The Cost of Busy

"I’m bored.  There’s nothing to do. Can’t we do something already?” This was my son exclaiming in his little boy, high pitched voice right after completing a game of Connect Four with me.  I said to him, “Leo we just finished playing a game and before that you were playing video games and before that we went outside to ride skateboards, and before that… “ well I’m sure you get the point.  We are always busy filling in the time with errands, places to go and people to see.  I was thinking about this event and apparent phenomenon of my kids feeling the need to be busy all the time.   I thought to myself after my son’s boredom rant that some “bored” time isn’t necessarily so bad.  After all do we really have to be busy all the time?  I wondered what is the cost of this need to be busy all the time and came up with the following:

Avoid Facing Problems Head On: With less time to just be with your thoughts and emotions there is less time to address emotional conflicts.  Being busy is a great way to avoid acknowledging some underlying feelings or need for change that should be addressed.  I recall feeling bored as a child and having to address my feelings of boredom and found feelings of sadness were present.  It sounds like a bad thing to have to embody boredom to address a feeling like sadness, and as I child I recall not liking the feeling (who would!!).  The thing is that when I think of the act of facing my sadness through “boredom" I also recall planning a solution to move past that emotion.  As an adult I recognize this approach as a life best-practice because there is nothing wrong with having a space of time to address feelings and find a solution. Deciding to carve out time in your day to be mindful of your feelings, figuring out the reasons behind them and creating solutions and opportunities is very important. Addressing ones feelings can be compromised when the “I’m always busy." thing happens.  Are you unconsciously avoiding something?

Action Step: Consider writing a journal entry.  Ask yourself are you too busy to sit and address an emotion.  If so are you avoiding feeling a specific way.  Figure out why that may be.  This exercise can sometimes be painful.  Consider that making time for your emotions, finding the challenge and creating a solution is an opportunity for growth.  Facing the emotion and then moving beyond it is important to your personal development and for the relationships you have in life.  Note that when I mention relationships I mean in all scenarios of personal and professional.  Questions you may ask yourself as you check your emotions from the day are: How was I feeling this morning or during the midday meeting with my staff?  Was my body feeling anxious or low energy?  What is the feeling? Sadness?  Or were you feeling very happy?  What caused that feeling? 

Constant Stress and Mental Fatigue: Imagine you are at the gym.  You plan to be there one hour and it’s leg day.  You go all in with heavy weights, several repetitions into it without stopping.  You feel like you cannot walk out of the place because of how sore you are and all you can imagine doing is plopping yourself on a recliner for the rest of the day. Imagine a work day where you feel like you are going 100 MPH with no mental breaks.   It can be exhausting. Just as you should take breaks between a repetitive physical activity your brain also needs it’s break during the day. If our minds don’t take a break we over  exercise thoughts, worries, concerns, stressful emotions and some of these repetitive and tiresome activities may be from the past and aren’t even occurring in the present.  Your mind and you deserve and need a mental break.  You will be more productive and happier.  

Actions Step:  Review your daily activities.  Schedule time in your day to have a mental break for 15 minutes minimum.  If silence is not easy to come by take a walk outdoors and play some relaxing music of your choice.  Take a deep breath and focus on the music.  Maybe before you do this add the scent of lavender or your favorite hand lotion.  You may even want to break for tea while listening to music or in silence.  Remember your mental health is just as important as your physical wellbeing.   What I’ve described above is a form of meditation.  Mental breaks where there is nothing but yourself to consider is very essential to a successful and productive day.

Missed Bonding Opportunities: I found myself in the middle of making dinner, loading the laundry and asking the crew (my two boys) if the last task they needed to complete was done.  As I paused for a moment waiting for an answer I decided to lower the heat on the stove I asked again and got no response.  I proceeded to walk out the kitchen, turn the corner around to the hall way and then ask once again but this time I was standing in front of the crew.  Turns out the task I mentioned on the way out the door to the laundry room was never heard and never started.  I started asking is it me? The answer was yes. It was.  I needed to be sure to communicate with more than my words.  I needed to get up close and make sure we looked at each other.  Eye contact was totally missed because I was too busy.  The cost of being too busy is at times a lack of communicating effectively.  Speaking face to face would have had a better impact then simply verbalizing the to-do list while passing by a person. Having good eye contact is an easy way to be sure communication is effective and positive.  We especially want to engage in this positive exchange with the people we love.  Eye contact is also responsible for creating stronger bonds with others thanks to our bodies which produce the cuddle/happy hormone oxytocin.   

Action Step: If you’ve found that you and your partner and/or children are having trouble communicating or understanding each other ask yourself are we connecting with more than just our words?  Are we literally seeing eye to eye? Make a conscious effort to stop and retrace your steps to see and speak with more than just your words. Next time you find yourself busy running around barking orders, slow down and lock your gaze.  You get to communicate effectively and happily.

Not enough time to check the time: It’s important to do a temperature check on your daily routine.  Your daily routine is so important for your personal wellbeing, success in your career and in any leadership position you have (leading your team, organization and your family.). Taking some time from the busy schedule to check how well you are using your time is important.  Let’s not blame busy for being too busy to evaluate and create a new routine.  Grant it there are busy activities that need to be done and you cannot avoid to include in each day, but sometimes there are filler activities that are not necessary.  I am guilty of creating great routines and then something in my environment changes (my kids school ending for the year) and then my routine changes with ‘busy’ activities and even some filler activities such as checking on social media notifications (even the ones from LinkedIn). 

Actions Step: Consider having a set time of the day to check on filler activities like checking social media and even your email box can help you stay productive and less feeling of busyness with the added filler tasks between the larger more pressing tasks at hand.  Carve out a solid time on your calendar to evaluate and create a new routine.  In fact perhaps on a specific day of each week you declare a portion of the day as your planning time.  Be sure to add time in there to take mental breaks and address how you’ve felt throughout the day. 

Each moment of the day we have a choice on how time is used.  Being busy can sometimes be a habit that works against us.  While we do have things to do and busy happens I urge you to create time to face buried feelings and find opportunities to grow from it, speak with your words and your eyes, pause and take a breather, and make the time for this. This is your life you are living, and in the end you hold the key to your success.

"Busy is a drug that a lot of people are addicted to." - Rob Bell
ProductivityVirginia Jimenez