How to Overcome Being Busy and Become More Productive

We are all busy with our lives, but are we being productive?  Being busy and productivity do not go hand and hand. I have spent a lot of time looking industrious but didn’t necessarily accomplish much. We occupy our time with our electronic devices checking social media, watching television, weekly errands, social engagements, especially if we have kids in our lives. However, we may be using these types of activities as an excuse as to why we don’t accomplish more then we could do each week. Or, maybe we are staying busy so we don’t have to deal with a situation that is upsetting or difficult.


Distraction is one of the many tools that the ego uses to keep our focus on something it doesn’t want to deal with. It will even use those things that are admirable, like volunteering for a good cause, to make you feel better about not working on those things that you know you need to for your own self-care. This is what I did for about a decade before I realized what I was doing.


Being busy does not always mean real work. The object of all work is production or accomplishment and to either of these ends there must be forethought, system, planning, intelligence, and honest purpose, as well as perspiration. Seeming to do is not doing. ~ Thomas A. Edison


Too much volunteering


My son wanted to join the Cub Scouts which I thought would be a great place for him to make friends and learn some new skills. We joined Cub Scout Pack 673, the same group that my husband, Phillip, participated in when he was a little boy. I became a Den Leader, and soon Phillip became the Cub Master and I was the Committee Chairperson. Within one year we were busy running the pack.


Phillip and I took the struggling Pack of about 25 boys and grew it to over 250 boys in 3 years. I filled the calendar with fun events for the boys to participate in including the summer when most Packs didn’t meet. I worked on getting the boys into the local newspaper each month showing how much fun it was to be a Cub Scout.


The following year, I was asked to be the Day Camp Director. This entailed running a 3-day camp for about 120 elementary-aged boys, on a tiny budget of less than $7 per boy. They needed activities, supplies, volunteer leaders, and special events for this minuscule amount of money. The first year I had 200 boys. By my last year, I had grown the program to over 400 boys and the day camp was actually making a profit. I was very busy.


It is not enough to be busy. So are the ants. The question is: What are we busy about? ~ Henry David Thoreau

Workaholism isn’t a healthy form of productivity


To say the least, I was a very busy stay-at-home mom with normal life, plus all this Scouting business I volunteered for. Staying busy is also known as being a workaholic; the compulsive need to work for long hours. Staying physically or mentally busy keeps the mind from dealing with the underlying issues that cause you pain. 


Reading into the wee hours of the morning, so you don’t have to go to sleep, because when you try your mind goes to that fearful place. Or, you schedule too many classes, so that you have no time to spend with your friends due to the amount of homework you have to do. Although keeping busy can help you for a period of time, you will have to come face to face with the pain; it’s the only way to overcome it.


Workaholics try to free up time, to work more. They never realize how many hours they actually work. Working seems to reduce the feelings of anxiety/depression and helplessness. When you can’t work, you get stressed. Even as a stay-at-home mother, I showed signs of workaholism. I did this to feel competent since I was trying to compensate for feeling unworthy.  


Each person's drive to overwork is unique, and doing too much numbs every workaholic's emotions differently. Sometimes overwork numbs depression, sometimes anger, sometimes envy, sometimes sexuality. Or the over worker runs herself ragged in a race for attention. ~ Arlie Russell Hochschild


Staying busy - a pattern of behavior


I spent decades staying busy. I was a full-time college student taking 18 credit hours and worked 35 hours a week at Sear & Roebuck. A full-time student was not just 2 semesters, it was all year long. I finished my Bachelor’s degree in Social Sciences in 3 years. The only breaks I had were when there were no classes scheduled. 


When I was married, within the first year I was working full time, we were building a house and I had a baby.   When my son started pre-school, I volunteered. I volunteered to co-teach a Sunday school class. I volunteered to lead Vacation Bible School (VBS) for three years. And when I do something, I don’t do it just a little- I overdo it. 


All of this was fun, productive, helpful, and beneficial for all involved, except for me. I was using all this activity, productiveness, and helpfulness to keep me from looking at myself.  My ego was using these wonderful things as distractions from dealing with the wounds of my traumatic childhood


Crazy-busy’ is a great armor; it’s a great way for numbing. What a lot of us do is that we stay so busy, and so out in front of our life, that the truth of how we’re feeling and what we really need can’t catch up with us. ~ Brené Brown


Self-Care is how we get past being busy


Research overwhelmingly supports the idea that workaholism has negative personal consequences on job performance, family life, and overall health. Yet, every day we or those we love, overdo it and suffer the consequences. So, what is the answer to being too busy and unproductive? Self-care is how we overcome being too busy and become more productive.


Self-care is everything that we consciously do that is a part of caring for our mental, emotional, and physical health. While it's a simple notion, it's something we frequently overlook. Basic self-care is vital to improving mood and reducing stress. It is about refueling ourselves so that we can continue to do those things that we are passionate about, even if it is our work, but in a healthy way. 


Beware the barrenness of a busy life. ~ Socrates


1.  Get quiet and alone


Alone time is valuable. We all need time to ourselves. Whether it’s to take in an art exhibit or just a quiet bubble bath, our alone time is vital. It helps us get quiet with ourselves and stay in touch with our souls- our authentic selves

A part of self-care is to get quiet. Meditation is a wonderful tool to help connect to the Divine and bring peace to your day. Whether it’s a full 20 minutes before you start your morning or one-minute awareness sessions five times a day where you become conscious of your breathing. Both will help you calm the inner self and reduce stress. 

Journaling every day is great self-care. This is a beneficial way to get your emotions out of your system in a safe manner. It is also a way to pray where you can track effects over time; or to work out issues, because writing it down causes the creative mind to look at it differently.


