Why Busyness is Not a Badge of Honour

Our modern world is BUSY. We live in an era of obsessive multi-tasking and over-doing, perpetuated by a pressure we put on ourselves to keep pushing to have, be and do more. As a society, we seem to attribute an odd type of pride to being tired and overworked. We exclaim it as physical proof of our success, believing that the earlier we get up in the morning, the more ticks we have on our to do list and the less time we find to sleep, then the higher our worth. Yet in reality, keeping yourself constantly busy doesn’t mean your life will feel fulfilled and productive – you’ll just find yourself feeling worn-out, frazzled and overwhelmed.

The pace at which we attempt to live doesn’t allow for the reality of our physical capacity. As a society we are reaching crisis point – everyday stress is seen as par for the course, with many of us already a good distance down the path towards overwhelm and burnout. At Harmonizing, we find time and again that one of our clients’ most common struggles is giving themselves the permission to rest – even slowing down feels impossible. And it is this misconception that rest must always be placed at the bottom of the priority list which lies at the root of our problem. Without rest we cannot function to our full potential, with tiredness greatly hindering our productivity and ability to succeed. Without slowing down, we are too busy being busy to actually consider how effectively we are using our time.

We know what you are probably thinking – that you already feel there just isn’t enough time in the day to do everything, and so how can justify finding extra time to rest? This is the core misconception which we are trying to help break. It is only through taking the time to step back that you can start to properly evaluate how effectively you are using your time. Sure, there will be some parts of your schedule which you must prioritise, and deadlines that simply need met, but mixed in with these are a stream of less valuable efforts that will be hindering your progress and stretching you to breaking point.


So how do you start the process of slowing down? We’ve put together some pointers to help you sift through the clutter of your to-do list and take the steps towards slowing down to rise up.


what is your why?

Being busy can give a false sense of purpose, so your first step is to clarify the true purpose behind the things that you do. It’s easy to become so consumed by the what and the how, that you forget to consider the why. Ask yourself why you place so much value on constantly pushing yourself. Ask yourself whether you feel truly present in all the moments you are living through, or whether your life has simply become a series of tasks you are ticking off. For each little task you begin, first question whether the time and energy you will sacrifice will be worth the cost – sometimes the answer will be yes, but you may be surprised how often it will be no when you really stop to think about it. Clarify your true priorities, and question which of your undertakings add value to your life. Focus your efforts on those that do, and begin to cut out anything you realise isn’t truly necessary.


give yourself a break


There are probably lots of tasks on your daily list which seem small in isolation, but piled on top of each other they create a weight of responsibility which is slowly suffocating you. Every ‘little’ thing you do eats into your time and energy – of which you only have a limited supply. By dismissing the effort each undertaking costs you, you will inevitably overestimate how much you are capable of fitting in; finding yourself feeling irritable and overtired without fully realising why. Try to stop placing unrealistic expectations on yourself, and place a higher value on your own energetic limitations. Remind yourself that can only do a certain amount, and that this is enough. Accept that when you have reached your limit that this is okay.


release the pressure

When you are busy the feeling of pressure can build up out of proportion with the reality of your situation. You feel like everything on your list absolutely NEEDS done, and that you simply have no option but to do it all.  Yet where are these pressures coming from? Through stopping to think more clearly, you might begin to realise that you much of this is actually coming from yourself – and that you are assuming an urgency from others that may actually be flexible. Consider which endeavours are truly pressing, and which could survive being left another day or being passed to someone else. 

Releasing pressure can apply as equally to everyday tasks at home as it can to projects at work – often it is the seemingly simple tasks that we assume are necessary and end up depleting us the most. Use cooking dinner as an example – if you cook every night as part of your routine you will likely see this as something you need to do, no matter how tired you are. But you could always ask someone else in your household could take a turn, buy something ready-made or simply order in.



busting the busyness myths

being busy …


1. Makes you more productive – Studies have shown that working longer hours often decreases productivity, whereas taking proper rest has been shown to increase it. 

(Some links to read about such research here, here and here.)

2. Means you can do more for others – When you are busy it becomes easy to overlook the needs of others. Caring for people takes time – you have to stop what else you are doing, listen and be patient – steps which can feel an inconvenience you can’t afford when you have too much else going on. When you are busy you also neglect to look after yourself, and it is impossible to care for others when you are running on empty.

3. Will lead to success, which will lead to happiness – Recent discoveries in psychology and neuroscience have shown that the concept of success leading to happiness is backwards; it is happiness which fuels success rather than the other way round. When we feel happier our brains are more productive than when we feel stressed, negative or neutral – and so the best way to drive success is to place priority on your own wellbeing first and foremost.

the reality

being busy…

1.Creates more anxiety and stress – When you constantly feel like you’re worrying about the next task and where you’re going to find the time to get everything done you will begin to feel anxious and on high alert.

2. Pushes you further from yourself – When you fill up your schedule with tasks that don’t mean a lot to you, you aren’t allowing time to evaluate where you really are and what matters the most to you.

3. Affects your relationships – Being too busy to give time to those around you will begin to affect how connected you feel to each other. Spending time with someone who is constantly frazzled and in a distracted headspace decreases the quality of that time together, and can make people feel unimportant. 

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