I’ve always been someone who enjoys being busy. I like a packed schedule and being on the go. I crave the challenge of getting through a long to-do list. And I have a hard time sitting still because I’d rather keep moving so I can get everything done.
You might think this love of being busy has served me well as a mom. And in some ways it has. For years, I kept my house clean, my pantry organized and my family’s schedule on track. But worshiping busyness – and the high I got from getting all that stuff done – came at a cost.
When I spent all my time trying to cross the next thing off my to-do list, I didn’t stop to enjoy the present moment. I became an obsessive multitasker who couldn’t give projects or people my undivided attention. And even though I felt productive, trying to keep up with all the chores and activities also contributed to my overwhelm.
I know I’m not alone. Most moms will tell you they’re crazy busy and that they don’t know when they’ll get control of their life back. They’ll say things like "When things aren't so busy, I really want to…" or "I’d take better care of myself but I’m way too busy right now.” They’ll tell you they spend most of their time thinking, planning and preparing for the future but rarely find a minute to enjoy the present moment. And they’ll say they are overscheduled and overwhelmed but that it’s just the reality of being a mom.
But is it?
I think the real reason we stay stuck in busyness is because it’s familiar and it feels good. We think that doing more makes us better and more important. That by being more productive, we are somehow worthier of praise and respect. And though we don’t like the stress and overwhelm that accompany busyness, those emotions feel more comfortable than diving into the unknown.
The unknown forces us to ask ourselves a tough question. If we weren’t so busy being busy, who would we be?
That’s the question I asked myself when I realized busyness had become my blind spot. I didn’t know who I would be without it but I knew I needed to start paying more attention to how I spent my time. So I started noticing when I was adding tasks to my plate for the sake of staying busy. I started asking myself if something really needed to get done or if I was just creating loads of unnecessary busywork for myself. (Turns out my kids’ bookshelf did not need to be reorganized for the umpteenth time.)
I also realized I needed to start saying NO more often so I could do less better.
Sure, I felt twinges of guilt when I declined an invitation to a birthday party or said no to signing my daughter up for soccer lessons. But I quickly saw that saying no helped me find white space in the calendar for the things I really needed in my life. Suddenly there was time to sit and color with my girls, to enjoy a movie night with my husband or to take that weekly barre class I’d always wanted to try.
If you too are feeling crazy busy but don’t know how to change your habits, ask yourself these three questions.
1. Why did I buy into busyness in the first place? What feeling did I believe being busy would bring me?
2. What is it costing me to keep practicing busyness in my life?
3. Who could I be and what could I do if I wasn’t worried about staying busy all the time?
When I stopped worshiping busyness, I didn’t get as much done – and I’m still working on accepting that fact. But it's worth it because letting go of my need to be busy helped me make space for so much more. Now I have more opportunities for connection and community. I give myself the chance to practice better self-care and find some moments for quiet reflection.
And, above all, I enjoy a life filled with more laughter and more love.
P.S. If being busy has become your default in life, please join me for a free coaching session. We will talk about how you can decrease your level of busy and find the free time you want for your family, yourself and more.