A happy life must be to a great extent a quiet life, for it is only in an atmosphere of quiet that true joy dare live. ~ Bertrand Russell



2.  Get serious about relaxing instead of being busy


This is a completely individualized concept based on what you enjoy. Maybe you play an instrument and you can play for 15 minutes a day to help you decompress. Maybe that turns into 30 minutes as you start to loosen up and enjoying the music. It could be that you love to read fantasy novels and that is your fun time each day- reading another chapter. Whatever it is, you need to do it each and every day to help keep the joy in your life.


Laugh every day. Read the funny pages or get an app that tells you a joke each day. Watch a comedy show with your family. Laughter gives you more happy endorphins that help improve your mood and decreases stress hormones. Laughter has always been a great prescription.


It's very important that we re-learn the art of resting and relaxing. Not only does it help prevent the onset of many illnesses that develop through chronic tension and worrying; it allows us to clear our minds, focus, and find creative solutions to problems. ~ Thich Nhat Hanh


3.  Use your calendar


Use your schedule to add fun to your life. Be sure to plan rest and relaxation into your week agenda. By using your datebook to make appointments for yourself it helps the mind build in timeslots for you to work less and add more life into your routine. Add to your schedule the time to read or to take a bubble bath and keep that date with yourself. 


Self-care needs to happen on a consistent basis. You need to make it a priority in your daily life. Remember, if you are ill or tired you cannot help those around you. This is why you are told to put on your own oxygen mask before assisting others. Yes, self-care is for you, but it also benefits your loved ones. The healthier you are the better you can support the other people in your life.


Scheduling downtime as part of your routine is hard but worth it, personally, even professionally. ~ Daniel Goleman


Become aware and more productive


One of the things we use as an excuse for our lack of productivity is that we are being interrupted. But the reality is that we use distractions to divert our attention instead of staying focused. We justify our inefficacy when we should be looking for solutions instead of allowing the ego to blame others for our lack of output. 


Once we are aware of our propensity to be busy and yet unproductive, we can choose to change this way of thinking and become more industrious. Yes, you need to work less hours but that doesn’t mean that you will become less productive. Here are three ways to become more productive by actually working less.


Nothing is less productive than to make more efficient what should not be done at all. ~ Peter Drucker


1.  Prioritize and Work Smarter, Not Harder


You need to make a To-Do List and then organize it so that there is a process flow. When assigning priority, consider such factors as when each task needs to be done, how long it might take, how important it might be to others, what could happen if a task is not done, and whether any task might be interrupted by the need to wait for someone else.

After prioritizing, you will need to delegate some tasks to a fellow co-worker that can learn, so you can better manage your time. It also shows management that you can deliver high-quality work during normal business hours. This also gives you the opportunity to train or mentor fellow employees in order to raise them up to take on other tasks that can be delegated in the future. The more you teach others to do, the more time you gain to focus on those tasks only you can do. This way your expertise is fully utilized to the betterment of the vision and goals you have set.  


The key is not to prioritize what's on your schedule but to schedule your priorities. ~ Stephen Covey


2.  Take Breaks


The best thing you can do for yourself is detached from your work during breaks and lunch, and stop sitting all day. Studies have shown that our brains need breaks to reenergize for us to be high performers. By giving yourself a set amount of time focusing on the project you will accomplish much more in less time than drifting from task to task. Go for a short walk or meet a friend for lunch. Getting away from your desk/office gives your brain a break, thus giving you a chance to unwind from work stress, plus it gets you moving.


Work for no more than an hour before taking a 5 to 10-minute break. All you need is a few minutes for your brain to reset, and then you can do another block of the focused work session.  During this time, you need to get up and walk around. You can use the restroom, refill your water bottle, or just breathe. Take a really deep breath and release it slowly; do it two more times. That’s all it takes to reset. This resetting is important for your brain. It allows you to recover your focus, review your task list, and reframe your thoughts before moving forward. By resetting you are allowing the brain to rest so it can work on the next task more productively.


Sometimes the body just needs to take a break, and you need to listen. ~ Christian Eriksen


3.  Balance Work and Family Life


By maintaining a good work-life balance it allows you to set limits to those areas of your life that cause stress and therefore make you less productive over time. Life is more about truly living and not just existing. We need to make conscious choices each day in how we want our lives to take shape. The best benefit of implementing self-care is better overall health.


So you need to work only the hours you are paid to be at work and no more. Make sure that you take your vacation and do something enjoyable. If you are ill then take a sick day. These are benefits that have been fought for over the years so that workers can have a decent quality of life. Show respect for your predecessors and appreciate their efforts.


I learned a few years ago that balance is the key to a happy and successful life, and a huge part of achieving that balance is to instill rituals into your everyday life - a nutritious balanced diet, daily exercise, time for yourself through meditation, reading, journaling, yoga, daily reflection, and setting goals. ~ Gretchen Bleiler


Moving Forward


There is a lot of scientific data stating the multi-tasking is a myth. Yet we still hold on to the idea as a way to claim that we can accomplish more. Instead, we need to learn to focus our minds on one task, complete it, and take a break to reset our brains. Now we can move on to the next item on our task list. This is the proven method to become less busy and more productive. 


As you realize the lack of productivity due to your busy behavior and become conscious about your mindset, you can alter the course of your life. If you would like to receive more enlightening articles right into your email fill this out now.

Do you need help becoming aware of your own mindset? Do you need support in organizing your priorities to stay in charge of your life? If so please contact me and we can put together an action plan for you to be authentically you and for you to know that you are enough.

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