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Being Busy is Back and You Need to Stop It Right Now

Aaaaggghh! For a while I thought we’d done away with it for good, but my old bugbear is back. Busy!

Now I am kinda hoping that this isn’t you given you are part of my community but….

Every time I speak to someone, being busy is back on the agenda big time. Goes like this. Me: how are you? Everyone: Crazy busy. (Yep, not just busy. Crazy busy, like there is busier than busy.)

It’s really starting to give me the irrits, people. Not just because busy is one word that should be cancelled—I hate it so much I’ve written a book, an online program, a keynote and workshops about it—because of what it implies about someone, their time management skills and the lack of respect they have for other people’s time. This time around I’m annoyed because we should know better.

Did Covid teach us nothing? I thought it did. As isolating, scary and dispiriting as they were, lockdowns did have one upside, which was that we all learned to calm the farm and lean into a slower pace. Yes, we didn’t have a choice but most of us seemed able to appreciate what being locked away from our usual distractions and crutches gave us.

For me, it was creativity and even more respect for time. Even though I never want to hear about sour dough and Zoom school reunions again. It gave us perspective, had everyone saying, ‘I never want to go back to being busy again’.

Well. Guess what? Hot on the heels of the world reopening here we all are again, back into patterns that may not serve us. Here we are again, jamming our diary with meetings, going out for dinner whenever we can, madly rushing off to shows, movies, friends’ places, yoga, the country, the beach, the dog park.

It’s May and a lot of us are already exhausted. We’re back already to running towards that finish line, whether that be long weekends, holidays, even one weeknight without a booking or commitment. Are you having fun yet?

What I’d love people to do is not think ‘I need to stop being busy’ but instead to ask themselves, ‘Why I am I doing this?’ With anything you say yes to, run it through a filter: is this purposeful or have I just slipped back into old habits? At some point, you have to reflect and go, what the hell am I doing?

Find out your motivation and you’ll find out if running around madly is the right thing for you now. Maybe it is. I know for me it isn’t, and I suspect the new wave of burnout is going to keep growing and I hope you avoid it.

So I thought I’d share my anti busy checklist with you so you can put a stop to this madness if this is you, or send it to the person who next says to you “I’m sooooo busy”.

My anti-busy checklist:

  1. Ask yourself, ‘Is being committed to a whole lot of things making me happy?’
  2. Ask yourself, ‘With where my life is at right now, do I have to the time to do what I want and also to look after me?
  3. Ask yourself if you’re living in alignment with how you want to live and who you aspire to be.
  4. Ask yourself if you’re creating the legacy you want to have. Remember, your legacy is being built every single day. It’s not for the future, it’s for now. If you die tomorrow, you already have a legacy. It’s a culmination of everything you do. You leave something behind each and every day with the people you have interacted (or not interacted) with. Make it count.
  5. Know that there will be expectations from kids, bosses, partners, friends and that it’s great to be out in the world again. But you need to have boundaries and you don’t need to please anyone else. You need to ensure you please yourself first and purely from the scientific immutable concept of time, that means you can’t do everything at once. Choose wisely.

I often get asked how I manage to never be busy. My secret is I have my boundaries firmly in place and then make arrangements around them. I know my limits for how I can operate at my best and take care of myself and really only commit to two social things a week, one on a weekday and one on the weekend. So unfortunately, I say no to a lot of stuff because my health is my number one priority, but it doesn’t take a diagnosis to do that!

Work out what works for you, reduces your stress levels and boosts your happiness. If it’s jam packing your schedule, go for it. Just don’t be doing it for anyone else.