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The Real Truth About Busyness

Everywhere I look right now on the internet I see people talking about being exhausted and burnt out. It’s no surprise it’s coming up in conversations with friends and clients too. But before we get burnt out we get busy. So today I want to talk about the badge of busyness that so many of us wear with pride and, how, when you hear yourself say over and over again that you’re “crazy busy” it’s probably a sign that something needs to change.

There’s no doubt that we’ve been conditioned to believe busy is the same as successful, that busy is the same as hard-working, and that the busier you are the more important you must be. And, if you’re NOT busy we make assumptions that you’re lazy, unsuccessful or simply don’t want it bad enough (‘cause if you did you’d hustle harder). Of course, none of that is true.  

But if we’re not careful these stories play like background music in our heads, shaping our behaviour without us being aware of it. Nudging us to say “yes” to every opportunity and to take on more than we can handle.

Busyness can be fueled by…

  • Perfectionism
  • Trying to prove your worth/not feeling good enough
  • Avoidance of criticism/conflict
  • Escapism (because I don’t want to feel my feelings so I’m going to do anything and everything else to avoid them)
  • Fear (i.e. if I don’t say yes, I’ll never get the promotion)
  • All or nothing thinking (i.e. If I don’t do it no one will)
It’s time to get curious…

Do you know why you like to keep busy? Does the idea of slowing down scare you? What would slower mean for your life? Is there something you’re trying to outrun or outsmart?

Because busyness is a choice.

And that choice becomes a signal to those around us. It says we’re unavailable like a busy signal on the phone. It teaches our kids that they should wear the badge of busyness too. That overpacked schedules are the norm. That their feeling of exhaustion is just part of life….and that it shows you’re living it fully.

Busyness comes before burnout.

There will always be more that you can do.

There will always be people who want you to say yes.

There will always be more items on your to-do list than you can cross off.

In all your giving to others don’t forget to give to yourself. You DESERVE REST. Right now. Even if you haven’t put in an 8hr workday. Even if your to-do list isn’t finished.  None of that changes the fact that you deserve rest.

Set some boundaries around work and rest and play (the easy part) and then uphold them (the hard part – especially when life gets busy 😉) Because if your phone needs time to recharge every day, so do you.

The word ‘busy’ itself is interesting – it makes us feel like everything is happening TO us. Like our schedules are out of our control. And that fuels all kinds of feelings like bitterness, anxiety, resentment, and victimhood. But remember – busyness is a choice and sometimes the most empowering thing we can do is acknowledge our limits and boundaries and honour them.

Slowing down allows us to pay attention to what’s truly going on (internally and around us). We can shift from hasty decisions to mindful ones. We can listen to what people are really saying. We can notice the warning signals our body is sending BEFORE it shuts us down with illness or aches and sprains that force us to stop because we’ve been taking on too much for too long.

We all have different levels of energy.

If you’re an empath (raises hand) or highly sensitive person you might need to go slower than those around you. Too much for you can feel like no problem for others.  And when we compare ourselves to what’s expected or the perceived “norm” or even to what our friends seem to be accomplishing, we can easily feel not good enough. This ‘comparisonitis’ doesn’t help anyone and what we’re seeing or hearing isn’t the full story anyway (yes, even with your closest friends). Turn your focus instead on yourself, accepting and honouring who you are and the amount of rest you need is essential to your well-being.

Introverts also need time alone to recharge. Saying no to the party on the weekend or the Zoom happy hour might feel uncomfortable if there’s pressure to fit in and say “yes” AND it might be exactly what your body needs right now so you can say yes to the next invitation.

We’re all different and the amount of rest and relaxation we require to thrive varies from person to person and through different seasons in our lives. It’s okay if you need more rest now than you did before the pandemic (I know I do!).

Often the first things that feel expendable when life gets busy are the very practices we NEED to be the most productive and effective with the time we have.

Meditation goes from a non-negotiable to a luxury.

Or the morning walk that helps you clear your head and feel grounded becomes something you don’t have time for.

And yet, those mindful minutes at the beginning of the day are exactly the things our brains need to take a break, see things clearly, and set our priorities for the day.

When you notice life getting busy…

Check your priorities: Are you saying “yes” to the things that matter or simply getting caught up in the momentum of feeling busy and spending too much time on things that aren’t essential.

Find visualizations and metaphors to protect your energy: I used to visualize putting on a raincoat every time an old boss would start a venomous tirade. I’d mentally pull on my cheerful yellow raincoat and let her words slide off my back. What visualization would work for you? When might you use it? Get curious and creative.

Breathe: Place your hands on your heart, close your eyes and take 3 deep breaths. You can do this just about anywhere (well, not when you’re driving).  It’s a quick way to center and check-in with yourself and it might be a practice to adopt before you say “yes” to one more thing…and instead ask yourself ‘why’ you want to say yes.

Understand that every time you’re saying yes – you’re also saying no:
If our energy is like a pie that’s cut into pieces, for example, work, family/friends, health/wellness, relationships, personal growth, spirituality, self-care, recreation/fun. And someone asks you to work overtime for the next month to help complete a big project – one or more of your existing slices of pie is going to need to get smaller so you can say yes (because you do not magically have more pie).
Yes to overtime means no to family time or no to self-care time cause you’ll be working through your regular yoga class or no to sleep cause you’ll be getting up earlier to go into work or no to your girl’s night out because you’re too exhausted from all the overtime. Or no to all of it. Every time you say yes – you’re also saying no. Now that you’ve checked your priorities make sure you’ve got pie left for the things that matter most.

Make space for play: Rest and relaxation don’t always mean sleep, meditation, or yoga Nidra. Sometimes it means time to paint, a leisurely stroll through a museum, a beach day on the weekend, or grabbing a taco with your BFF. Things that feel creative and fun can energize us and help us take on the challenges of our busy lives.

Before we get burned out we get busy. I think it’s sooo important for us to slooow down and ask ourselves WHY it feels necessary to constantly go, go, go. To get curious about what slower means for us personally. And mindful that we’re saying yes to the things that matter. Because by honouring our individual needs for rest and relaxation we can stop the cycle of burnout. And in the long run, accomplish more because we won’t need time to crash and recover.

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