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How to Cure Chronic Busyness

This article was originally published on Ms In The Biz on July 10th 2018

Blue neon sign that says "slow down". Courtesy of Daniel Monteiro via Unsplash

This one goes out to all the busy ones, with love.

I once had a browser tab open on my phone for over 12 months. I just couldn’t find the time to read it. What was the tab? An article called The Disease of Being Busy. Yeaaaahhh. Clearly, I needed to read it. Yet more than 12 months went by in which I couldn’t find 10 minutes to sit down and read it.

When you think about being busy what other words come to mind? Stressed, frazzled, tense, overwhelmed, perhaps? Several years back I was working 80+ hours a week, going gung-ho to pay-off some debt. I was miserable. I felt overwhelmed, physically exhausted and emotionally, I felt like a volcano ready to explode into tears at any moment. It was survival mode and the effect on my physical and mental health was obvious.

Eventually I hit my financial goal and was able to change my work situation. Funnily, guess what didn’t change… being busy.

Why was I just as busy? Even though my schedule was nowhere near as full, I still felt that same sense of madness. Why hadn’t this changed? And why did it appear that some people could achieve so much, yet they never responded to a “How are you?” with “Busy, really busy”, which had become my stock answer.

I dove into research for answers.

Some have suggested that our need to be busy is a way to feel important, to feel needed and indispensable. Our busyness can become a status symbol we shoulder with pride. By being busy, we can avoid feeling unseen or lonely.

Being busy can be a way to avoid ourselves. The idea of being quiet, with nothing to do is terrifying for some people. Why? Are we that afraid of our true nature? Perhaps.

It’s also been said, that busyness is a subconscious strategy for avoiding failure. If we’re always too busy to truly do anything well, then we always have a great excuse for it not working out.

That last one hit me right in the gut… and when it hits you in the gut, that’s *probably* when it’s time to listen.

Only you will truly know what causes lie beneath your disease of busy. I would highly recommend exploring it. As one recovering busy person, I know there’s gold to be found with a bit of digging. Your happiness, fulfillment and the realization of your dream are at stake.

Chronic busyness:

  • Steals our creativity

  • Diminishes our problem solving

  • Distinguishes intimacy in our relationships

  • Robs us of our growth. Because without space to breathe, to think, to integrate lessons from our life, how are we to grow and learn?

  • Wreaks havoc on our physical, emotional, mental and spiritual well-being.

What to do about it? Here are four things that have significantly helped me in shifting out of the crazy busy lifestyle.

Taking responsibility for my choices.

Only me, myself and I am responsible for my life and how I spend my time. It is in my power to say yes and it’s in my power to say no. What becomes most important when making responsible choices are priorities. Get clear on what your priorities are and choose from that clarity. Once I got clear, a weight was lifted and I began to make decisions with a new sense of ownership and ease.

Placing a higher importance on “quiet time”.

Quiet time can look a lot of different ways. Some of my favorites are meditation, journaling, playing with my cats and taking a walk. I remind myself of the immense value of taking down time and making it a priority (see point 1.)

Schedule it.

I love my multi-colored iCalendar that my friends have called “Whoa, that looks crazy”… but the fact is, that scheduling my days supports me immensely; and scheduling quiet time is part of that. I’m not rigidly attached to how things turns out at the end of the day, but if I’m not actively choosing quiet time when I plan my week, it will so easily be forgotten.


Like most shifts in mindset, it can take time (probably a lot longer than some of us might like) to adopt changes to our beliefs and values. Some of us were raised busy and might not know anything else. Some of us so closely link busyness and our definition of success, that it could take quite some time to undo and reframe this belief. It’s okay. Change takes time, commitment and practice. One tool I’ve been using for a while now is an app called Mindfulness Bell.

I found the Mindfulness Bell app after seeing a documentary on Thich Nhat Hanh, a Buddhist monk and peace activist. At the monastery, every 15 minutes a bell sounds. As the ring of the bell resonates throughout the grounds, the practitioners take a moment to stop what they’re doing and become present.

As I started to use the app, it became as opportunity for me to:

  • Check-in with my body: Am I holding tension? Am I breathing?

  • Check-on with my actions: Am I doing what’s important? Am I operating on autopilot without focus?

  • Check-in with my state: Am I present? Am I being intentional in the moment? Am I operating from a place of what I value most?

There are lots of great apps out there for meditation and mindfulness, including 10% Happier, Insight Timer and Simple Habit. I chose Mindfulness Bell for its simplicity (sorry, iTunes only). You tell the app how often to ring the bell and between what hours of the day. Even on days that are full of meetings and scheduled events, I am regularly reminded to come back to a place of calm.

So, what do you think? Could you let the crazy busy go? Give it a try and let me know how it goes!


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