“Beware the barrenness of a busy life.” ~Socrates
We’re exhausted. We’re overwhelmed. We’re so badly overworked. But above all, we’re just plain too busy: Too busy to relax, too busy to have fun, too busy to do what we really want to do.
Have you ever met anyone who was not too busy? Someone who, despite having to pay the bills, wash the dishes, and do the laundry always had abundant time left over to use as they pleased? I once met a person like that. I was so impressed that I married him.
When I first met my husband, I was very busy. There were so many things I wanted but had no time for. So many dreams were sitting on the shelf collecting dust. Forget about dreams, I was so busy that I hardly even had time to rest.
Gradually, I began to figure out how my husband avoids the busy trap. By the time we had a child, house, and a multitude of other duties and responsibilities that I never had before, I found myself a lot less busy. I took my dreams off the shelf, dusted them off, and went for it! I picked up singing, wrote a book, and started this blog. And, against all odds, I still found time to relax!
That’s when I realized that being busy goes far beyond the number of things that we have to do.
The Psychological Side of Busy
We all have exactly the same number of hours in a day. Yet, only a few of us have time for what they really want to do.
Why some of us are always busy, while others go through life at a peaceful pace, goes a lot deeper than most time-management advice suggests. To understand why we are busy, we need to dig deeper. We need to get down to the root of the problem.
When your psychological dial is set to “busy”, you will find a way to eat up all of your time. Have you known students who do nothing but study? Housewives who do nothing but clean? It doesn’t take much to drown ourselves with work.
I want to help you get out from under the sea of work. When you understand the real reasons why you have been so busy for so long, you will be ready to make the changes necessary to free yourself and enjoy your life on your own terms.
The following are 6 time thieves – the real reasons that you don’t have enough time to do what you want – and how to overcome them.
1) We undervalue our desires
Two people can spend every minute of the day doing exactly the same thing, yet only one of them will feel busy. This is because one of them wishes he or she were doing something else, while the other enjoys what they do.
Busy isn’t how much we do, but how rarely we do exactly what we want to do.
Becoming less busy is not about finding time for sitting idly to do nothing. It is about using your time however you please. More precisely, it is about increasing the number of moments in which you do exactly what you want to do. Doing so is also the most direct way to make you happier, according to how scientists define happiness.
Our to-do list never ends. It really doesn’t. By the time we are done cooking breakfast, walking the dog, and doing laundry, it is time to make lunch. As living, breathing human beings, there is always something that we have to do.
This why so many of us never get to do what we want to do. There is always something more important, something that belongs in the “need” category.
The only way that we’ll ever get to do what we want to do is to allow WANT to come before NEED.
Think of something that you’ve always wanted to do. If you are ever going to get to it, you will have to make it a priority. Yes, make something that you want to do more important than something that you have to do.
If this sounds absurd, this can only be because we undervalue ourselves. If you can agree that you matter, then you must agree that what you want matters. When you love yourself, making your own dreams come true becomes a priority.
Sometimes, the dishes can wait. Those emails can be answered later. The phone can be turned off. Sometimes, what we want to do can take precedence over the mandatory, every-day have-to’s.
Did you always want to take an art class? See Europe? Write a book? Whatever your dreams are, let them see the light of day, and in return, they will bring light to your very existence.
2) We feel that we are not enough
Most of us feel that we are not enough. Not beautiful enough, not rich enough, not exciting enough, not original enough..
So we overcompensate. We strive to be “A” students and exemplary employees. We want to be the perfect husband or wife, the perfect parent, the perfect friend. We measure our worth by external achievement. “If I am a good student/employee/mother…. then I am someone,” we might think.
But the struggle to become “enough” is futile. There is no amount of recognition, fame, wealth, or appreciation that can make us feel that we are enough when inside we don’t agree. We might feel better for a little while after a heartfelt compliment, pay raise, or big promotion, but quickly we find ourselves feeling empty and overworked once more.
The first step to reclaiming your time is to internalize that you are already enough. You don’t need to prove anything to anyone. You are worthy of your own time just by virtue of being alive. Yes, you can decide what to do at any moment in time just because you exist.
3) We try to bulletproof our lives
Life is risky. We never really know what is going to happen next. There starts an uphill battle against reality, where we try to protect ourselves against everything that could go wrong.
We want to make sure that we do well on that final exam, so we stay up studying all night. We are afraid to end up alone, so we spend countless hours trying to look perfect. We want enough money to protect ourselves from anything that could go wrong – so we work ourselves to death.
The effort to protect ourselves from the unknown can literally use up all of our time and energy.
It is much more healthy to accept the uncertain nature of our existence. This way, when something goes against our plans, we will not be burned out. Instead, we will be alert and have the energy to deal with whatever comes.
4) We are escaping reality
We know that drug addictions are an escape. Overeating is an escape. Even shopping can be used as an escape. But we don’t usually think of being busy as an escape. However, being “busy” is one of the most effective escapes out there.
So many of us are so busy that we hardly have time to pause and reflect on our lives, to feel what’s it’s like to be us, to face the reality of our lives.
This is precisely why so many of us are so uncomfortable with time off – why we feel so uneasy during vacations. Even when on vacation, we run around from place to place, or desperately try to catch up on side projects.
The bottom line is that when we are not at peace with our lives and ourselves, we find ourselves restless and unable to relax – regardless of how much work we really have to do. In such a state, it is easier to stay busy than it is to stop all the hustle and bustle and face ourselves.
If you realize that being busy is an escape for yourself, try to figure out exactly what it is that you are escaping from. Then, find the courage to face your life, and shape it to your liking, so that you wouldn’t feel the need to escape from it.
5) WE STRIVE FOR PERFECTION
Perfectionism. In our culture, this doesn’t even sound like such a bad thing. “I am a perfectionist, I work too hard,” we might answer in a job interview when asked to list our weakness. Small wonder we are all too busy.
But perfectionism is a weakness. It is a highly destructive force that can suck all of life out of you, without you as much as realizing that there is a problem.
For the perfectionist, nothing is ever good enough. This typically stems from them feeling somehow that they are fundamentally not good enough. So they spend hours upon hours trying to reach the impossible.
The perfectionist only needs a single goal, and there goes all of their free time. If you are ever to have enough time to enjoy your life, and overcome the busy trap, it is essential to go against the tendency of striving for perfection.
6) We put ourselves last
Want to be so busy that you will have no time to sleep? Here is the recipe: Declare everyone else to be more important than yourself. That’s all you need. You will not have a moment of free time.
Others always want us to do something. And if we think that they are a lot more important than us, they might not even have to ask. We will work ourselves to death doing what we think they want us to do.
If you want to stop being too busy, if you want to have time to do what you really want to do, then learn to put yourself first. Putting yourself first also has many other benefits. Others will take you more seriously, respect you more, and even appreciate you more.
You are the only one who really understands you. This is why you need to become your own advocate and best friend. Put yourself first, and the world will smile back at you.
I hope that some of the above points spoke to you, and helped you identify the real reason you are too busy. When you understand why you are constantly overworked, you are in a better position to change it. Take charge of your life, and release yourself from the burden of being eternally busy.
On her deathbed, Queen Elizabeth wished to exchange all of her riches for a moment of time. You have at your disposal the most valuable resource in the world. Give yourself a priceless gift: Reclaim your time.