of accomplishment. Pride in our work. Joy in connecting with others and being of service.) whereas unhealthy striving is driven by fear of what other people will think of us.

Busyness can be fueled by…

Perfectionism – they’ll only like me if I’m flawless (and do it all with a smile) 

Avoidance of Criticism – or disappointment if you say no (hands up if you’re a people pleaser in recovery).

Escapism – if you’re always busy, you don’t have to deal with uncomfortable emotions… like grief or shame

Fear – if I don’t say yes to this, someone will replace me

The good news is, these are all CHOICES and repeating stories in our head – and they can be rewritten because we always have a choice. Let’s be truthful here, somewhere along the way you said ‘yes’ to something that has lead you to this point.  I said yes to staying in jobs that didn’t fulfill me and lead to burnout (over and over again).  I said yes to not making an effort to meet people because I was just too damn tired (inaction is also a choice).  I chose to make my career a priority over my health (over and over again)!

I still struggle with this.  With the “not enough-ness” that pokes its head up and tells me I should be doing MORE.  Hustling harder. The difference is now I can recognize my triggers and what they mean for my self-worth and course correct MUCH faster. (read more about how my perfectionism damn near killed me)

Here’s what you can try…

Do a reality check – Monitor just how busy you really are.  Notice how long you spend on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, subscription emails, zoning out on TV, video games, dating sites, YouTube, Pinterest, etc. on any given day.  Think about cutting down your time online or in front of the TV by 20%.  That would then free up time to do other, more meaningful, things.

F*ck the 5 AM club – If you’re a morning person and this works for you, awesome, keep it up! But if you’re NOT a morning person (like me) then don’t try and force yourself into an early morning routine because you feel you should do it because everyone else seems to be. Honour what works for YOU – maybe you’re a night owl or simply function best after the sun is up. Point is, if it doesn’t work find something that does. Zooey Deschanel says it best “In an ideal world no one would talk before 10 AM, people would just hug because waking up is really hard.” Which leads me to what I do…

Breathe – When you wake up in the morning, DO NOT GRAB YOUR PHONE and instead just sit in your bed with your eyes closed and breathe.  This can be for 1 second, or 10 seconds, or 10 minutes.  Do whatever feels good to you. Meditation can reduce stress and anxiety.  It helps lengthen your attention span and improves focus.  All things that will help you move through your to-do list with a little more grace and speed.

Rewrite the narrative – When we tell ourselves (or say aloud) things like “I am so f*ckin’ busy” we give up our agency.  Statements that begin with “I AM” create our reality, they feel so much more permanent and it makes us feel like the “busy” is happening TO us.  So next time you hear yourself saying, “I am busy” try switching it out for “I CHOOSE to have a full schedule.”  When it’s a choice it doesn’t feel like it’s happening to you and you can take back your power.

Ask for help – Our society champions doing everything on your own.  It’s the often glamourized American dream of going from nothing to rich and famous ALL BY MYSELF.  Except, of course, our lives don’t happen in isolation.

So many of us struggle to ask for help because we worry that others will judge us for not being able to do it all on our own.  Or perhaps we really have been rejected or resented for asking for help in the past.  And now we’re silently judging ourselves every time we even think of asking for help, ‘just easier to do it by myself’. But this isn’t sustainable and leads to burnout. We go farther, together, and heck people love to be needed!  So, go ahead, be courageous, and ask for help!

Set an intention – Set an intention for the day before your feet even hit the floor.  Make it something that feels abundant and, dare I say, luxurious!

  • Today I will give myself space to think before I say yes to one more thing
  • Today will be filled with serendipity and magic!
  • Today I will skip the gym and go for a sun-filled walk by the lake instead
  • Today will be abundant and joyous and filled with laughter!
  • Today I will ask for help with…

Pay attention to your needs – Emotional.  Psychological.  Physical. You need different things during different cycles of your life.  It’s okay if you can’t maintain the energy and hustle you did 10 years ago. I used to think napping was a weakness but now…it’s my friggin’ superpower!

PLAY! – Make sure every single week you schedule, and prioritize, time for play or creativity.  It’s important to have downtime, it refreshes and refuels us and connects us with ourselves and our loved ones.  And play can be whatever you want it to be, provided it’s meaningful and not just you numbing out.  Hang out with a friend in person vs. on text.  Have a dance party with yourself while you cook dinner.  Paint or colour.  Sing along to some of your favourite classic tunes.  Read that book that’s collecting dust on your nightstand.  Do whatever makes your soul smile – BECAUSE YOU CAN CHOOSE TO DO SO.

If you need help rewriting the stories that keep you stuck on the busy hamster-wheel of life…I’m here for you.


(pause for exciting news)

I have one more way for you to connect with me + receive bite-sized bits of coaching wisdom.  I have started a YouTube channel (which is totally challenging all my stories of being enough) and I’d love to see you over there.  If you have any topics you’d like to hear me talk about don’t hesitate to comment on my YouTube channel or drop me an email.

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