I know a lot of frazzled people and since I am one, it stands out pretty clearly that it’s a growing trend. So many of us are “too busy” to sleep, eat properly, exercise, spend time with family or friends, or even take a few minutes to breathe in silence each day.
Scientists are now referring to this as busy life syndrome.
The current mentality is to keep going until you drop. And you are (dropping, that is).
On one hand, I understand when there is more to be done than the hours available. I’m guilty of over-scheduling or taking on too much myself. On the other hand, I also know that life is way too short and after decades of marriage, raising kids, and being a raging workaholic…I see the value of slowing down to appreciate it.Are too busy to sleep, eat, exercise, or spend time with loved ones? Could be #BusyLifeSyndromeClick To Tweet
Is Busy Life Syndrome Curable?
You hold the keys to regaining control of your life, lowering your “scheduled” hours, and gaining some much-needed hours to yourself for whatever relaxation you prefer.
First, you must determine if you’re truly as busy as you think you are.
It could be (perhaps) you’re not managing your time well. It happens to the best of us! There are days I’m going 90mph only to realize I’ve wasted time on “busy work” that honestly didn’t need my attention at that moment.
It’s important to see the big picture of your life and be honest with yourself.
Do you get distracted while doing a project? What distracts you? How can you minimize the temptation so you can get that job done in half the time?
According to polls, three main villains make up most distractions for average people in both the traditional workplace or working from your home. Email, text messages, and social media during business hours are estimated by experts to waste about 60 hours per month (and that’s considered a conservative estimate).Email, texts, and social media during business hours are estimated to waste 60 hours per month!Click To Tweet
This translates to billions of dollars in lost production not to mention scrambling in your remaining time to make up for time essentially wasted. That’s bad news for large corporations and even worse news for those of us who are self-employed.
Tips to lower workplace distractions are pretty simple once you get used to them and stop shaking from the withdrawal of not picking up your phone every couple of minutes.
1. Access your email 3 times per day only (morning, noon, end of day). This ensures you’re not missing time-sensitive emails but otherwise keeps email (a virtual time suck) from doing what it does best: forcing you to work to other people’s schedules or demands.
2. Silence your cell phone notifications when you have things to do. Most smart phones come with “do not disturb” options that you can set during meetings, while trying to focus, to get some sleep, and so forth. There was a time in the not-so-distant past when we didn’t have non-stop access to people, games, and information. While I love my cell phone, I recognize that it’s had some serious repercussions on my time management.
3. Stop checking social media. I know this one isn’t easy. However, if you cage this single wild animal during your work day and while you’re home, you’re going to gain back all that time you’ve grown accustomed to going without since Facebook, Twitter, and Snap Chat hit the scene. The reality is that social media has trained us…you get a notification and you are compelled to check it instantly.
Much like texting and driving, these interruptions to your day that happen (on average) every 1-3 minutes are not life or death. It can wait!
Second, understand what makes it on your list of things to do.
Should everything on your to-do list actually be on it? In regards to business, what needs to be done daily without leaving you feeling as if you can’t stop long enough to breathe? Are you creating your own busy life syndrome unnecessarily?
If you work for someone else, I assume you have assigned tasks to complete. If you work in a louder cubicle-style environment, staying focused can be especially difficult.
Working for yourself, the stakes to make the best use of your time are even higher. Every moment counts. A task list that’s lean keeps your concentration on things that make you money or bring you more clients or help you earn more immediate revenue.
It’s easy to get sidetracked with things like designing a new logo or checking out new software but those can cause you to lose hours of productivity (when you likely have more pressing things to do). If you find yourself slipping down the rabbit hole of diversion, pull yourself back. You can add these tasks to your list to circle back to later.
Tips to maintain your productivity are easy to implement with a little practice. It’s all about recognizing your weaknesses and planning around them. For instance, I have a major issue with passing cars or people that I see through my home office windows.
1. Set up your work space to avoid as much interference as possible. Feeling that you’re in a comfortable and productive space is important for every working person. Limiting noise, visual interruptions, and social visits with co-workers is critical to getting things done so you’re not working under pressure as time runs out.
2. Use a timer to get things done! This is an old-fashioned method of time management but you’d be amazed how well it works. For instance, if you have a project due by 5pm, work in 2-hour increments. Those between times are when you take a break, stretch, get something to drink, use the restroom, etcetera. You might as well sync it with checking your email and your phone.
