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November 16, 2015

Two Types of Busy

I’ve read a lot about the perils of busy.

In our culture, it seems that everyone is “busy.”

Even I am busy. Yes, even Ms. Real Self-Care has a lot going on. Friends, family, writing, work, tending my house, cooking, meetings, emails, phone calls, even epic plans for play. I have a pretty full plate these days. 

I’m betting you do, too. But before you get all down on yourself for falling into a “busy trap,” here’s what I want you to know:

Not all busy is created equal.

There’s awesome busy and crappy busy. I’ll break down the difference:

What awesome busy looks like:

Yep, I’m busy, but delightfully so. It’s the kind that feels good: a particular hustle and bustle that means that I’m living fully into my life. The kind that leaves me happily sleepy at the end of the day. It’s a good balance of challenging activities, productive and generative work, and time with friends and family.

My days are full. I’m joyful at what’s on my plate. I’m making plans and doing what I say I’ll do. This busy feels in integrity with what I want my life to look like.

What crappy busy looks like:

The not-so-wonderful busy. The kind that evokes anxiety or dread. This type leaves you feeling depleted, wiped out, or even sick. This form never leaves enough room for a breather. It means breakneck, rather than brisk.

It means our days are full of things we didn’t really want to do in the first place. It’s full of “should” and “have to” rather than want or choose. It means shame for never doing enough or not being happy enough in doing what we wanted. It often means not having the space to do what we’ve committed to well.

Often, we can confuse the two types of busy.

I’m declaring an end to this crappy kind of busy in my life. It doesn’t serve me, and I’m betting it doesn’t serve you. It’s not the kind of busy that leaves you feeling inspired or accomplished, but simply hollow.

What I’m interested in is how we can tease out when one type of busy is becoming the other kind of busy. What is it that tips the scales?

I have some thoughts:

    • The good kind arises from choices where we’re following our passions, our purpose, our love. The other kind comes from choices where we’re following the “shoulds” of those around us.

    • The good kind is a result of inspiration and generosity. The other kind comes from guilt, shame or anger.

  • The good kind plays to your strengths. The other kind sets you up for failure.

This is just a sampling of the differences between the two. It can be decidedly hard to tell the difference sometimes, but start to notice. How do you feel? What does your heart say? Where are your commitments coming from? These days, expectations are high and time is short. It’s even more difficult than usual to say no.

But this is your life.

Here are four steps to make your busy better:

  • Notice which kind you’re experiencing.
  • Give yourself a bit of a breather – a few moments of quiet and spaciousness to integrate and evaluate.
  • Offer yourself a few moments of self-care – a walk around the block, a cup of tea, deep breaths
  • Ask yourself these questions: What would feel good in this particular moment? What would it take to break the cycle of busy, at least for a day? What can you take off your to do list right now?

It’s possible to break the cycle – and it’s also possible to make what’s on your plate more joyful.

P.S. Demystify Self-Care (and get a self-care strategy) and How to reduce overwhelm (for good)

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