Find out if you’re addicted to being busy. How many of these statements are true for you? (be honest)

1 I tend to believe that I’m the only one who can get things done,  or do them the right way.

2 While trying to get something done, I am often distracted by social media or email.

3 If I start to feel tired, I will make another coffee or eat something sugary.

4 When I find myself doing nothing, I feel uneasy or even guilty.

5 I’m often too busy to eat well, meditate or get some exercise.

6 I say yes to things because I don’t want to feel left out or let people down.

If you found yourself agreeing with some of these statements, then, yes, you probably are at least somewhat addicted to being busy. You’re very far from alone though. Most of us, including me, have been programmed to feel this way.

And how do you feel about the idea of doing less? Does it seem an impossible dream, or make you slightly panicky? How on earth could you do less and still get everything done?

Efficiency machine?

In fact, you are probably nowhere near as efficient as you think you are. When we push on through tiredness and work long days we often end up doing no more than we could have done in much less really focused effort.

Increasingly research is showing that we work best in short focused bursts of between 25 and 50 minutes, with regular breaks (and that means a proper break where you go for a walk or meditate or nap, not a chance to check your email). When you’re focused, you do need to be fully focused, but you’ll actually be much more productive in less time, and feel much less stressed.

Is lunch for wimps?

I’m lucky enough to be self-employed, so I can largely manage my own time. If you work in an office or a school, even taking 5 minute breaks can be harder to achieve because our culture is still so focused on working right through an eight- nine hour day, and believing that ‘lunch is for wimps’. However, you can still adapt this approach and take some ‘sneaky’ breaks in other ways. For example: choosing to walk to go and see someone rather than emailing, taking every opportunity to get outside (how about a walking meeting?), having a quick chat about a non-work related topic, having a good stretch, taking a few minutes to declutter your desk, and (of course) actually taking and using your lunch break.

If you are able to, use your breaks to meditate, do a mindfulness task, or nap. Or, you could even combine them. I was recently put onto the practice of yoga nidra (thanks, Julie), which is a kind of highly relaxing sleep meditation. You can do it in 15 minutes during the day and feel revitalised afterwards, or do it at night for a deep, restful sleep.

Look at the statements at the beginning again. How many of them really make sense, or make your life, and the life of those around you better? Isn’t it about time you stopped being addicted to being busy and started using your time more effectively, so you can get stuff done and still have time to enjoy life, look after yourself or be with those you love?