3. Evaluate your to-do list for “fluff” that isn’t priority. It’s important to set aside time during non-crunch hours to let your mind wander over business ideas, new software, new media platforms, or even your company logo…but don’t let them derail you when you have deadlines. Work now, play later. The same motto since we were kids.
Work now, play later. #DoWork #MotivationClick To Tweet
Third, you need an escape strategy.
I’m not telling you to quit your job and move to the woods to eat berries but you have to back your way out of being too busy to live. That takes planning. This is true in business and personal life hours.
1. Know your goals. If you work for yourself, you need to have a clear plan to get things done in a specific sequence with specific results. Having clearly defined goals is the key to success. If you give yourself freedom to run wild in any situation, the human mind will absolutely take you up on the offer. If you aren’t sure where you’re going, you might just be wasting gas.
2. Understand your reason for over-filling your life. Something only you can answer is, “Am I pretending to be too busy because I don’t want to interact with others, do this event, or be involved in this venture?” Too often, we beat ourselves into a frenzy to avoid hard choices in our own lives.
If you’re working sixteen-hour days, it leaves little room to deal with a shaky marriage, annoying roommate, small children, aging parents, or any number of difficult issues. It’s a passive-aggressive attempt to insulate from tough situations.
3. Know that being too busy is bad for your health. Several studies have been conducted to study busy life syndrome. Stanford University found that people who described themselves as “too busy” were pretty miserable. They allocated their time on things that didn’t make them happy and didn’t improve their lives.
You might have noticed that we’re not doing so well on the health front over the last four decades. Obesity, diabetes, depression, substance abuse, heart disease, neurodegenerative diseases, cancer, autoimmune diseases, and so much more are suddenly considered epidemics.
We’re losing sight of what matters most in pursuit of…what? Every moment is filled, every day is scheduled, and we’re stressed out beyond all common sense.
What can you do (right now) to stop this vicious cycle? As a person who anyone would diagnose as a sufferer of busy life syndrome, this was personal to me.
Shayne’s Tips for Slowing Down (and Still Getting Stuff Done)
- Know what really needs to be done. At the beginning of each day, make a list of three “critical” tasks that must be done and three “runner-up” tasks that you’ll do if you have additional time. Anything that gets dropped in your lap goes after your critical tasks.
- Prioritize what you want to do. Sometimes, I organize by the smallest (but important) projects to knock them out. I love crossing things off my to-do list so this motivates me.
- Protect your time boundaries. When you’re working, focus on it with everything you have and cut off attempts to throw you off track. However, when you call the day done, don’t allow work to interject on your personal time. Determine your “quitting time” and stick to it. Tomorrow is another day!
- Be organized in your space. Clear your desk, store anything you don’t constantly use, and make your workspace work for you. You don’t need to “look” busy. The more open space you have to work, the more productive (and less trapped) you’re going to feel.
- Reassess your calendar. Determine where you can shave off time for personal pursuits. Look at all your tasks with a fresh eye. You might realize you underestimated the time you needed to get something done or didn’t calculate enough. Start from scratch and take it one thing at a time.
- Stop wasting your time. We all have some weird little thing that can easily suck up four hours of your day before you realize what happened. Games, mindless television, YouTube videos, and social media has a funny way of making you zone out. I find that every few months, a social media blackout for a few days really helps recharge my brain and help me re-focus.
The big thing to remember is that being “busy” is not the same as getting things done. Busy life syndrome is counterproductive and the rampant inflammation caused by real or imagined stresses has a physical manifestation and chips away at your health one day at a time.
Lack of sleep, exercise, and adequate nutrition are three primary needs we’re going without to try and get more things done. The cycle has to stop because it’s broken.
All we’re doing is working against ourselves and what we want. Making things so much harder than they have to be (and they’re plenty hard enough already).
It’s time to take the control of your days (and hours and minutes). That starts with learning what it is you really want to accomplish and then creating a real plan to get there. Meeting your goals while still giving yourself room for an actual life and better health and remembering to love yourself enough to breathe.
Otherwise, what’s the point?
Shayne McClendon is an author and positivity practitioner. Shayne believes love crosses all boundaries, social castes, races, genders, and belief systems. If you are lucky enough to find soul-deep love, you should fight for it. Life-certified, reader approved.