I Worked Out Why You're 'Too Busy'

If you think back over the last week, how many times did you reply ‘good... busy’, when asked how you are? 

I hear it so often - from coworkers, friends, clients and, of course, I hear it come out of my own mouth too.

I genuinely feel busy - I have a job that keeps me busy, a social life, a side business, family, friends. The thing is I don’t want to feel bored and have nothing to do - I’m grateful for all in my life.

But I also don’t want to use ‘busy’ in a negative way or as an excuse.

This is unfortunately what I hear so often - not just I’m busy, but I’m ‘too busy'. That’s when alarm bells start ringing for me, and here’s why...

You are prioritising ‘busy work’

We’ve spoken a lot about the second shift here on the blog - the household labor women do after their paid job is done.

After all, if you look for it, there’s always something to do in your second shift.

Is your house clean? I bet you could take everything out of your kitchen cupboards and clean those out too (please don’t).

I really want you to think about the things you can let slide… I’ve had two examples of this in the last few days.

Firstly, I got back from my holiday to Hawaii and my general inclination is to unpack and put the washing on once I get in the door. Why? I just got back from holiday. Instead, I made myself a coffee, sat on the couch and watched a movie. The suitcase was still there the next day once I’d had a good sleep and eased back into home life a little more.

Now, once I got the washing on the next day, I heard the washing machine beep its last beep, just as I was in the middle of writing this post. My inclination? Jump up and go hang the washing out. Why? I’m in the middle of something more important to me and the washing will be there in an hour when I’m done.

If you’re not ready to let anything slide this week, at least observe when you might be doing this - either doing things you don’t care about, or interrupting yourself constantly to rush on to the next task.

You’re avoiding what you care about most

Ding, ding, ding! This is the clincher my friends and something I observe frequently.

For my brain it’s much easier to hang out laundry than it is to write a blog post.

Writing a post takes thought, effort, courage, working through fears.

Who wants to do that when I can just stand in the backyard, pegging t shirts on the clothesline?

So often we deprioritise the things that are important to us for the sake of being busy. And this can include self-care or relaxation.

For example, I noticed earlier in the year that my days were going like this - work all day, go to the gym, cook dinner, then sit down to work on my website…

Of course, I was too tired to work on my website by then and although the other tasks were still important to me, I was putting less important things ahead of my main goal.

I’ve seen this in many areas with clients - 'I have to look after my family so I don’t have time for exercise', 'I have to check my work emails in the evening after dinner, so I don’t have time to paint', 'I can’t sit on the couch when there are dirty dishes in the sink', and on and on.

The things that scare or challenge us are the things we push aside, but they are also usually the most rewarding.

What step can you take towards a scary goal this week, ahead of your busy work?

You’re letting your mind run the show

Have you ever noticed how you can do things on your to do list with pain or ease? Let me give you an example.

Some Sunday afternoons, I cook around three meals for lunches and dinners for the week ahead. I can do it one of two ways.

  1. I try and do it as quickly as possible, multi tasking across recipes, huffing and puffing around the kitchen, watching the clock, lamenting having to cook on a Sunday. I also notice I’m more likely to cut my finger with a knife when I’m in this type of mood. Sounds fun right?
  2. I put on a podcast, pour myself a drink, grab everything out that I need for the first recipe and methodically work through each step in a relaxed way. I admire my handiwork when everything is in tupperware containers and reward myself when I’m all done - with a bath, an episode of a great show or getting ready for dinner out with friends.

The crazy thing is it usually takes me the same amount of time to meal prep whether I choose option 1 or 2 and guess which one leaves me happier?

If you have chosen to do something, do you want it to be mentally painful or pain-free? Try it out this week and also have a read about segment intending for help focusing on the task at hand. 

Want to chat about this further? Book in for a complimentary 30 minute consult with me and we can look at your to do list and move you away from being ‘too busy’.

Why I Ditched My To Do List In Favour Of Self-Love

I’m very excited to be featured on a fellow coach, Bailey Opsal's blog this week, talking about the challenging topics of self-love and self-care.

All too often, in conversations with friends and clients, self-love is a concept they struggle with.

It’s not that they hate themselves, it’s that they think the more they push themselves or berate themselves, the more pleased they’ll be with themselves ... and that will somehow lead to self-love. It kind of sounds logical, but also quite harsh.

