Addicted to being busy? How to wake up and take control

I have a client who is always busy. Every time I see him he tells me everything he is doing and everything he is not with an air of exasperation and resignation. As if the confident, intelligent and extremely capable person he is can doing absolutely nothing about it. A victim of his busy life. He is a Chief Exec of a very large organisation, so you might think that goes with the territory and maybe I should cut him some slack. But in my experience it doesn’t and I don’t 🙂

Whether you are in a role at the top, middle or front line of an organisation, an entrepreneur running your own business or a full-time parent looking after small children then Im betting you have caught yourself droning on to your friends, family or work colleagues about how busy you are – usually if you are anything like me, when you realise that you have dropped one of the many balls you have been juggling. A call you have forgotten to make, a commitment made and not followed through, time and attention not given to those closest to you, over reliance on junk food, a good intention to go the gym/run/swim that didn’t end up a reality because you were just so busy doing other stuff. “oh god Ive just been so busy”. Sigh. Excuse nailed.

Now apart from being a brilliant excuse for what we avoid or don’t do, being busy can become a bit of an addiction. If you are someone who just loves getting stuff done, it brings a huge sense of achievement and pride. If you are just really good at holding a lot and getting through stuff at pace, it tends to get you promoted too. For others who get busy doing a huge amount for others there is undoubtedly massive rewards to be found in giving, and in being needed.

But like anything in life, let it get out of balance and the addiction to being busy can come at a cost. One client of mine had a wake up call when he forgot his sons birthday. He had left the house early on autopilot, mind focused on all the things/meetings/emails/stuff he had to do that day and it was only a text from his wife to remind him of the party he had completely forgot that woke him up – to who and what mattered to him most. It was not long after that he made a complete change, got a fantastic job closer to home working from a company where there was no expectation to be seen to be the last one in the office.

Sometimes though the opportunities to wake up can be small and everyday. There is a YouTube video I rediscovered recently…filmed 10 years ago it shows one of the USA’s top violinists playing to commuters in a Metro. It was an experiment designed by the Washington Post to test context, perception and priorities. Could genius cut through the fog of busy-ness of thousands of people in rush hour? No is the answer, as just 7 people stopped to pause in 45 minutes.

As the writer commented:

“If we can’t take the time out of our lives to stay a moment and listen to one of the best musicians on Earth play some of the best music ever written; if the surge of modern life so overpowers us that we are deaf and blind to something like that — then what else are we missing?”

He has a point. “What is this life, if full of care, We have no time to stand and stare.”

The way out always starts with noticing……what patterns are we repeating? where is our energy? where and with whom is it not? and what it will take (sometimes this can be as simple as giving ourselves the permission or some external challenge) to pause, reflect, take back control and rebalance? And maybe, just as a little experiment this week, see what it is like to stop when beauty and brilliance is staring us in the face.

If you could do with some help rebalancing yourself or you have an experience to share on this theme please do drop me a line, I would love to hear from you.

Nic Crisp

MD Head and Heart Leadership

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