Addicted to Busy: 10 Tips to Ease the Cravings
While updating my journal the other night, I realized something that really bummed me out. I was doing it again: I had once again slipped into the grasp of my addiction to being busy. Ugh! I recently blogged about my addiction realization and commitment to change but in a matter of a month, I was back at it. At least this time I could step back, see what I was doing and commit to fixing it, rather than just bursting into tears in the street while walking the dog.
So, I researched what people like me do when the busyness high creeps in.
1. Understand the numbing effect of being on a hamster wheel of busyness.
I’m still searching for the cause of my addiction (I have some theories) but most psychologists agree that an addiction to being busy—as well as a lot of other addictions—stem from the mind’s urge to numb some unpleasantness. (“If I stay busy enough, I won’t feel the effect of BLANK.”) This can be a relationship issue, insecurities, fears, or something totally different. Spend some time thinking about what is bothering you in your life and what you can do to heal that hurt, rather than drowning it in to-do lists.
2. Remind yourself that your worth as a person is not tied to how much you’re doing.
Michelle Braden said it best in this Forbes article:
“Most people tie their self-worth to what they accomplish. When people ask us how things are going, our first instinct is to say that we are busy. If you are not busy, it may seem that you are not doing anything interesting. We believe that when we appear busy we are successful and important.”
3. Identify your priorities (your actual priorities) and use those as a mantra.
This one is a big help for me.
If you feel yourself charging towards a new project or activity with reckless abandon, take a moment to ask yourself, “Does this relate to my priorities? Will those improve my situation related to those priorities? Will this get me closer towards my goal?” If no, set it aside. (I have a whole Evernote notebook of ‘later’ projects.) If yes, make a detailed schedule and carefully consider why it should replace your current priorities.
4. Find your trigger and try to avoid it.
I love reading productivity blogs—app reviews, how to plan your perfect day, etc. These blogs tend to come with lots of free printables, courses, videos, and a LOT more. I find these types of blogs tend to rev up my jealousy gauge, making me go “I should have a course! I should have a better newsletter! I should blog about this, that and the other thing!” and before I know it, I’m back to being busier than I can handle and stress eats my brain. Identify what steers you towards adding more stimuli to your to-do list and avoid if at all possible.
5. Delegate and learn to delay.
Everything does not have to be done by you and everything does not have to be done immediately. Remind yourself of this constantly as you decide what needs to get done on a certain day.
6. Schedule relaxation time or put it on your to-do list.
A lot of busyness addicts feel like a failure if they are relaxing. Watching a movie? “I should be doing something more productive right now.” It’s a common symptom of the problem. Scheduling relaxing time (“read a book for an hour,” “meditate for 20 minutes,” etc.) is a good way for your brain and body to have a rest while you still get the satisfaction of checking something off the to-do list. Scheduling relaxation also blocks up some time that you can’t fill with other things you don’t actually need to be doing.
7. Pair down your to-do list.
My to-do list is and probably will remain my lifeline. But looking at it sometimes gives me a combination of anxiety and a ‘busy’ high. I found the simple act of breaking it up into DAY and EVENING a huge help—that way I’m not looking at a big ol’ list, but two much shorter and more manageable lists.
8. Listen to these two podcast episodes.
I keep these two files on my Evernote so I always have access to them. They remind me that this isn’t such an uncommon problem and there are ways around it. These two podcasts just get me:
- Unf*ckwithable You: (#33) Are You Addicted To Being Busy
- Stories from a Quest to Live Happier: Addicted to Busy
9. Know the difference between being productive and making more work for yourself.
Be realistic about how many hours there are in a day. Use time blocking to schedule your tasks in a visual way and be practical about how long each item takes. Learn to say no and avoid thoughts like, “I don’t have the time but I’ll just make it work.”
10. Have a friend or loved one keep an eye on you.
Having someone around to give you a gentle nudge when you’re slipping back into your old bad habits is really helpful. Make sure they know what your chosen priorities are, what your stress/anxiety signs are and what a healthy amount of activity is for you.
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Jillianne Hamilton is the author of Molly Miranda: Thief for Hire, its two action/comedy sequels, and The Lazy Historian's Guide to the Wives of Henry VIII. She is also a freelance blogger, a graphic designer, a history enthusiast, and a dog mom. Learn more.