With the holidays here, I realize overplayed Christmas songs are competing with another chorus – the incessant, “I’m so busy,” jingle.
We tend to lament the fact that we are busy, particularly this time of year. Many of us face stacks of tasks, leading us to complain about being "so busy" even when doing fun things--like grabbing coffee with a friend.
Plus, anxiously ruminating on your busyness is no fuel for productivity.
The term ‘busy’ often connotes drudgery and speed---flitting about from one requisite task to the next. I admit I often struggle with bemoaning busyness. However, I've decided one of my goals this coming year will be to replace busyness with completeness. Instead of saying “I’m too busy,” I hope to explain warmly to others (and to myself) that, “My day is full.”
After all, to live a full, rich life, we need to be busy; we all need activities or we’d be vulnerable to feeling sad and bored. Relaxing isn’t all that relaxing after awhile.
To feel less busy, yet more satiated, consider the following:
1. What do you truly value?
To feel “full” we need to align our day-to-day choices with our values. Spending your time on a routine that doesn’t really matter to you can be miserable. However, when we pursue what matters, even a habitual task may feel meaningful. For example, cooking dinner may feel more invigorating when we remember we are prioritizing our health or giving to loved ones. A banal task at work may fee less cumbersome when we remind ourselves we value conscientiousness.
We need to notice when busyness happens and we miss fullness. Perhaps intellectual growth is very important to you, but you find yourself rarely setting aside time to read or attend lectures. Similarly, while so many of us believe we value family and friends over all else, I suspect many of us would find we allocate very little of our time and energy to nurturing these relationships.
Only by confronting these discrepancies can we hope to recalibrate how we devote our energies. Therein lies the holy grail of time management--syncing what we care about with how we fill our time and budget our emotional and physical resources.
2. Are you effective?
You just got to the office on a Monday morning and you have messages to respond to and assignments to produce. Do you really need to immerse yourself in an online shopping marathon to warm up and start your day? We are susceptible to complain about busyness when time spent being "busy" feels wasted.
3. Can you live in the moment?
If your iPhone is chirping with work messages while you're running on the treadmill, you likely will neither feel engaged in your exercise nor efficient at work. As you zoom down the cereal aisle, phone to your ear, do you notice your favorite song playing on the radio or your toddler trying to tell you a knock-knock joke? Are you present enough to find joy in moments, or do days run together in a flurry of to-do lists?
Life can, and does, demand much of us, but being present during even the smallest, most mundane tasks can help us feel like we are "in" our lives, experiencing them, rather than just getting through the hectic day.
4. Do you set reasonable expectations?
Taking on too much can make you want to crawl under the covers. Be realistic about what you can manage. Also, manage your emotional expectations. It may very well be that buying groceries or paying bills will never ignite the soul, no matter how mindfully we choose our Cheerios. But knowing that such tasks are mere blips in an otherwise intentional and meaningful life could mean the difference between harried and happy.
Wishing you a year of fullness!
Jennifer Taitz is a licensed clinical psychologist based in New York City. She is the author of End Emotional Eating: Using Dialectical Behavior Therapy Skills to Cope with Difficult Emotions and Develop Healthy Relationship to Food. Visit her website drjennytaitz.com or find her on Facebook and Twitter to learn more.