Busyness. That’s what our society is built on. Not having any free time seems to be a virtue. Those who take time for themselves are often looked down upon as if not having something to do every waking moment is a cardinal sin. We’ve been led to believe the lie that our lives must resemble CNN – there needs to always be something going on 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, or something isn’t right. Some people get a high off of being busy.
Employers fall for this mentality while also using it as a tactic to trap those who enjoy busyness. They preach work-life balance but don’t actually put it into practice. Those who dare leave work first are frowned upon, while their counterparts who stay after hours are perceived more favorably. They are also infatuated with the perception of being busy, so they give us “busy work.” Rather than being allowed to leave work early or just take the day off, we’re left working on things outside of our roles that don’t mean much in the grand scheme of things.
We bring the same mentality into our homes. Between after school activities and house chores, we’re left with no time to ourselves. We find things to do even if the time would be better spent relaxing. This busyness carries on until we fall asleep and wake up the next day, only to do it all over again.
The truth is, the individuals who live such lives are often using their busyness to mask unhappiness. They’ve tricked themselves into believing that being busy all the time is in their best interest. However, the truth is that they dread having to face the reasons for their unhappiness or even admitting that they’re unhappy. They long for fun and happiness but end up chasing it in the form of busyness. As a result, they continue to suffer, and their families are left to deal with the side effects.
What To Do About Busyness?
Most of us want to be viewed as one of the top performers at our jobs. We take on extra responsibilities, we work late and even respond to emails on weekends, all with the hopes that our busyness will gain us favor with our managers. While there is nothing wrong with striving to be the best in our careers, doing so at all costs can bring about the opposite result. In fact, studies show that those who go above and beyond indiscriminately end up experiencing more stress and are still paid less, even with the extra work. As a result, many who choose to go above and beyond remain unfulfilled at work. Finding ways to relax can help you walk away from your busyness.
Unless there’s an emergency, resist the urge to do any work on the weekends or while you’re on vacation. What you’ll quickly realize is not only are there very few cases that are true emergencies, but more importantly, you’ll learn your company will go on without you no matter how great of an employee you are. As much as your boss says she needs you, she will find a way to keep moving forward in your absence. If, after all your long hours and no time off, your health were to take a downturn, she would have no problem finding your replacement.
One of the best ways to relax and ensure that you truly unplug from work is to go camping. It doesn’t matter if it’s for a weekend or a whole week. Not only does it provide an opportunity to relax and connect with your family, but it provides you with a built-in excuse to put work away. You will most likely not have access to the internet, or even a power outlet. Rather than thinking about work and what you’re missing out on, take the time to relax, enjoy the outdoors, and consider how you can better maximize your work hours. Then you can still perform at a high level without falling back into the trap of busyness.
Change Your Work Habits
Now that you’re back at work, you’re presented with the same dilemma. Your day is already jam-packed, so how can you make time for anything else? Everything you do is absolutely necessary, so what can you take off your plate? You have no choice but to live this way, right? Wrong. Here are five easy ways you can back away from busyness while at the office.
Ignore emails: Yes, you read that correctly. One of the struggles for those who suffer from busyness is the desire for control. You want to make sure you’re on top of everything and fear the worst if you miss anything. One of the best ways to relax, decrease your busyness and make more time in your day is to carve out specific times to check and respond to emails. That may mean turning off email alerts and changing your colleagues’ expectations on when to expect a response from you. It may trigger some negative reactions, but this will allow you to be more focused and productive, forcing your colleagues to lessen their dependency on you and get more creative with solving problems.
Enjoy lunch: Busyness makes you feel like you always have to multitask. That’s why, even during your lunch break, you find yourself sitting at your computer, on a call, rushing through your meal. To fix this, make it a point to eat away from your desk. Whether it’s in the breakroom, outside, or at a restaurant, take time to enjoy your meal. This not only allows you to clear your mind, but it also helps with digestion, which of course impacts your overall health.
Get up and walk: You already know exercise is good for your health; however, a Stanford study found that even walking for as little as 15 minutes helped to significantly improve creativity. This is because walking increases the amount of blood flow to the brain. So rather than sitting at your desk and squeezing every minute out of your day, it’s better for your productivity if you take a quick walk around your office every few hours.
Avoid meetings: Unless your presence is necessary for the meeting to be fruitful, make it a habit to pass on attending meetings. Don’t schedule meetings that could be handled with a brief phone call, as meetings tend to run long even if the topic only requires a 10-minute discussion. Rather than attending every meeting, use the time you would’ve spent there to take a walk or get some work done to avoid working overtime.
Change Your Mindset
Busyness can control your life whether you’re at work or at home. A total shift in mindset is needed to truly be free. Here are four changes you need to make to your mindset to truly break the addiction to busyness.
Admit your problem: Get a clear understanding of the ways you’ve allowed your busyness to take over life and how that’s hurting you. Whether it’s your health that’s deteriorating or your relationships that are non-existent, you should know exactly what your busyness is costing you. Admit to it, and start working to make things right.
Gain proper perspective: The sun will rise tomorrow. There are very few instances where not completing a task will result in a disaster. You should stop using language as if your world will come to an end if you don’t get something done. Worst case scenario is you have to push other tasks out a day, delegate them, or wipe them off your list entirely.
Focus on results: Understand that results matter more than the appearance of hard work. Complaining about having too much to do and sending out emails at midnight may seem like a great way to get recognized for your work, but it only makes you look like you can’t handle your workload. Furthermore, your boss is likely to not even notice your efforts because she is busy trying to impress her boss.
Get help: Work environments tend to be competitive places, and as a result you may feel like you have to do everything on your own to prove that you’re better than your competition. Understand that passing off work and delegating are two different things. You shouldn’t pass off work that is specific to your responsibilities if you have the capacity. However, if your plate is full, seek assistance from a colleague or someone on your team. This also holds true in the home. Don’t be afraid to ask your spouse or children to complete a task that you usually handle.
Busyness is more than just a bad habit; it’s an addiction that’s detrimental to your career, health and relationships. As such, you must treat it as you would other addictions. Admit that you have a problem and then take the necessary steps to treat it. If you’re still searching for happiness despite working to the bones, scaling back your efforts and re-prioritizing your life may help you better achieve the desired results.