You'll be happier if you stop saying you're busy
There is a busy currency in our society. If you ask most people how they're doing, at least half the time you'll get a response that they're busy, or that there's some variation on the topic. Sadly, being "busy" in America proves worth. It's a kind of status symbol. We nurtured the myth that busyness equals value equals value.
We've been riding a constant hamster wheel for the past two years. A relentless cycle of change, juggling and anxiety. Between COVID, work from home, a divisive political environment, and now the war in Ukraine, it's impossible for us to keep up. It's hard not to feel like we have time to do anything but react to everything around us. While we've been working hard to maintain our sanity and morale, the stress of all this busyness is causing major public health problems. In fact, according to the American Psychological Association, our anxiety and burnout from being busy is at an all-time high, with 71% of Americans reporting stress during the workday.
But that's the way it is. When we think we're busy, we make ourselves victims. In many ways, that means, "I have so much to do and everything is beyond my control. I'm overwhelmed."
Let go of the idea that busyness equals important
A recent series of studies by Harvard Business Review confirms that, as a society, we place a higher status on those we perceive to be busy. As it turns out, as Americans, we think of ourselves as living in a fluid society, which leads us to need to work as much as possible to gain a higher social status. On the other hand, other cultures that see themselves as less social tend to be more relaxed and enjoy their free time.
Like many working parents, I am both a mother to a toddler and a stepmother to a teen, as well as taking on the responsibilities of company president and other careers I have. I personally reached a point where I felt like a victim. I'm always so busy; at the end of each day my calendar is full and I can never finish my to-do list. I never made enough progress and I always conceded the ball. I just don't know how to prioritize or make decisions. I have been underwater. Sound familiar?
change our perception
As someone who's really focused on messaging and language and how things are built, I know that messaging and language can really change the way you think about things. I started thinking about my life and how to manage it all differently. I realized that if we could change the way we think about our schedule as "full" instead of "busy," it would allow us to regain control and re-plan our day. You see, when you're "busy," you're always running. This is uninterrupted. But enrichment is abundance, happiness, and contentment. When I start thinking about things this way, I can see how fulfilling my life is.
Here are three ways my mindset has changed:
I'm grateful for all the different roles I've played
I realized I was really lucky, not thinking about all the responsibilities I had in the role. I am going to be a mom to a beautiful girl who is about to turn three and I can come home more for my stepson who is going to college next year and I am lucky to be spending more time with my husband lately I have had many years , because I was always traveling for work before the pandemic. I'm very fortunate to have a career I love, and meaningful clients in transformative work.
I learned how to prioritize
I started checking my calendar and evaluating everything on my to-do list. With every project, I think about how it would add to my day's fullness or detract from it. I realize I don't need to do certain things. I can look at all of this in a different way. Some projects are just busy work, not full work. I have a better understanding of what is actually needed and what is not needed on the calendar.
I regained control of my life
When you live a full life instead of a busy life, you can control it. You are fine with it. This transformation is really valuable. So as we all continue to go through these trying times, trying to juggle work, family, life, politics, war on the other side of the ocean, and everything else we have to balance, a simple mind-set shift can really change the way we see ourselves one day , the way we look at work, and the way we look at life.
So, next time you answer the question, "How are you?" make a mental shift and respond. "My day is not only busy, but very fulfilling." Think about all the things you have to do, not the things you have to do. This small shift in the way you think will dramatically change the way you see the world around you.