Are You Addicted To Being Busy?
By Julie Houghton
Be honest: when someone asks you how you’re doing how often do you respond by talking about how busy you are?
Although I’ve come a long way, I know I have a tendency to let myself become so busy that it reaches the point of overwhelm. I did it back in my life in the corporate world, when I was often in environments where the expectation was to work long hours & always be ready to put your life on hold for the sake of work. And later my vision of myself as someone who was perpetually “busy” reached a whole new level when I left my corporate job & was starting a coaching business while also working a part-time job and taking care of two kids under two.
I remember the first time I heard of the idea of being addicted to busy-ness. Part of me wanted to protest: “But I HAVE to do these things. I don’t WANT to be so busy.” But deep down I knew that even if I did have obligations, I was taking on things I didn’t want or need to do to & telling myself stories about what it meant if I didn’t do them.
And when I stopped and examined my constant state of busy-ness, I realized that even though I was pushing myself to the breaking point and felt pretty miserable, I was actually “getting something” from trying to do more than I could handle. I was addicted to busy-ness.
It might sound strange to think there might be a payoff to pushing ourselves to the breaking point, but the truth is our culture celebrates busy-ness. When someone is busy our tendency is to see them as more important, more productive, stronger, even potentially more selfless (sacrificing their own well being for the sake of “getting it done.”)
Many of us have absorbed the idea that if we’re not busy we’re not reaching our full potential.
But the truth is, busy-ness is more likely to be BLOCKING you from living your potential. When you’re feeling totally fried from being so busy you can’t have your best ideas or do your best work. You can’t be your best self.
Some people genuinely need to work two to three jobs just to make ends meet & I’m not implying that they’re addicted to being busy. But assuming you’re not in that situation and still find yourself feeling overwhelmed by how “busy” you are, here are some tips to get out of survival mode and to a place that feels more grounded:
1) Examine your beliefs: What are your beliefs about what will happen if you don’t “get it all done” or “get it right?” What are you telling yourself you “should” do? What are you telling yourself other people are doing (that they may or may not be actually doing?) Once you become aware of your beliefs you can examine them & question if they’re actually true.
2) Ask yourself what you “get” from being so busy: Are you trying to prove something to yourself or to others? Are you avoiding something else? (sometimes we can use overwhelm as its own form of procrastination). Are you scared to have hard conversations or hold your boundaries & it feels easier in the moment to just continue saying yes when you already have too much on your plate? Once you become conscious of the pay off, you can bring more awareness to whether the choices you’re making are really benefitting you and what you might want to choose instead.
3) Be aware: When someone asks you to do something, check in with how you feel before you give an answer. Does it make your stomach knot? Do you feel a sense of exhaustion & dread? If it’s not energizing you, ask yourself if you really have to do it & why? Practice pausing & saying “Let me get back to you about that” before you commit to a request to give yourself some space to consider the choice you really want to make.
4) Ask for help: We all have things that really & truly do need to get done, but do you necessarily need to do those things alone? Could you ask someone to help you? Could you outsource it to someone else (even if that means paying for help)? Does it have to be YOU who does it?
I know from experience that when you’re used to living in a state of constant busy-ness, making space for stillness can feel really uncomfortable.
But that stillness is also where the magic happens.
Julie Houghton is a life and career coach who helps people find the courage to do work they love. Prior to becoming a coach she worked in marketing and strategy for Fortune 500 companies for 15 years and has her MBA from UC Berkeley. She’s also a mom to two kids under age 4, and the birth of her oldest daughter was the catalyst that prompted her to finally find her own courage to do work she loves.
When she's not coaching, speaking or writing, you can find Julie doing arts and crafts with the kids, hiking the Redwoods, or curled up with a good book and a seriously good cup of decaf coffee. Get her free e-book, “Five Simple Things You Can Do Today to Find Work You Love,” at www.juliehoughton.com.