The old adage declares that time is money. Usually, this is said to encourage professionals to work harder, fill up their schedule more, and pack as many things into their time as possible. It has to be worth it, right?
I feel a little differently. In saying time is money, our takeaway should be my time is valuable.
It’s not a call to pack our schedules full. It’s a call to value and prioritize our time. Unfortunately, this understanding is uncommon. According to the John Hopkins Health Review, one third of Americans feel they don’t have enough time in the day to accomplish everything they feel they must do. Gallup polls reveal a correlation between our busyness and our anxiety levels.
Between work, chores, family, personal time, and any number of obligations, we never feel like we can catch up. How many of us lie awake with the urge to get up and work just a little more? How many of us are struck by insomnia with the thought of how in the world am I going to get it all done?
Busyness is a curse. It affects not just our career ambitions, but our relationships, and both mental and physical health.
So how do we break the busyness curse?
3 Essential Steps to Stopping the Busyness Curse
1) Recognize the value in rest.
We live in a culture that heavily devalues rest. I’ve talked about this principle before when discussing how important sleep is to both health and career! Rest — be it taking time for yourself, eating lunch somewhere other than your desk, or just having a day off — is often seen as selfish, even lazy. How dare you take your full lunch hour!
We feel guilty when we take time for ourselves, time to decompress and rest. That’s because our culture is saturated with the worship of productivity. Being idle, being stagnant, being rested is a sin in this pursuit of productivity.
But make no mistake — being busy isn’t the same as being productive.
As revealed in The Guardian, we equate being busy with being successful.
However, we can’t be truly successful and productive if we neglect our health and our rest. Down time is critical to managing depression and anxiety, promoting brain health and creativity, and overall making you a happy person and happy employee. Rest prevents burnout. Rest allows us to have the energy to do what we really need to accomplish.
Leave room in your schedule to rest and refuse to compromise.
2) Recognize why you feel compelled to be busy.
I’ve already mentioned that our culture equates busyness with success. We want to be productive and valuable. But why do we feel the need to answer “how are you doing?” with “I’m so busy!”
Most of us aren’t as busy as we like to believe we are. And truly, we like to believe that we’re busy. This is because, in our culture, busyness is a status symbol. If you’re doing so much, if you’re responsible for so much, if you’re giving so much of yourself, surely you must be an important person.
We must not allow our worth to be found in how much we do and accomplish. This is what prevents us from turning down extra work on top of a loaded schedule. This is what compels us to do anything but sit still.
Why do you personally feel busy? Why do you feel like you need to be busy? Do you feel guilty when your schedule has some freedom and flexibility?
Once you recognize the psychological root to your busyness curse, you will better be able to see where productivity becomes busyness — not in service of your career or aspirations, but in service to outside expectations or your own ego.
3) Recognize how you spend your time.
What if you are genuinely busy? Many of us have demanding careers and home lives that simply leave little if any time for real rest. We can start by breaking our busyness down. How effective are you really?
Use a time tracker for your daily activities and create a log. Label the task and what area of life it pertains to along with how much time you spend doing it.
Answering emails. Work. One hour. Taking kids to practice. Family. Two hours.
Whatever it is, record it. This will help you reveal not only the areas where you need to increase your efficiency (as you may be spending more time than you need to on a task), but what your schedule really and truly looks like. This helps you adjust your expectations and see, realistically, what you can accomplish and how long it takes.
From there, you can prioritize, streamline, and, hopefully, make room to rest.
How do you feel about the epidemic of busyness? Share your thoughts in the comments.