Journalist Colette Sexton on why you need to stop telling yourself how important it is to be busy.
Being busy is a badge of honour in the culture we live in. We overwhelm ourselves with our responsibilities as workers, as family members, as parents, as friends and so on. We take on more and more but we also use the word “busy” as an excuse to say no. And mainly we use it to say no to fun things. To things that would actually be good for us, like spending time with family or going out for dinner or watching a film in the cinema. The disease of being busy spreads rapidly and suddenly, you can end up with no time for yourself to relax or get some headspace. Here are some pointers on how to end the cycle of busyness.
Stop telling people you’re busy
Telling people you are busy has become a reflex. When someone asks how you are, many people automatically respond with “so busy” because we want people to think we are successful or important. Try to avoid conversations about how busy you are.
If you are feeling overwhelmed, make a to-do list of everything you have to do in your personal and professional life and prioritise the tasks. Until you organise these responsibilities, it will be very hard to get on top of them. Plus, you are more likely to make mistakes or forget something important, which will generate more panic and more busy work.
Start saying no
Time management is not about finding time to do everything. It is learning what matters and what does not. Taking on too much work because we are afraid to say no means that we end up having to say no to things we actually want to do. Block out space in your calendar for things that are important to you like family time or pilates and refuse to schedule in work commitments for those time periods.
Become aware of time wasting
You might be convinced that you are incredibly busy and no matter what this article tells you about prioritising tasks or saying no, it could not possibly apply to you because you are just SO BUSY. You should analyse how you spend your time. Download an app to your phone that monitors your phone usage and see how many hours you are free to commit to social media, despite how busy you think you are.
Enjoy leisure time
Allow yourself to be in the moment. This means not checking your emails during dinner every night and actually watching a TV show instead of scrolling through Instagram. Brigid Schulte, who wrote Overwhelmed: Work, Love, and Play When No One Has the Time, describes this as “crappy bits of leisure time confetti”. Take real leisure time, instead of trying to squeeze productivity into every single minute. This will help you to feel calmer and more on top of things. If you never truly relax then you will never feel relaxed.