Busy is the New Tired

Remember, when someone would ask “how are you?” and the autopilot response would be “I’m tired”? Now, the new autopilot response is “busy”. “I’m busy” has become the new “I’m tired” even though we’re still tired. Why?


Busy, busy, busy! We’ve become addicted to busy. This doesn’t mean we’re addicted to productivity, but we’re addicted to being busy. It’s become the new religion of the workplace and our personal lives. There’s a weird anxious feeling that consumes and tricks us into thinking that if we are not constantly pressed with a mile-high to-do list, then we’re not doing enough. There’s a social status attached to being busy and our services and talents as individuals being in-demand. 


It can be easy to mistake busyness for validation, an excuse to distract from other pieces of life, and fearing the opposite of busy. The opposite of busy doesn’t have to mean lazy, emptiness, or boredom. It seems we have also lost touch with the “busy spectrum”. It is good to be busy and lead a life with purpose. Yet, the new definition of busy alludes more to overwhelmingly busy status with 25 to-do list tasks vs. 10. Being scaringly busy is allowing others to be in the driver’s seat of your life for you rather than leading a busy and prioritized life in the driver’s seat of your own life with a seat belt securely fastened. Sometimes it’s not practical to be a solid-busy – overload is the only option. Perhaps your organization is understaffed, overworked, and at a critical time. Maybe you’re left to clean up the mess from someone else’s lack of time management or transition of new ownership. The list could go on and on. 


This isn’t to knock down those that are so invested in what they are doing that if sleep wasn’t a life requirement, they would sell their mattress and work non-stop. But it’s important to remember that being busy may make us feel good, but it’s also lets burnout creep into our lives.


Burnout can lead into tunneling. When we’re so about that phone call, email that needs to be sent, presentation that still isn’t ready, putting out endless fires, and back-to-back meetings, time becomes much more scarce. In order to compensate for that scarcity, our brains end up putting up blinders. These blinders make us focus on the most immediate task at hand, rather than seeing the big picture. When tunneling happens, busyness is no longer busyness. Busyness becomes poor decisions, burnout, and disconnect. 


Anti-busy isn’t the answer.

Busy isn’t the enemy. It’s the new definition of busy that we’ve assigned. Busyness isn’t just the absence of time, but it’s also the absence of choice. It’s not enough to say that you want to incorporate more of a balance in life. 


Don’t let busy out-smart you. 

1. Pin-point and understand where your time is legitimately going every day. 

2. Time block to keep your schedule from going from busy to busyness. Be mindful of the planning fallacy: be realistic with yourself about how long it is going to take to complete each task. 

3. Make personal and professional schedule more transparent. We are legitimately busy, but we sometimes act more busy to make sure that people know we’re working hard. Including transparency to your scheduling, it may alleviate the need to feel seen as busy to feel important. 

How are you today? Tired. Busy.  Good, thanks for asking.



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