Understanding Why You Are Addicted to Busyness

"Understanding Why You Are Addicted to Busyness" Stressed Woman with Laptop and Notebooks Graphic

~by Rebecca Schaeffer~

In our technologically wired society, multitasking has become an expectation. We’ve taken our historically Puritanical work ethic to an extreme, to the point that busyness has become a seeming hallmark of success! In our previous Leadership Girl post on being Addicted to Busyness, we explored the first step toward tackling your Addiction to Busyness – by eliminating tasks on your to-do list that you find draining instead of energizing. The next step in overcoming this addiction to busyness is examining why we, as individuals, feel the need to stay busy. In the words of physician and author Dr. Lisa Rankin: “We wear busyness like a badge of honor. I’m busy, therefore I’m important and valuable, therefore I’m worthy.”  Does this ring true for you? 

Do you prove your worth through constant activity, measuring how you feel about yourself against an ever-changing list of daily accomplishments? 

Do you feel anxious, guilty or unsettled if you’re not working or doing something to promote your life’s work?

Once you’ve acknowledge your busyness and have decided to change it, you can begin to accept that these constant, overwhelming feelings of busyness are a choice, albeit sometimes an unconscious rather than a conscious one. Then, you can begin making choices, from moment to moment, to be less busy. Some moments will come easily and others will be harder. Combined with saying no to the obligations and commitments that drain you, this small tweak in your attitude to simply allow more space for yourself is all it takes to start feeling less busy.

Coping Strategy:  When people ask you how you’re doing, stop saying that you’re busy! 

Instead, go inward. Dig deep, and uncover why you feel the “need” to keep busy, or perhaps the need for others to perceive you as busy. Stop outwardly reinforcing your busyness, and instead give yourself space to discover what’s underneath. When you actually stop moving straight from one activity to another, and allow time to sit alone with your thoughts – perhaps in meditation or on your daily commute – it may not be pretty. You may uncover feelings of unwanted loneliness, sadness, or emotional pain lurking just beneath the surface. Maybe you’ll find a strong desire to feel needed, wanted or loved. Or perhaps it’s simply that the thought of being alone, bored, or unproductive makes you feel unworthy.

Whatever you find, give yourself some room to breathe! Don’t succumb to the mistaken assumption of conflating busyness with success: most busyness is actually self-imposed, based on the subconscious belief that we must work hard to be successful. This busyness, although it may be motivated by a drive for success, is also a numbing behavior that we’ve used to armor ourselves against our own fears and vulnerabilities. With care, compassion and a few simple tweaks, you can begin to feel less busy – if you give yourself time and space to let these fears and vulnerabilities come to the surface.

Ask yourself whether you find that accomplishing the daily tasks you’ve set out for yourself is comforting and nourishing to your spirit, or whether your busyness could be serving as a temporary reprieve from vulnerability and other difficult emotions.  Be honest with yourself here. Does your busyness leave you satisfied and feeling like you’re living a full life? Or does it leave you feeling empty and searching for more?  Who would you be if you weren’t busy doing stuff? If your answer is anything other than the exact choices and decisions you’ve made in your life thus far, it may be time for a change.

When you modify your daily routine to consciously allow yourself time for reflection – even just 10 minutes of unscheduled, uninterrupted down time each day – what comes up may surprise you. Although confronting these long ignored thoughts and feelings will help you overcome your addiction to busyness, what’s left in the silence are the parts of yourself that you’d rather not acknowledge. Perhaps you’ve been spinning your wheels at work or in your business, unsure of what steps to take next.  Maybe you’ve been too busy fulfilling the expectations of others, that you can’t even identify what you’d want for yourself. Or perhaps you’ve brushed aside painful experiences, like the loss of a loved one or the pain of a recent break-up, because you feel like you don’t have “time” to deal with them. Whatever it is for you, if staying busy seems easier than facing what’s underneath, this is busyness for the wrong reasons, and you’ve become addicted to its pattern.

When your time is occupied because you want it to be, you lose track of time, and life doesn’t feel busy. When you prioritize the activities that you truly love, they nourish your soul and give you the energy and motivation you need to accomplish your long-term goals. Simply allowing down time for yourself will do wonders for your productivity, but it may leave you feeling uncomfortable, especially in the beginning, and that’s OK. Sit with it, and see where it leads you.

Stay tuned for a final strategy in overcoming our cultural Addiction to Busyness, and please post your insights in the comments below!

Understanding Why You Are Addicted to Busyness 1

Rebecca Schaeffer

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


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