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Busyness myths

Do you find yourself talking about how busy you are?
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'Hey, how are things?'
'Oh my god, just so insanely busy!'

Hands up if you’ve ever been guilty of blurting this out as your go-to response? In our modern lives, ‘busyness’ is often used as a badge of honour and a not-so-subtle boast, even when accompanied by an eye roll and faux annoyance.

But there’s a big difference between being busy, and being productive and effective. Being busy means doing lots of things – but what if the things you’re constantly doing aren’t getting you anywhere? Or worse than that, what if your busyness is actually negatively affecting your life? We unpack four myths of busyness that should stop you in your tracks the next time you revert to the busyness excuse.

1. Busy = a full life
We're often given subliminal messages in media and on TV shows and movies that being busy equates to a high-level of success or importance. But often it can mean we're actually just not being effective at prioritising what’s really important to us and aligning to our values.

Why not experiment with dropping the ‘B’ word when people ask how you’re doing next time, and instead let them know what you’re prioritising at the moment? It could be that you’re focusing on your family right now, or a particular goal, or your personal development. You might even inspire someone else to reject the notion of busyness too.

2. Being busy is being productive
Productivity can be defined as achieving a result, or significant amount towards a result, whereas being busy is simply being engaged in action or 'not idle'. There's a big difference between the two and it's important that we establish whether we are being productive or 'just keeping busy'.

All the rushing around, stress and not giving ourselves any time to think or relax is rarely worth it when you consider you’re not actually using your time effectively. In this TED Talk (11:34), ER doctor Darria Long says that when we’re in ‘crazy busy mode’, we’re less capable of coping with the task at hand. The key, she says, is to switch to ‘ready mode’, whereby we learn to prioritise tasks by degree of urgency, as you would when working in an emergency room.

Attack your to-do list in short, focused pushes and recognise that downtime is productive time too, especially if it allows you to focus better on the next task.

3. Keeping busy is good for you
Alot of people make the subconscious link between being busy and being active and healthy. But unfettered busyness to the point of inviting in constant stress can affect our body and mind in really negative ways. While studies have found that busy people score highly on cognition tests, it can come at a cost – when the ‘wrong kind of busy’ causes stress and, in turn, impacts our physical and mental health, sleep and relationships.

When you feel stress peaking around all the things you are trying to do, it’s a great time to take a step back, revaluate things and schedule in some downtime or self-care. There is nothing wasted in pacing yourself, delegating or getting extra help, and again, focusing on prioritising what is most important.

Taking a priority-based approach helps you to organise and manage tasks better, weed out the things that don’t really matter, and create space for other people, relaxation and fun.

4. Being busy means you’re on the right path
Alot of the time we use phrases like ‘I’m just too busy’ or ‘I don’t have the time’ as excuses for things that we don’t really want to do or aren't willing to prioritise.

At the end of the day, we have two choices: choosing to enjoy the busyness, the challenges and the discomfort – or we can say no. We can prioritise the things we want to invest our time in or simply wipe them from our busy schedule. It really is that simple, but not always easy to do. When we stop using busyness as an excuse, we realise the world around us has not fallen down, and we open ourselves up to so many more opportunities that life throws our way.

Here are some coaching questions to reflect on:

  1. What does a full life look like to you?
  2. Are you being productive or just keeping ‘busy’?
  3. Are you making enough time for family, friends, relaxation and fun?
  4. How much of your schedule do you actually want to do?
  5. How many times are you using busyness as a blocker to doing what you really want and need to do?
  6. What are the consequences of busyness for you?
  7. What else would be possible if you scheduled time to be unscheduled?

And a final tip on this one! If you're feeling overwhelmed, or like life needs more space in it, take action. This is a topic that so often comes up in our coaching sessions with clients. For everything you say yes too, you're saying no to something else. Consider what small changes you can make from tomorrow.

– The Coach Place Global

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