How to Cut Out the “Busy” and Start Living

"Busy, but good." It's often our go-to answer to that "How was your weekend?" question posed on Monday mornings.

Is busy what you want to be? Or would you rather be able to reply with words like productive and fulfilling?  If you want to feel like you're getting the most out of life, stop glorifying being busy, and begin moving toward what you want. 

A quick Google search reveals that the opposite of busy is lazy, idle, unemployed, unengaged. You're probably not aiming for the opposite of busy. How do you find that sweet spot between endless activities and doing nothing all day? Begin by identifying four positive life descriptions and then follow the steps to change the habit of being busy. 

A FULL Life

Full is different than busy. Full means you’re getting to do all the things you choose to prioritize without all the unnecessary steps. A great example is keeping social media closed on your desktop while trying to complete work.  “Focus on being productive rather than busy,” says Tim Ferriss, author of The Four Hour Work Week.

A PRESENT Life

A present life is a balance of good friends, great mentors, new challenges, ideas, adventures, and hobbies. It's a life where you spend time with people who help you challenge yourself and from whom you get support, enthusiasm, and ideas.

The multi-tasking of a busy life means you're rarely present or available for this. When we watch our children in a school play, we are simultaneously posting pictures on Facebook and checking work email. Couples on a first date are often looking at their phones rather than at each other. Eye contact and intentional listening seems to be a thing of the past.

Practice being present. A present person knows what they're doing, why they're doing it, and how they're feeling at all times.

A Life That Makes Time for SELF-CARE

When we glorify busy, we sometimes give ourselves permission to stop taking care of ourselves. We no longer have time for haircuts, exercise, to eat a well-balanced diet, or to rest, and play. When we short-change our self-care, it's like wearing a sign that says “I don’t matter” for all the world to see.

A Life Where You Make a DIFFERENCE

Busy people feel there's no time to change the world. If you slow down, you can see how simple it is to make a difference through a smile, a meaningful interaction, or a heart-felt thank you. The story of the man throwing starfish into the ocean really speaks to this:

A young man is walking along the ocean and sees a beach on which thousands and thousands of starfish have washed ashore. Further along he sees an old man, walking slowly and stooping often, picking up one starfish after another and tossing each one gently into the ocean. “Why are you throwing starfish into the ocean?” he asks. “Because the sun is up and the tide is going out and if I don’t throw them further in they will die.” “But, old man, don’t you realize there are miles and miles of beach and starfish all along it! You can’t possibly save them all, you can’t even save one-tenth of them. In fact, even if you work all day, your efforts won’t make any difference at all.” The old man listened calmly and then bent down to pick up another starfish and threw it into the sea. “It made a difference to that one."

How Do I Change a Habit of Busy?

As with any habit, in order to change it, there are steps to follow:

  1. Recognize what the pattern is that you want to change (in this case calling life busy or glorifying busy).
  2. Decide what new pattern will serve you. Pick one from above or dream up your own alternative.
  3. Start acting in the new way and continue to choose the new way you want to live life. This can be as simple as stopping yourself from the standard "busy, but good" reply or as ambitious as charting out how you plan to spend your weekends.

Changing your habit of busy will take some time and commitment. Once you’ve made the switch your life will be fuller and more satisfying, not just busy.

 

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About the Author

Tamara Lechner

Certified Instructor: Meditation
Tamara Lechner is a happiness expert and Chopra-Certified Primordial Sound Meditation Instructor. Her mission is to be so happy that those around her cannot help but step into her light. She enjoys writing, speaking, and teaching about proactive science-based wellness including positive psychology, mindfulness, and resilience. In 2018, she launched Positive Minds International with a goal of changing the way business, schools, and individuals create life satisfaction. Her deep belief is that...Read more