Crazy Busy? That’s Crazy!

Young businesswoman with tons of documentsI’m soooooooooooo busy!!!!! You hear this cry throughout your life. You might even say this yourself. Is this reality … or a fantasy conceived from bad time management and misplaced priorities?

I often wonder if many think that the “soooo busy” whine is a badge of honor. Doesn’t “busy-ness” validate us? If we are sooooooo busy, then that must mean we are needed, wanted, important, the missing link in the lives of others! Racing at work – racing at home: the similarity to a hamster in a wheel going round and round and round is startling. However, when the “hamster wheel” stops, one collapses – mindless and numb.

In the book, Overwhelmed: Work, Love and Play When No One Has the Time, Brigid Schulte explores our frenetic attraction to the busy-ness of our daily lives.  Schulte conveys the conundrum with this quote from sociologist, Edson Rodriguez.

“As a culture, we have translated speed into being a virtue. If you are busy, if you get things done quickly, if you move quickly throughout the day, it expresses success. You’re achieving.”

In Guy Kawasaki’s Huffington Post article detailing key points from Arianna Huffington’s book, Thrive: The Third Metric to Redefining Success and Creating a Life of Well-being, Wisdom, and Wonder, he challenges us “to stop the glorification of busy and start redefining success.”

I am jumping on this same bandwagon and asking all of us to stop counting unread email messages and start counting the moments where we are at peace with our workload and our family and our friend commitments.

But how do we do this? I have some suggestions.

“Put First Things First”

Stephen Covey’s Habit 3: Put First Things First, in his 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, counsels us to create and live by our mission statement. This statement, of course, communicates our “end in mind” (Habit 2) and puts us in control of our lives (Habit 1: Be Proactive). The mission statement describes our priorities. Document them. Schedule them. Then commit to living them.

As you see, “living our priorities” requires a bit of balance. We can keep our priorities in our head, and then quickly forget them when something more “appetizing” comes along. We can document and schedule, but not have the fortitude or conviction to stick to our scheduled commitments. Doing one without the other will force a figurative tumble. Documenting the life you wish and then committing yourself to live this documented life will provide you the courage to say “no” to the wasteful and “yes” to the mindful.

Loose the Ego

Our self-esteem is related to our perception of being needed.   “They want me.” “They need me.” “I am the expert.” “I must be everything to everyone.” (Oooooh – that last one is the first step to self-esteem destruction. Really now – is it possible to be “everything to everyone”?) So, forgive yourself for being human. Understand that there are only so many hours in a day (24 at last count – even though I did just see a Business Center in a hotel with a sign saying it was open 30 hours a day). And, during each set of 24 hours, we must care for ourselves (notice that is first), care for our family and friends, and care for our chosen profession. In my opinion, the “miracle person” is one who realizes the limitations of “doing it all” and instead, does the important – in all areas of life.

Shift Your Mindset

Sure, you are racing between work, kids’ practices, the grocery store, and a million other tasks that occupy your day. Are you letting your mind slip into a time-constrained martyrdom? Or are you shifting into a more positive, optimistic mode which allows you to value spending time teaming with fellow professionals on an important project, communicating with and learning about the kids in the car as you drive to practice, observing your child’s improved skills in the activity being undertaken, thinking about creative menus you can concoct with the variety of foods in the grocery store, etc. You see, it is all about mindset – the “glass half-empty vs. glass half-full” thing. If we think we are frazzled and frantic, we are. But if we see each moment as an opportunity to learn and experience, doesn’t our blood pressure decrease and a sense of stillness and calm overcome us? These minds of ours are pretty powerful things. Just a small shift transforms “overwhelmed and submerged” to “encouraged and uplifted”.

Be Aware: Your Expectations are a Mirror-Image of Your Actions

In many cases, others may interpret your actions as expectations you have for them. Is that what you want? For example, what are your communication patterns with your team members? Do you send emails long before the workday begins or long after the workday ends or throughout the weekend? Do you have the expectation that your team member answer? In most cases (I hope), I would say your answer is no. But in this high-stress, frenzied, busy-ness we all live in, do your team members know what your expectations are?  Watch your actions. Communicate your expectations. Remember, it’s the quality of the work that defines success … not the quantity.

Rejuvenate Yourself.

If you refuse to take responsibility for yourself, who will? Quick answer – no one. So, prioritize your rejuvenation by taking a few moments each day to read or exercise. Spend time being mindful or participating in your favorite “me” activity. Funny thing – by taking quality time for yourself, you actually find more time for others. Hmmmm – how does that happen?

It’s Your Choice

We talk about the desire to have work/life balance. We say we don’t have it. But are we actually doing something about it – other than complaining? Are we taking actions to stop the madness, prioritize, and breathe? Greg McKeown, in his HBR blog article “Why We Humblebrag About Being Busy” asks you to become an “Essentialist”, one who shifts toward the “disciplined pursuit of less, but better.” Take some time and take a look. As McKeown says, “we have two choices.”

 

“Beware the barrenness of a busy life. “

– Socrates

 Zen stones balance concept

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2 Comments on “Crazy Busy? That’s Crazy!”

  1. Alli Polin says:

    Excellent! Lose the ego is so critical as we learn to let go of busy to embrace a full life. Even with friends I hear it over and over. “How are you,” I ask. I almost always get “Great! Really busy!” in reply. As if we should all aspire to busy… When we’re really busy, it leaves room for so little – especially when we need time to re-energize and re-charge. Good article! Thanks!

    • Susan Bowen says:

      Thanks so much for your comment, Alli. Yes, it is amazing to see how much time one has when one makes room for time. And even the mindset part of the hectic life … if we believe we are frazzled with little time to breathe – we are! Time for a shift. I am pleased to have you join me on this “make time for life” journey.

      All the best,

      Susan


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