One of the most common problems among people I work with and coach is the feeling of always being busy.
And then it becomes a rationalization: I can’t honor my commitments because I’m too busy! I can’t be with my family or friends because I’m too busy. I can’t work out, meditate, shut down at night to get to sleep, or make time for solitude and disconnection … because I’m too busy.
Most of us have used this “too busy” rationalization, because it feels very true. It feels absolutely true that we’re too busy. And there’s a corollary to this: if we want to be less busy, we have to get all our work done first (and be more busy in the meantime).
Is it true? Or can we develop a habit of not being busy, even with the same workload?
Let’s get at the heart of this always-busy habit, and then reverse it.
The Always-Busy Habit
It’s a little complicated, because there are a number of components to the always-busy habit:
* The tendency to say yes, take on too much, and overcommit. I’m guilty of this, as are most of us. I’ve been working to change it, because it hurts my mission and the people around me. We do this usually because we’re overly optimistic about how much we can actually do. Sometimes it’s because we just have a hard time saying no — we’re worried what will happen if we don’t say yes. It hurts us/ Commit to less, but be more committed.
* The tendency to move around quickly, always staying busy. Even if we have a manageable amount of things to do, and haven’t overcommitted like a mad person … we are likely to keep moving all day, always keeping yourself busy. This is just a mental habit — it’s rushing to get done and move on to the next thing, wanting the current thing to be over.
* A lack of connection between the task and anything meaningful. Most of the time, we’re doing tasks just to get them done. Because there’s a deadline, because others are waiting on it, or simply because it’s on our task list and we want to get through everything. But that doesn’t feel very meaningful, and it leaves us feeling like we’re on a hamster wheel of work, spinning the wheel without getting anywhere. Instead, we can connect each task with something meaningful, and give it a measure of devotion that it deserves. This is a completely different way of working than our usual rush to check things off.
* We’re afraid you won’t pay the bills or keep your job or make others happy if you don’t get everything done. There’s some kind of fear that’s driving us to be busy. We might be worried about finances, or about losing the respect of others. And while these are understandable things to worry about, they are hurting our ability to focus. And they are driving us to do too much. It would be better, instead, if we focused on things that have a higher impact, so we could still get things done but without being so crazy busy. And to let go of the narrative in our heads that’s causing the ear
* The tendency to put off the scary tasks. We keep ourselves busy so that we don’t have to focus on the scary, high-impact tasks. They are hard! So we do busywork, and stay in the habit of always rushing, so we don’t have to feel the fear of doing hard, scary tasks. Of course, it would be better if we just focused on the scary tasks if they’re really that important.
OK, with all that going on, are we going to be intimidated and give up, or can we find a new way? I say we find a new way!
A More Focused, Meaningful Way to Work
Let’s imagine a fantasy scenario where you’re getting things done, but with a measure of focus and calm, not rushing but being fully present. With a sense of purpose and meaning. Getting the important things done even if they’re scary.
That’s what we’re looking for, with the idea that we’re not always going to hit this ideal. So how do we g