Addicted to Busyness? Just Say No.

~by Rebecca Schaeffer~


In our faced paced, 24×7 culture, Addicted to Busyness Syndrome (ATBS) has become an unspoken epidemic, most commonly among women. Women, especially those of us in business for ourselves, are expected to have it all – to be successful entrepreneurs, to raise a family, maintain a beautiful home, keep a robust social calendar, and somehow find time for daily exercise and fix healthy, wholesome meals. Not only does our society put these expectations on us, but we also set unreasonably high expectations for ourselves. How are we expected to achieve all of this? By doing more. By sleeping less. And, possibly, by putting ourselves and our health at risk.

What’s driving this cultural Addiction to Busyness?

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Addicted to Busyness?

Perhaps it’s a need to accomplish tasks in order to feel worthy, or an insatiable desire to always be one step ahead of where we are. It could be a coping mechanism to keep ourselves from thinking or feeling things we don’t want to acknowledge, or an attempt to live up to the expectations of others. If you identify yourself as someone who’s constantly “busy,” sit down and ask yourself: In all of your busyness, are you living the life you truly want to live? Does your busyness fulfill you, or are you living up to the goals and expectations of what others want for you? If your current busy schedule feels more like a burden than a blessing, chances are you’ve taken on too much than is healthy for you – or perhaps you’ve simply taken on too much of the wrong things. It may be time for you to let some of your busyness go…

Is it hard for you to say no, either in your personal or professional life?

Do you move through your day, scheduled so tightly from activity to activity, always thinking about the next task, but never fully able to relax and live in the moment?  Do you constantly feel that the best way to get something done is to do it yourself?  Do you only allow yourself to take time “off” after you’ve accomplished everything on your to-do list, or when you’ve pushed yourself to the point that you’re too sick not to take a step back?

Coping Strategy:  Say NO!  The easiest way to cross items off your to-do list and eliminate tasks from your daily routine is simply to decide NOT to do them!

Yes, this will likely entail giving up some of the activities and priorities that you’ve become accustomed to doing, and it will likely be hard for you to let these go, initially. But ultimately, you’ll have more time for the things you truly care about.  Like that goal of brushing up on your college Spanish and becoming fluent? It may not be as important as spending quality time with friends and family each week.  Cross it off!  Like those obligatory social conventions that cause you to accept an invitation when you’d rather be at home relaxing after a long workweek? Excuse yourself politely, and decline to participate!

Whatever these particular activities are for you, you’ll know them when you come across them. When an item has been on your to-do list for months, or even years, with no visible progress, it may be time to think about crossing it off. If, when you examine an activity, you’re truly reluctant to give it up, it may instead be time to reevaluate your priorities and move it higher up on your list. You’ll know. When you get that sinking feeling in the pit of your stomach, imagining yourself fulfilling a specific task or accepting a certain social obligation, simply don’t do it! Give yourself permission to say no, for yourself and for your business. Find what energizes you, and eliminate the activities and commitments that drain you. For more on knowing when to say no, check out our recent Leadership Girl post here.

If you run your own business, consider what you could be doing to promote your business if you let go of a few draining tasks to make time for others. Perhaps you can outsource the tasks that bring you down, to make more time for the ones you truly enjoy. If you find yourself keeping busy but not making progress on your long-term goals, it may be time to change how you operate. Ironically, when you consciously schedule time for those nagging long-standing but hard to define goals, you may actually find yourself feeling less wrapped up in the minutia of day-to-day tasks. Making progress on the goals that are important to you can give you motivation to accomplish more than you think.

If you have children, consider the implications that your current level of busyness has on them, especially if their time is scheduled down to the minute, with classes and extracurricular activities galore. Build some down time into your children’s schedules now, so that they can hopefully learn good habits from you for the future!  Allowing your children the space to choose how to spend their free time can be extremely rewarding for them, especially when it comes to choosing a career field down the road. Likewise, observing how you choose to spend your free time can also help you identify what sparks your inner joy. Start observing how you spend your free time, and see what insights this brings.

Stay tuned for more strategies on overcoming our cultural Addiction to Busyness, and post your own ideas in the comments below!

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Rebecca Schaeffer
Rebecca Schaeffer

Meet the Author: Rebecca R Schaeffer

As a contributing guest blogger and local leader in the field of non-profit management, Rebecca offers personal organizing and business consulting services.  She works with individuals seeking to simplify and remove clutter from their lives, and also business owners looking to optimize their organizational capacity and efficiency.

To learn more about how Rebecca can help you or your business get organized, please email her at: Rebecca@leadershipgirl.com



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