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The Business of Busyness

So many of my clients are overworked, perpetually busy, and burnt out. They're stuck on a hamster wheel and it's taking its toll. Day after day, the To Do list gets longer and the opportunity to relax gets pushed farther and farther away.

"I'll relax when the kitchen is clean," says the mom of two boys.

"I'll take a break when the presentation is perfect," says the junior employee.

"I'll sleep in when I'm on vacation," says the overworked executive.

Robert Holden, a coach, author, and overall amazing human being wrote, "We are so busy, so overbooked, and so obsessed with our schedules that we are no longer open and available to the essential truth and beauty of our lives. We are lost, but we are usually too busy to notice."

How do you know if you're too busy? Here are some signs:

  • You don't have space or time for the activities that have heart and meaning for you

  • You react to everything that pops up, as it pops up, without necessarily taking the time to process whether it requires a response

  • You don't delegate tasks or projects that someone else could handle

  • You lose sleep

  • You're concerned with how successful you appear to others

  • You suffer from Obligation Overload - doing things because you feel obligated, not because you want to

  • You don't see friends, family, or other loved ones because you're too busy (or because they've stopped asking to see you, knowing you'll say no)

  • You consume a lot of caffeine and/or sugary snacks to get you through the day

  • You feel like you're in survival mode 100% of the time

  • You're always doing something else while you eat

  • You have a driving fear of letting others down

  • You double- or triple-book yourself

If this sounds like you, don't worry! There's still hope!

Here are some tools to help you in your day-to-day battle with busyness:

1) Saying yes and saying no

There are only 24 hours in a day, no matter who you are. So even though it sounds super-simple, every time we say yes to something, we are, by default, saying no to something else. Saying yes to one more meeting means you're saying no to having time to fix dinner. Saying yes to one more review of that PowerPoint means you're saying no to a quick workout.

There are two tips for using this tool effectively:

First, practice intentionally saying no to things - and not just the things you love to do. "No, I will not do my partner's chores again tonight (even though I wasn't asked)." "No, I will not chat with my annoying boss so long that I miss my train." Look at what you take on moment-to-moment, and be more intentional about those choices (knowing that you are giving something up every time you say yes.)

Second, practice intentionally saying yes to things - and not just those things that feel like obligations. Say yes to the yoga class, and schedule around it. Say yes to reading a book, and find a way to make it happen. Say yes to living in alignment with your values, and create your day/week/month/life that way.

2) Ask yourself some powerful questions


  • What does it mean to me to be so busy? Why am I choosing this?

  • Who would I be if I weren't so busy?

  • What am I avoiding by refusing to be still?

  • What am I afraid of?

  • Who am I trying not to let down?

  • Do I see myself as a victim of this busyness or its creator?

3) Hire a coach!

(You had to see this one coming.) But seriously, sometimes we get so stuck in our schedules and belief systems that it's hard to imagine another way of living. A good coach can help you examine your motivations and find new choices that work for you.

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