Too Damn Busy: Why you are and how to stop.

By on May 12, 2017

Here’s a statement about my life – and probably yours.

The day I started writing this article, I got stuck in our elevator for 30 minutes – and enjoyed it! Somewhere in a day that was jam-packed with activities and to-do lists, it was the only time I had to just sit and do nothing. When the people on the other side of the emergency call button told me it would be 30 minutes before someone could come get me out, I laughed, took off my coat, sat on the floor and experienced a strange sense of relief. No one could get to me for at least 30 minutes. For 30 minutes, I had nothing to do. All the activities would simply have to wait. It didn’t strike me until I sat back down at my desk later that afternoon that I am just too damn busy.

But I’m not alone.
Busy has become a status symbol. We are a society addicted to life hacks (not to mention smart phones). We are busy running from one place and one task to the next with our ear buds in and our faces down.

Why do we do it?
The immediate answers that come to mind are to achieve more or get ahead, but is this the real reason? I think not. We’re addicted to productivity for the same reason it’s so easy to get addicted to sugar, fat, coffee, alcohol or drugs. They give us an instant hit of pleasure.
But just as the immediate pleasure or peacefulness hits we get from sugar, fat or alcohol are not healthy long term, the “fix” we get from our pathological productivity are not healthy long term. Constant busy-ness increases stress hormones such as cortisol that are proven to suppress the immune system. Because you’re busy (and because you’re stressed from being busy) you’re more likely to consume fast-food that is high in sugar and fat. This leads to weight gain – a proclivity which is exacerbated by the tendency to cut exercise and reduce sleep time when your schedule is filled to overflowing. Finally, your packed schedule means your time for family and friends is limited. This deprives you of a key capacity booster as strong relationships are a proven factor in decreasing heart disease and boosting wellbeing.

Here are a few more reasons we stay so busy:
• It satisfies your ego. Being busy makes you feel important, virtuous and worthwhile.
• It keeps FOMO (fear of missing out) at bay. If you pack as much into your day as you can, you reduce the number of things you must say no to and ensure you don’t miss out on any possible opportunity for profit, popularity or pleasure.
• It keeps you focused on what you do know, instead of what you don’t. Most people have never taken the time to contemplate who they are or what they really want. Being busy distracts you from facing these big questions.
• You’re afraid of hard work. What? How can you be afraid of hard work if you are on the go from dawn until dusk? There is a difference between working hard and being willing to do the hard work required to achieve something that matters. Think about it. If you’ve spent your day doing things that matter, you feel “good tired” at the end of the day and deserving of a rest. If you’ve spent the day checking off the little things, you finish the day feeling anxious that there is so much more to do.

Regardless of your reasons, the bottom line is this – if you don’t learn to slow down, you’ll eventually break down.

How do you shift from desperately doing to consciously creating?
Start by asking different questions to help you focus on your purpose and priorities:
• Am I achieving more or just doing more?
• What are your “big rocks” – the things you need to put in your life first in order to sustain your capacity to do everything else? Hint: sleep, exercise, eating healthy whole food and taking time to relax should be on this list.
• What is the most important thing I can do today? If it seems like there is room for more, list them but then forget about them. Sit down and get started on your top priority.
• Did I end my day today feeling “good tired”? If not, what do I need to focus on tomorrow that matters?

Like any addiction, it will take time and support to overcome. But while your life may become less productive in the traditional sense, your new-found busyness “sobriety” is guaranteed to give you the far better high that comes from a life well lived.

About Andrea Jacques

Andrea Jacques is the founder of Kyosei Consulting and the author of Wabi-Sabi Wisdom: Inspiration for an Authentic Life (available on Amazon.com). She has spent more than 20 years developing the potential of people and businesses worldwide, five of which were in Japan. A dynamic speaker, coach, and facilitator, her work integrates spiritual insight with top-tier leadership, wellness and sustainability consulting to help individuals and organizations build thriving, purpose-driven cultures where employees know their work truly matters. She can be contacted through her website at www.kyoseiconsulting.com

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