“Susie, how are you?”
“Oh, you know! Busy!”
We’re all so gosh darn busy these days. So it’s no surprise that it’s replaced “good” as our standard response to a greeting.
But I’d like to know when busy became the norm.
When did it become OK to never have a moment to stop, savour, reset?
I’m guilty of it. No surprise, since I’m a classic Type A personality with anxiety and a history of depression. Which, when I write it, reminds me of this hilarious scene in Jim Carrey’s Me, Myself, Irene:
I’m often thinking about and doing a million things at once. And being anxious has become my excuse for keeping busy. If I’m always on the go, getting things done, it both satiates and fuels my anxiety.
What do I mean by that?
Basically, keeping busy satisfies my anxious mind (because all that nervous energy has an outlet). But being busy also fuels it, so I start moving faster and faster, becoming less and less mindful. Becoming such a tightly wound ball of yarn that it’s impossible to untangle. And I wonder why I end up overwhelmed and completely drained.
So, you see, being busy ain’t good for us worriers.
But society likes us to be busy
Here’s the tricky bit: the world wants us to keep busy. It loves anxious people. Why? Because we get. Shit. Done.
We’re the superheroes who can run a conference call, iron a shirt, bake paleo bread and clean the bathroom…AT THE SAME TIME.
The world rewards us for being busy. Anyone who’s not busy is a slacker. Apparently there’s no in-between.
The world doesn’t want us to scale back our to-do lists. Or be mindful. Or focus on what really matters. It wants us to keep being productive, no matter what. To hell with the consequences (a more anxious world).
So choose what matters most. Do that. Then move on.
How can we be less busy?
I think it’s important to realise that we can’t do everything. Be everywhere. Be everyone. Not in the moment, and not in our lives.
Going to the doctor matters. Frantically cleaning the kitchen like a fembot on full speed doesn’t. At least, not right now.
Calling your mum back matters. Trying to squeeze it between loads of washing and picking the kids up from school doesn’t.
Sending that work email matters. But not when you’ve just had an argument with your partner/boss and feel frazzled.
This is my go-to when I’m acting like a Type A nutcase. I close my eyes, take a deep breath, and focus on every little detail of the task.
So if I’m writing an article, I switch off all other distractions (email inbox ping, Facebook, phone) and just write.
When cooking, I immerse myself in the steps. Savour the aromas, the feeling of making a meal for the people I love.
And if I’m listening to a podcast, I don’t try to browse the supermarket shelves at the same time. Because I end up doing both tasks pretty atrociously (and end up having to rewind the podcast on the walk home, because I didn’t actually hear any of it).
Mindfulness meditation is also very de-frazzling. Any type of meditation is, actually. Even simple breathwork, where you focus on your breathing.
I’ve done this every morning for a few months now, and I’ve been amazed by how it clears and calms my mind. By starting each day softer, gentler, and more aware of myself and the world around me, I tend to have less stressy days.
Shorten your to-do list
I picked up this tip from the Interwebs (it may have been Tim Ferriss or James Clear, or someone else).
Each day, write 3 things on a Post-it note. These should be the most important tasks of the day. Once they’re done, you can move on to less pressing matters. Or go take a break – you’ve earned it! But, be sure to do these 3 tasks first.
It feels so satisfying to know that no matter what, you got shit done. And it was meaningful, not just busy work. Best of all, it satisfies your anxiety without fuelling it.
Do you find yourself being too busy? What do you do to get things done, without going insane? Would love to hear your comments below!