I used to fall into this camp. Sure I had fun and took care of myself, but the repetitive to do list of everyday life took precedent - I had to exercise a certain amount, there was always a list of things to do around the house and guilt and anxiety would set in if I wasn’t on top of everything.

I eventually figured this busy work was surely not what life was about.

Similar chores and to do lists would always be there, but I no longer wanted to make them the focus of my life or thinking.

I decided the things I loved to do had to come before my to do list.

So what does that look like?  

Yoga

If you remember this earlier post, you’ll know that I resisted yoga for a long time. In line with my busy to do list, yoga seemed boring, slow and did not burn enough calories for me back in the days when that mattered to me.

Now, I do it every day in some shape or form. It’s usually first thing in the morning and has worked wonders for waking me up and stretching out my creaky body after sleep.

You’ll know my favourites are Yoga With Adriene and Tara Stiles - try these short videos from Adriene and Tara if you’re interested.

Yoga now gets me out of my own head and slows me right down.

Reading

I used to read like a crazy person when I was younger - to the point where my sister was horribly embarrassed by me always carrying around a book.

Like many avid readers I know, the plight of social media and the short attention spans that come with it, meant I wasn’t reading nearly as much as I was buying books.

Over the last 6 months, when I catch myself on my phone, checking Instagram for the 10th time, I remind myself that reading would be much more fulfilling and again, will help me switch off.

I read a combination of hard copy books and download onto my Kindle app obsessively (are you guys all over the free sample chapters on Amazon’s Kindle store? Try before you buy!).

I’m currently reading The Course of Love (I am obsessed with Alain de Botton) and The Year of Magical Thinking (heavy going but Joan Didion’s writing is incredible).

Spending time with people

If you’re ever feeling too much up in your own head, my best advice is to go and spend quality time with someone else.

Sure you might want to talk about what you’re going through or your to do list might be nagging at you, but inevitably you’ll gain some perspective and either be distracted, or realise we’re all going through similar things.

If I can’t catch up with people in person regularly enough, I try and call them in the car on the way to or from work and make sure I check in with those most important to me.

Playing games

Those who know me, know I have a penchant for video games… yes, yes I know...

My favourite for years has been The Sims (stop laughing) which I dip in and out of a few times a year. I also love hidden object games (Google them!) - they are great for switching your brain off and relaxing. I have also recently made a triumphant return to playing Mario Kart.

Listening to music (and having dance parties)

Although I have an obsession with podcasts (my current favourites are The Life Coach School Podcast and On Being), I recognised a while ago that absorbing information constantly isn’t always the best for me switching off.

What is good for switching off my brain is listening to music - I try and do that in the car more often than not, and love going through my back catalogue of music on the computer at night and dancing around the living room when called for (much to the confusion of my cat Pickles).

What can you do this week to step away from your to do list? 

I also have one coaching spot opening up in June - contact me here for a complimentary 30 minute consult if you'd like to talk about how you can find fulfillment outside of your to do list. 

Do You Feel Guilty For Relaxing?

There’s certainly a pattern forming in the types of posts here on the blog (see here for example).

Women in all sorts of lifestyle situations (single, partnered, parents) are either taking no time to relax or, when they do find time to unwind, they feel a strong sense of guilt for taking downtime.

Where did we learn to keep so busy?

I’m sure it’s a mix of factors - comparison against other women’s lifestyles, productivity articles, societal changes. Somehow we now wear being productive as a badge of honour.

How many hours we’re working, how often we’re exercising, how organised we are at home are now seen as measures of success or self worth.

This mentality is in direct competition with lazy mornings, spare time with loved ones and long walks (without burning calories in mind).

What will your life be made up of?

I spoke to Paige from Healthy Hits the Spot about this and loved her response. She asked me if I wanted a large chunk of my life to be taken up with relaxation and enjoyable downtime activities. Absolutely yes, was my response. This really helps my mentality and I hope it helps you too.

Personally, I am planning on a life full of books, music and film, as well as time outdoors enjoying nature.

What is the damage of busy work?

The above point leads me into the idea of busy work and the inability to relax.

We really need to prioritise being present over the menial tasks of the day - it’s not a long term way to live to be constantly on the go, pottering around the house or ticking through your to do list.

Yes it has its place, but it’s usually not the time memories are made.

Do you find time to relax? Do you rate relaxation as highly as productivity? Let me know in the comments below.