Why It’s Time to Move On from the “Too Busy” Mantra

Does it seem to you that the vast proportion of the population is currently suffering from the condition of “Too Busy”? Worse than a dose of the ‘flu, the “Too Busy” infection is leading to a multitude of problems at work, resulting in more stress and burnout, poorer attention, more miscommunication and misinterpretation, a greater sense of time poverty and increased risk of mental mood disorders such as anxiety and depression.

And the contagion isn’t just limited to the work environment. 

Have you ever been told by your kids they’re too busy to talk to you because they’re playing ‘Fortnite’ with their friends, or had your partner forget it was ‘date night” because they were watching an online video for their course they’re studying for? When Rover is “too busy” to detach himself from playing with his ball to accompany you for a walk, you know you’ve got a major “too busy” contamination problem.

Busy is the new norm. So, let’s get over it and stop using it as an excuse to justify what we’re not doing, we’re trying to avoid, or have no interest in what we’re being asked to do.

As a lifestyle practitioner I see this all the time when told by a client they are too busy to implement the healthy lifestyle choices of doing more exercise, making the healthier food choices or getting to bed at a reasonable time, even though intuitively they know it could make a huge difference to their level of energy, mental clarity and happiness.

The saying is “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” and yet we often seek to rationalise or justify why NOT, then step up to changing our behaviours to get a better outcome.

Are you stuck in your bubble of “too busy”?

It’s time to change our language

Busy is just a euphemism, so what are you really trying to say when you’re telling someone “I ‘m soooooo busy”?

Busy doing what?

Avoiding taking on more work

Just focusing on surviving/getting through one more day

Practising your daily catch up

Putting out spot fires

Dealing with stuff we don’t really care about

Getting caught up in other people’s “stuff”

Spending time on our social media

Managing the expectations of others

Working too hard to demonstrate our commitment and that we are doing important stuff

Challenging those thought patterns and our choice of language is the first step to greater self-awareness and self-acceptance.

What we’re often saying is “I’m working hard.”

When you’re working hard you’re focused, doing the work and getting stuff done, which all sounds highly positive and motivating. How much more energising does that feel than being so busy?

What if you try a different response next time “I’m so busy” tries next time to pop out of your mouth.

“Great, thank you, doing really well and working hard.”

Response and Responsibility

Busy is the go-to knee jerk reaction if you are perilously close to drowning at work.

The last thing you want right now is for another interruption or yet A.N.Other task to be dumped unceremoniously on your desk without even the courtesy note of a “pretty please”.

Taking responsibility for our own level of busy is about putting in place your boundaries of acceptable inputs from elsewhere.

Meaning it’s time to challenge the dumper and ask (courteously of course) how urgent this new thing really is because you’re currently working on Y with a deadline of X and while you’re delighted to help you need their help to ascertain which is the more important of the two.

Taking pride in the quality of your work means having the autonomy to always deliver your best. Sometimes this requires re-educating others you work with, so everyone understands the ground rules and agrees to abide by the rules of the game. 

I’m not saying this is always easy, especially if the challenger is your boss, but isn’t is better to speak up rather than suffering in silence?

Use busy for the good.

Being busy enough drives motivation and performance. Have you noticed how much more energy it takes to work on something you’re not interested in, you find boring or provides little meaning? Having enough to do, that is a challenge and that you see as valuable and worthwhile makes it feel less like work and more fun. Now being busy feels great!

The point here is to check in to see where you can free yourself up from unnecessary work, to lighten your busy load and stay focused on what really warrants your attention and expertise.

Work the way your brain knows best

Get intentional, starting off by prioritising your top three tasks for the day and park the rest. Cluttering up your mind with a massive to-do list automatically adds to your mental load that drains your cognitive stamina and aggravates your emotions leading to greater frustration, aggravation and irritation which are definitely not your most helpful “let’s keep everything cool, calm and collected” work companions.

Stay present.

Uncoupling from the shackles of busy keeps you in the present moment to be more mindful of what’s happening now in your environment, how you feel and what’s going on for others. 

Adopting a mindful approach to work fewer hours, to take more breaks across the day and take time to tune in with others calms the mind and paradoxically makes you more productive (and happier too).

Being mindful is the practice of noticing, to look up and see. Whether a formal meditation practice or informal act of deeply engaging in how you show up, interact and connect with others can greatly alleviate the stress of busyness.

Value the freedom of only doing one thing at a time. 

Simon Sinek summarised it beautifully when he said, “multitasking is a great way of doing a lot of things badly.”

Think of a time when you were engrossed in an activity that gave you enormous pleasure – a special meal you prepared to celebrate a special event, time spent creating artwork, or when you were engrossed in a really good book. What else were you doing at the same time?

Hopefully, nothing, because you were lost in the one thing that gave you joy. Giving yourself permission to just be, fully engaged, focused and enjoying yourself lights up your brain’s reward centre liberating more dopamine to elevate your mood, sense of achievement and happiness.

Stay human, not a machine.

Many of our devices free us up to have more time – thank goodness for dishwashers, washing machines and microwave ovens. Rather than filling every nook and cranny of your time with more ‘stuff,’ it’s time to delegate more of that unnecessary work to our machines, or to others who have the appropriate skill sets and services to make your life a bit less busy. 

Is it time you hired a cleaner, a VA or arranged home delivery of your groceries?

Indulge in a little self-care.

Self-care is never selfish because it enables you to be the best version of yourself. Every athlete knows they’ll run a better race when they’ve had sufficient time off for rest and recovery which means taking time out for a massage, getting your hair done or booking a session with your personal trainer is a huge boost to your health and wellbeing, so why not make it a regular appointment in your calendar?

Too busy? Of course not.

This is life as we know it, so let’s embrace it and use busy to our advantage so you get to live life to the fullest.


Jenny Brockis

Dr. Jenny Brockis is passionate about all things “brain”. She helps businesses and individuals develop and benefit from a brain friendly work culture. As a Medical Practitioner and author of 3 books, Jenny can show you how to improve your mental flexibility and agility necessary to thrive in our increasingly complex world.

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