by Mary Jo Marchionni, CCCC
I have been thinking a lot lately about the possibility of forming a support group or 12-step program for people who are just too busy. We could call it “Busyholics Anonymous.” Think about it – there are 12 step programs for shopping, alcohol, and drugs, but not one for being too busy. Why is that? Busyness is something that this society approves of – even wholeheartedly endorses. It is a like a badge of honor if you run around all day telling everyone how busy you are, if you work 12 hours per day, if you don’t have time to spend with loved ones, and if you fall into bed exhausted every night, only to wake up and do it all again!
One of my favorite spiritual authors, Alan Cohen, informs us in his book Why Your Life Sucks and What You Can Do About It that the Chinese symbol for the word “busy” consists of two symbols which translate to the words “kill” and “heart.” When I read that, the idea for this essay was born! Excessive busyness kills the heart; I believe this is why so many busyholics have heart disease.
Now don’t get me wrong here – I know that we live in hectic times; however while working with clients in my coaching practice I can tell you that we bring a lot of this on ourselves. Is it really necessary to work all of those hours? I mean, your desk will never be cleaned off, that is why it is called Work. Staying late every night is not going to make it disappear; if that were the case you wouldn’t need to keep staying late every night.
The Busyholic pattern also pertains to social situations. Do you find yourself saying yes to every single invitation and then resenting the fact that you have no time to yourself? Think carefully before saying yes to things; it is perfectly acceptable to ask if you can get back to someone. Really think if that is how you wish to spend your precious time.
We are so bombarded every day by faxes, emails, and voice mails that we are a society living on adrenalin. We actually do not know how to relax anymore. Adrenalin is what enables people to perform extraordinary feats under desperate conditions. I know clients that actually get a rush of adrenalin when they are getting ready to check their email. That response used to be reserved for fight-or-flight situations with extreme danger; I hardly think email qualifies as one of those. People have actually damaged their adrenal glands by living in this constant state of rush.
What can we do to break the Busyholic pattern? Here are a few:
1. Work smarter, not harder. Do peak activities at peak times of the day. Spend your less productive times answering telephone messages, or emails. You do not have to pick up the phone on the first ring or answer the email 20 seconds after it arrives. Put the phone on voice mail and turn off the email. I bet that you will get more done in less time without distractions.
2. Take a break. It is okay. Get up, go for a short walk, stretch, sit in the sun, do something that takes you away from your work and refreshes you.
3. Establish and set healthy boundaries. You let others know how to treat you. If you have inconsiderate boss or co-worker who dumps work on you at the last minute, this can be addressed calmly and rationally. It just takes practice. The same goes for family and friends dumping on you. You set the pattern, now change it.
4. Learn to say No. No is a wonderful little word. Use it, and use it often.
I warn you that breaking free of this pattern is difficult and can take some time. Enlisting the help of a coach, a family member, or a friend to act as your “sponsor” will ensure that you will have a better chance of breaking free. You will be so much happier when you do!