Balance out busy

How to slow down and appreciate life’s little joys in the age of ubiquitous busyness

Are you thinking you’re too busy to read this article about being too busy? When someone asks how you are, how do you usually respond? Perhaps with ‘busy’, ‘got loads on’ or ‘I’m rushed off my feet’. It’s a common way to reply to the question and people aren’t surprised when they’re on the receiving end of it either. Imagine responding: ‘Oh, life’s pretty relaxed at the moment.’ Even if it were true, would you feel comfortable saying it out loud? If you say you’re not busy, that life’s pace suits you just fine at the moment, do you risk the other person thinking you’re lazy?

Being busy has become the default. It’s reassuring – being busy means life is fulfilling, interesting, worthwhile, that you’re needed. What opinions do you form of yourself if you’re not fully occupied? How do you judge others who don’t have as many jobs to do as you? Does an absence of busyness mean they’re lacking in some way, that they’re not as important or as valuable as the next person? Yet all the while people are running around feeling overwhelmed by their never-ending to-do list, they’re missing out on the good things going on in their lives.

It’s easy to wholeheartedly believe that if you don’t say yes to that person, take care of that problem, fix that issue and do 101 other things, cracks will appear in your life and it will come crashing down around you. And yet, when life throws a curveball and the to-do list goes out the window, the world does keep turning and, for the most part, life carries on. The house may not be as tidy, the local takeaway might see an increase in patronage and projects may be pushed back, but none of these add up to failure.

What can you do to be less busy and enjoy your life more?

Here are a few ideas that might make life less overwhelming:

  • Plan your downtime as well as your work schedule so that it doesn’t get frittered away. Think about what you want to do, who you want to see or places you want to go – all the things that in the past you’ve told yourself you’re too busy to do. Now try to allocate a time to do them.
  • Rather than attempting to get as much done as possible by working non-stop, do the opposite and take regular breaks. Evidence shows people are more productive after taking time out than they are if slogging away for hours on end. Get some fresh air, stretch your legs, have something to eat or drink and you’ll be better able to focus on the task.
  • Before saying yes to a new task or agreeing to help someone out, consider what it will mean you’re saying no to, and vice versa.
  • Drop the pursuit of perfection, it can hold you back from moving forward (and ticking off items from your to-do list).
  • A few times a day pause to check if what you’re doing is real work, not busy work, and if it isn’t ask yourself why that is. Set a reminder alarm on your phone if it helps.
  • It might seem counterintuitive, but install an app to track your screen time. Also, turn off notifications so your phone doesn’t ping every time you get an email/text/new follower or comment and give yourself a device curfew so you have time to unwind before bed and get a good night’s sleep.
  • Create a gratitude habit – such as writing down three things you’re thankful for or that were good about your day. Try to do this each night before you go to sleep. It can help you to focus on what went right rather than wrong and encourages you to look for those small but valuable moments of joy each day.

Words: Gabrielle Treanor

This article was originally published under the title ‘Only fools rush in’ in Issue 14 – Embrace the Positive

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