I used to believe that I could thrive on being busy. Powering through to do lists made me feel energised and productive.
I also loved being in demand. Let’s be honest, it feels good. It makes us feel we’re doing worthwhile things. And of course, we all need to make a living.
Being busy gives me more energy
To a degree, being busy really is energising. It stimulates the dopamine-fed drive system, and can create adrenaline and cortisol, which in reasonable amounts isn’t a bad thing.
But we’re not meant to have the drive and threat systems switched up to max all the time. They’re supposed to be balanced out with rest and relaxation (and oxytocin and serotonin)
The problem with constant busyness
Apart from the physical side effects of always being ‘on’, the other problem with constant busyness is that we often don’t have the time or the headspace to ask ourselves if what we’re doing is a) actually what we want to be doing and b) if it’s even the best use of our time financially.
For example, imagine someone running their own small language school. They’re doing so many tasks to run the school that they don’t ever seem to find time to do any marketing. The school gets new students through word of mouth, but it always feels like they might be just a few steps away from it all crashing down.
In this case the busyness actually means that they’re not really in control of their life or their business. Which is super stressful, and definitely not a way to thrive.
The same applies if you’re a writer or editor taking every job that you’re asked to do. You aren’t in the driving seat. You never seem to have time to really think through what kind of jobs you enjoy most, and which pay the best, and seek them out. Or to raise your profile so you are approached to do these kinds of jobs.
Step back and see the bigger picture
When we’re busy running around putting out fires and rushing from one task to the next it raises our stress levels and stress hormones, and this actually leads to the more creative, bigger picture parts of our brain shutting down. In an emergency we don’t need to see the bigger picture, we just need to run, or fight. There is even research which has found that we lose 13 IQ points under too much stress.
This is why we can so often get to the end of the day and find that we don’t seem to have achieved anything of value.
So, even when you’re busy, in fact ESPECIALLY when you’re busy, it’s actually more important to take time to step back and get some perspective.
This might be about taking time out, even if it’s only 20 minutes, to meditate, go for a walk, or even just breathe.
It’s also about recognising the value of taking time to strategise and plan, reflect and learn, rather than burying your head in the sand and soldiering on- to mix a couple of metaphors. That way you really can thrive on being busy, and use that energy productively and in a balanced way.
If you run your own business and want to step back from what you’re currently doing, learn some new skills, and look at things from a different angle, all within a supportive group of peers, the Switch off Stress, Switch on Success 12 week group programme might be just what you need.