How often do you find yourself saying the word “busy”? When someone asks you how you are or what you’ve been doing – do you lead with “I’ve just been so busy.” Or maybe you don’t actually say “busy,” but you use one of its cousins like “swamped,” “underwater,” or “covered up.” And while it can be true that you are indeed busy, would you like to be something else? Would you like to feel differently about how you spend your time and energy? The great news is, you can. The sometimes not so great news is that it may take some practice.
Why We Don’t Banish Busy
Think about what would happen if you banished the word “busy” from your vocabulary. How would your life change? Would sending those busy cousin words all on vacation be tougher than just sending busy itself to the curb?
Why do we insist on keeping busy in our vocab as if it’s some badge of honor? Because it is and to live a more fulfilled, contented and satisfied life, we get the honor (yes honor) of not only banishing the word but then figuring out what glorious new story we want to tell ourselves and others in its place.
The bottom line is we stay stuck in our “busyness” because to say we are busy and to act as if we are busy reward us. They reward us by:
- Allowing us not to be intentional about how we want to live and how we want to feel.
- Allowing us to compete against ourselves and others in a game we can’t win, no matter how much “more” we do and how many items we check off our to-do lists.
- Allowing our misery to find company with so many others.
- Allowing us to compare ourselves with others (again out of our need to compete) and most of all…
- Allowing us to be like others, to fit in, and to conform.
Banishing busy is risky business. Are you willing to risk banishing busy
so you can live intentionally every day and have the life you want?
Shifting from Tasks to Intention
One of the most effective (yet sometimes scary) ways of getting out of busy is to shift from a task-based mindset (to-do lists, competing with others, comparing yourself to others) to an intention-based mindset (how do you want to feel, what are the guiding principles you want to live by regardless of what you’re doing each day?).
Look at your calendar for one day. For each thing you have scheduled, ask yourself “to what end am I doing this?” Are you doing for doing’s sake, creating for creating’s sake or is what you have scheduled essential? Many times we end up “time stuffing,” in other words, filling up our time with non-essential and often non-rewarding activities for the sake of looking or feeling like we’re accomplishing something, simply because the thought of not “doing” or “making” or “creating” terrifies us.
By moving toward intention we move toward how we want to feel in the present moment, which to be clear, doesn’t get us out of essential things we’d rather not do (dishes and vacuuming anyone?). Being intentional allows us to evaluate what we do and identify habits, tendencies, and automatic behaviors that can be changed or eliminated. This can be uncomfortable, squirmy work, but in the end, it will bring us the self-knowledge we need to grow.
Intention also brings us the gift of focus; it allows us to not only look at what we’re doing but also allows us to ask why we’re doing it. This forces us to get real about who we are, what we want to create, and what we’re currently doing with our time and energy that may or may not bring us closer to who we want to become.
We ultimately say yes or no to everything we place on our calendars.
What can you say no to in order to make more space for a meaningful yes?
Tackling the Beautiful Void
To create “the beautiful void,” that place where you find ease and flow in the choices you make and comfort with the time you reclaim, you will be asked to do hard things such as:
- Learning to say no, and not explain yourself.
- Having tough conversations, mostly with yourself, and sometimes with others.
- Finding yourself not competing with anyone anymore and having them wonder if something is wrong.
- Feeling terrified that someone won’t like you anymore or will judge you because you’re living differently and not participating in the unwinnable game (P.S. – there will be judgment…which you cannot control. Remember, judgment from others is usually more about them than it is about you).
- Finding yourself with blocks of unstructured / unscheduled time which may thrill you yet scare the heebie-jeebies out of you.
- Feeling terrified and alone because you believe you’re the only one doing this busy-ditching business.
Rest assured, you’re not the only one trying to let it go. Many people are trying to ditch it, but you’ve committed; you’ve decided to be brave and take the risk. Those that are meant to stay with you on your new journey will. Those that aren’t will fade away. And that may hurt, but in the long run, you’ll be better off.
New Scripts for a New Life
With unscripted blocks of time comes new opportunities, and new stories. With greater flow and confidence in the choices you’re making comes new joy and confidence. And with all of this newness comes new scripts to help you keep the b-word and its misery-loves-company cousins out of your vocab.
Think again about what you’d like to say when someone asks you how you’ve been or what you’ve been doing. Instead of lamenting about how busy you’ve been, you can now respond differently:
- I’ve been working on my goals
- I’ve been focusing on some high priority projects
- I’ve just finished working on x project and am preparing to start y next week
- I’ve been great. I’ve accomplished so much working on x, and I’m feeling energized by doing y lately.
- I’ve been focused on x lately and am set to start y in the future.
All of these responses remove you from competing, comparing, and sounding like a victim. These responses are specific; they indicate that you are in charge of your decisions and your schedule and that you are making deliberate choices with your time and energy. The more you respond with these types of answers, the more momentum you’ll build. Once you become confident in the fact that you have the ultimate say in what you do in your life, you’ll never want to go back to busy mode again.
Being busy is not a badge of honor; it’s a way to stay stuck in a place that leaves you feeling powerless and discouraged. By removing busy and its cousins from your life, you tell yourself, others, and the Universe that you are stepping into your power; you are the one who decides how you fill up your time and spend your energy.
Three Quick Tips for Banishing Busy:
- Ask yourself how being “busy” rewards you
- Stop saying busy and associated words for seven days straight
- Develop new empowered responses for when someone asks you “How have you been?” or “What have you been up to?”