~by Rebecca Schaeffer~
We shame people who are addicted to drugs or alcohol, but as a culture, we’ve actually normalized and even praised our common addiction to busyness. We expect successful people to be busy, so we present a persona of busyness in order to be perceived as successful. This “busyness,” writes author Tim Krieder in a NY Times Op-Ed, “serves as a kind of existential reassurance, a hedge against emptiness… Obviously your life cannot possibly be silly or trivial or meaningless if you are so busy, completely booked, in demand every hour of the day.”
Sound familiar? In case you’ve missed the last two Leadership Girl posts on Busyness, you can catch up here:
Do you take pride in your busyness and your ability to multitask? Yet, do you also get distracted in your busyness and become overwhelmed, finding it hard to complete one task before moving on to the next? Let me guess – while you watch TV, you’re simultaneously folding laundry, and talking on the phone to a friend? Or you have at least a dozen separate windows or applications open on your computer or smart phone at any given time? Do you always feel the need to have the TV or radio on, or listen to music when you drive? Do you become panicked or nervous when you lose your to-do list?
You may still be operating under the false assumption that accomplishing more requires working harder. You may also be letting busyness dictate your schedule, without stopping to think about each task. It’s time to let your priorities determine your schedule. You can actually accomplish more with less, if you focus your attention completely on each task at hand.
Coping Strategy: Stop multitasking. Consciously do one thing at a time. Slow down. Build in downtime to your schedule. Reevaluate your priorities. And be realistic about your goals.
Challenge yourself to be fully present in whatever you are doing in any given moment. Allow time for just “being,” not focused on “doing” anything in particular. Walk slower. Do you fully taste your food? Or are you busy reading or watching TV during mealtimes? Try taking the time to simply enjoy a meal, either alone or as a family. Take up a mindfulness practice, like yoga or meditation. Make time for the things that bring you joy, and try to eliminate the tasks that drain you. These strategies can help you stop trying to think things through and figure life out on your own. Instead, allow space for solutions to come naturally and easily to you.
Have you ever been racking your brain trying to solve a problem, only to find that the answer spontaneously comes to you, in the shower, while walking your dog, or after a good night’s rest? During down time, our brains don’t stop processing information, but these processes shift from the conscious mind to the subconscious. Building in reflective breaks in your schedule will actually help you solve problems faster, more effectively, and more creatively, than simply slogging through when you’re tired, sick, or overworked. Give your brain some space! And resist the temptation to take on too many tasks at once.
Research shows that multitasking is actually counterproductive! Even if you feel that multitasking works well for you, focusing on only one project or activity at a time will ensure that you are completing each task at your absolute best. When you try to do more than one thing at a time, you’re not devoting your best effort to any one of these activities. Focused, deliberate attention will actually free up more time and energy to devote to other things. Give yourself scheduled breaks, and it will actually make you more productive!
There will always be many more items on your to-do list and things or people vying for your attention than there are hours in any given day. To beat your addiction to busyness, your job is to prioritize. Choose to do the tasks and activities that are most important to you, stop outwardly reinforcing your busyness, and make time for yourself. The choice is yours!
Now, take the Busyness test!
If you suddenly found yourself with an afternoon free, what would you do with this “unscheduled” time? Would you spend it alone, or with friends or family? Would you finish the book that’s been on your nightstand for months, or catch up on your favorite TV show or movie? Identify what you think you would realistically do. Then ask yourself, what you would actually like to do? What activities best line up with the goals you’ve set for yourself? What actions would bring you the most joy?
How you spend your time is a reflection of your priorities (or at least it should be). Identify what is most important to you – whether it’s spending more quality time with family, making time for exercise and healthy living, or starting to write that book you’ve always dreamed of – and set aside time in your schedule for the things that matter most. Say no to the obligations and commitments that no longer serve you, and allow yourself at least a few minutes of downtime each day. This is how to stay on top of your busyness! Did you pass the test?
What strategies have you found to beat the busyness blues? Post your ideas in the comments below!
Meet the Author: Rebecca 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