I have to admit something – I have been falling into Busy-ness Syndrome, where I feel like I am too busy with my responsibilities to do anything I perceive to be “extra”. That could be anything from an uncomfortable conversation to tending to obligations. Busy-ness Syndrome is not something I have made up. It’s been studied for years as people, specifically Americans, continue to suffer with the idea that “there isn’t enough time!”.
John Maynard Keynes is quoted as saying “our grandchildren will work around 3 hours a day and probably only by choice” in 1930 (The Economist). I am sure we thought the same thing - that doesn’t describe my day at all. It feels like we swung in the opposite direction! BUT I am not sure that I would want it any other way.
There are different kinds of busy. If we can be busy with purpose, humans find their busy-ness enjoyable. If our busy-ness feels like treading water or exclusively reactionary, it will weigh on us and lead to less productivity. Unfortunately, some of the administrative tasks we all have are necessary and may not contribute to the feeling of purpose or adding value. How can we get ourselves back on track to joyful busy-ness?
I had the privilege of having wonderful grandparents and still have my grandmothers (Betty and Shirley) in my life. Based on my experiences with them, here are the tips I follow to get myself back on track. These lessons don’t prevent me from experiencing Busy-ness Syndrome. When I find myself spinning in busy-ness, it allows me to reset and address conflict, find time for obligations and reduces the feeling of burden a constant workload can create.
- Go to sleep – You will always feel better about something if you sleep on it. Although I cannot observe the same strict rest hour from 1pm – 2pm, which Betty still observes every day, when I am feeling overwhelmed with busy-ness, I go to bed early or take a few quiet minutes for myself away from others. I can then return to the tasks at hand feeling more open and refreshed. It may feel like wasted time to sleep but a refreshed outlook will make tasks or responsibilities seem less impossible.
- Ask for help and offer to help others– You are surrounded by amazing, capable people who can help you with any problem you are facing. Betty and Shirley have always had a strong group of friends and family who are available to help and pick up the slack when they can’t (like when Betty was sick last winter and her friend delivered monthly treats to the nursing home instead). You are also an amazing, capable person who can help others. You should get involved in your community or in different ways at work. My grandmothers volunteered with Special Olympics, church, schools, nursing homes and more. They supported children in their families during hard times. They both are still very involved in their communities. Finding groups that operate with purpose outside of work will reinvigorate your feeling of day to day purpose at work. Sharing knowledge, lessons, guidance with someone at work as their leader or mentor, can also influence your perspective on the significant role you play day to day.
- Take a step back and relax – You must take a break. If I say to my grandma Shirley that I am taking time during a weekend or a day off for myself, her response is always - “Good for you”. It doesn’t matter if you take a half day to hike, get a massage, read a book, enjoy a long lunch with a friend or take a 10-day vacation, stepping back and relaxing isn’t an indulgence. It is a necessity.
- Eat something good and go outside – You have to take care of your physical self. Eating well, like eating vegetables with each meal, preparing your own food, and finding the foods that work with your body, not against it have been their priorities. Typical grandmothers, they also had cookies and donuts around, so they allow for sweet treats too. They also believe in being active and shared the joy of being outside with me. Read a book outside in the sun, find a new salad recipe, take a walk in the woods, cut processed foods out, go kayaking, anything that will help take care of your physical self. Your physical wellbeing will help your mental wellbeing and prevent your busy-ness from weighing you down and decreasing your productivity.
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