“I am busy.” Something that gets said all too often. I distinctly remember back in college, when a wise philosophy professor of mine urged our class to think about some of our most commonly used phrases. The point, he said, was that how we describe ourselves most often then, was likely to forecast how we were going to experience the rest of our lives.
When I heard this, I cringed a little, as I staunchly recognized the fact that my most commonly expressed state of being was already, “I am so busy,” or more disempowering yet, “I am too busy.” And, guess what? Just as my philosophy professor had suggested, all those years back, the issue of “busyness” has pervaded my existence ever since.
As I’ve wrestled my busiest self for all of these years, a few things have become abundantly clear. For starters, there’s a lot more to my “busyness” than all of the tasks, projects, accomplishments, social engagements, and activities I take on. Behind all of these things is actually a deep-rooted neediness to be recognized because of a much darker state of being – one that haunts me at my core.
For most of my life, I’ve stretched, flexed and adjusted my schedule to accommodate just about anything that seemed mildly “important,” just to numb-out a stinging voice underneath it all, which actually says, “I’m not very important.” And, what better way to discount this voice than to prove it wrong with everything I do?
As I’ve grown to own and understand this state affairs, I’ve also come to recognize a vast difference between my busyness, versus tending to important business. While one keeps our need to feel important pacified with lots of distraction and noise, the other is a disciplined choice to stay hyper-focused on what really matters. And, to know what’s really important, we have to get to know ourselves at a level far beyond what we do. As the late and great Wayne Dyer said, “I am a human being, not a human doing.”
When is the last time most of us have taken inventory of who we actually are at our core? And, who would we actually be without all of our doings? Better yet, what might we actually choose to do differently, if we weren’t too busy defining ourselves with everything we’ve done, do or have yet to do? It’s quite the tongue twister, I know, and for many of us, maybe even mind bender.
As someone who is all too familiar with the game of “I am so busy,” that’s right, you can’t play a player, here are a few things I’ve learned that can reframe busyness and help us get down to real business:
1) Get Clear & Comfortable About What’s Important to You vs. What’s Important to Others.
Our boundaries often get blurred when it comes to what we value. We tend to confuse what’s important to others with what’s important to us. Then, our calendars get filled with a bunch of activities that are dictated, primarily by other people’s interests, schedules and agendas.
Just think of how much time we spend on a daily basis, responding to emails and attending meetings that actually steal us away from our own goals.
Here’s where I think the age-old 80/20 rule applies. If 80% of our time is occupied by what’s important to everyone else, then it’s time to re-evaluate our priorities and check-in with what we actually value. Do we even know what’s important to us? Not just on a professional level, but also on a personal level.
Once we figure-out what’s really important to us, we can begin to make concerted efforts to reverse old cycles of giving a mere 20% of our time to nurture our own goals, and instead, take active steps to commit 80% of our time to things that truly matter. And, news flash for all of us caregivers out there, this still leaves 20% to show-up and support others with what’s important to them. Hey, nobody ever said that supporting others isn’t an important value.
Think about it: What would you change in your life, if you spent 80% of your attention on things that matter to you most?
2) Replace the Words “Have-To” with “Choose-To”
Usually, when we are spinning in a cycle of busyness, we are preoccupied with things that feel a lot more like “I have to” than “I choose to.” And, whenever we feel like we “have to” do anything, it’s typically connected with another deflating thought – “or else something bad is going to happen.” This simply reinforces our sense of powerlessness or victimization. When we “choose to” do something, we feel incredibly purposeful and energized, even if it occupies a lot of our time.
So, when we catch ourselves saying “I have to” all of the time, it’s worth taking a closer look at what we really mean. Do we: a) feel powerless of choice, b) think the needs of others are more important than ours, or c) not see the bigger picture? If the answer is “a” or “b,” then go back to step #1 and reconnect with what’s important. It will raise awareness for all of the resonant choices that actually are available to us. If the answer is “c,” then it’s time to expand our perception of what's important and “choose to” implement actions that will support whatever that is.
Think about it: What might you do differently in life, if you exchanged the words “I have to” with “I choose to?
3) Counteract Your Busyness with Stillness
More often than not, people with busyness syndrome literally cannot sit still with themselves. Anyone who has found themselves in a perpetual mode of busy can probably attest, “I simply don’t know how to be, unless I am constantly doingsomething.” Our habits of staying busy get so engrained in us, that we look for ways to stay busy, even when we already feel overextended!
When we become aware enough to observe that we are keeping ourselves busy for busyness’ sake, then it’s time to take concrete steps to learn how to get still. The best tool I’ve found for this is regular meditation or centering practices. I know, I know, you’ve heard this many times before, and you continue to ignore it because it sounds so excruciatingly painful for a busy body; but trust me, it’s worth the initial discomfort.
For starters, learning how to keep the body still is a precursor to intentional focus. And, developing mindfulness gives us full empowerment to control our attention and thought patterns. Given the law of attraction – whatever we focus on expands, it’s important to learn how to direct our attention and generate thoughts and feelings that actually serve our greatest good and highest potential.
Think about it: How would clearing your head to focus on what’s most important redirect your actions and impact your life?
4) Allow Yourself to Be More Important Than What You Do (or Don’t) Do.
Like it or not, having a healthy sense of self involves a certain degree of self-importance. Our self-worth is what predicates all of our actions, not to mention, experiencing a meaningful existence. Whether our sense of self-worth is low, healthy or inflated, our actions and results will always validate how we internally feel about ourselves.
Once we take ownership of our personal value, we can begin to assert ourselves in ways that support our needs and desires, instead of negating them all of the time. Instead of chasing other peoples’ choices, we can start to trust and bet on ourselves, while taking steps towards developing plans that actually support what matters to us. And, with each step towards building or re-building ourselves, we’ll generate an energizing feeling of connectedness, which steers us towards more and more possibility.
This is where the true nature of our being becomes synonymous with our doing. The very things we used to deny about ourselves, while we were too busy chasing everyone else’s plans, suddenly become worthwhile and important endeavors, existing right at the forefront of our minds. This is where we exchange our busynessand begin to focus on real business.
Think about it: How would your actions and behaviors change, if you allowed yourself to be an important priority?
As author and motivational speaker, Jim Rohn said – “if you don’t design your own life plan, chances are you’ll fall into someone else’s plan. And guess what they have planned for you? Not much.” So, how long do we want to distract ourselves from our own life plans with our own self-inflicted busyness? Perhaps it’s time to kick busyness to the curb, and instead, commit to real business.
This article and others written by Nina can be found on Thrive Global.