Pressing Pause Podcast episode 42: What’s really going on with our busy lives
Welcome to Pressing Pause, the podcast for overthinkers.
I’m Gabrielle Treanor and I’m here to share with you ideas, inspiration and actions to empower you to spend less time overthinking and worrying and more time enjoying your life.
Hello and welcome to episode 42. Before we dive into this week’s episode I want to let you know that there’s a new way you can work with me one-to-one so that you can get ongoing support to be free from the weight of overthinking and create the life you dream of. I know that you can get stuck in your head with a million what ifs whirring around it, that you worry about what other people think of you, you get stuck making decisions, you’re so busy taking care of everyone else that your own needs get pushed to the bottom of the pile and it can feel like life is passing you by.
You want to be free from your overthinking mind, you want to feel light and energised as well as relaxed and calm, you want to feel confident in yourself, able to speak up without being scared you’ll say something wrong and you want to really feel the joy in your life. I get it, I really do, I’ve stood in your shoes. You know how you want to feel but you don’t know how to get there and that’s okay because you don’t have to figure it out alone, I’m here to give you all the help you need. Head on over to theoverthinkerscoach.com to find out how we can talk on a regular basis and how I can provide you with the support you’re looking for.
Now, onto episode 42.
If I were to bump into you in the street and ask you how you are or what you’re up to, there’s a good chance that you might respond with “So busy right now” or “I’ve got loads on at the moment”. It’s about as common a way to answer the question as saying you’re fine. It’s become the norm to say you’re busy and to respond any other way feels kinda weird. Can you imagine replying, “I’m feeling pretty calm and life’s bumping along at a relaxed pace, thanks”? Even if it were true would you feel comfortable actually saying it? Or would you worry that the other person will think you’re lazy?
Being busy has become our default. If we’re busy it means our lives are fulfilling, interesting, worthwhile, that we’re needed – doesn’t it? So what does it say about us if we’re not busy? How do we view others who aren’t as busy as us? Does an absence of busyness mean we’re lacking or falling behind, that we’re not as important or as valuable as the next person? But what, actually, is the result of being so busy all the time? What are we missing out on because we fill every waking moment?
We may truly believe that if we don’t say yes to that person, if we don’t take care of that problem, fix that issue and do 101 other things, cracks will appear in our lives and it will all come crashing down around us. If we aren’t running around doing it all everything will fall apart. And yet, when life intervenes throwing us an almighty curveball and our plans are sent right out the window the world does keep turning and, in one way or another, life carries on. The house may not be tidy, the recycling bin may be filling up with takeaway boxes and projects may be pushed back but this doesn’t mean that you’ve failed at life.
So, what makes our lives so busy? We all have responsibilities, to do with family, friends, work, our local community, that accounts for a chunk of our time but how much of our busyness are we creating ourselves? Now, your first reaction may be that of course you’re not creating the busyness, you don’t want to spend all your time being in a rush so you’re hardly going to make your life busy on purpose. But, is that entirely true?
Thanks to the marvel that is the internet and wifi and data roaming we can be connected and contactable any time of day or night and this takes up more of our time than we may realise. It’s not just work emails pinging in that we feel the need to reply to even if it’s the weekend or late evening, there’s the lure of social media too. It might feel like we just hop on our phones, have a quick scroll through Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, comment on a few WhatsApp conversations and then a last quick look at Instagram again, but this takes time. And we do it over and over and over again each day. If you were to really pay attention to how often you’re online there’s a good chance that you’re spending more of your day on a screen than you thought. And even scrolling is taking up your time, energy and brain space.
Then there’s the role that the word ‘should’ plays in creating more busyness in our lives, where we do things because we think we ought to, that we have a duty to and that we feel we should do, rather than because we really need or want to. Tending our boundaries more carefully, so that we say yes or no when that’s what we really mean, enables us to spend more time concentrating our energy on what’s really important. I talk more about the evil should word in episode 14 so do have a listen. Thinking about what you’re saying no to by saying yes to something else, and vice versa can help you to see the true value or cost of spending your time on it.
Procrastination is another way we create busyness in our lives. As I spoke about last week in episode 41 on the fear of failing, when there’s something that feels challenging we can distract ourselves with other, less important jobs while the main task is still there waiting for us. But because we’ve spent time procrastinating, we now have less time to do the thing and so feel stressed out at being too busy and not having enough time. Doing these smaller, often fragmented, tasks contributes to our feelings of not making any headway, not achieving and not getting things ticked off the to do list.
Mark Forster, author of the book Secrets of Productive People, says, “Real work is the work that progresses our goals, visions, career. Busy work is what we do to avoid real work. Another way of putting it is that real work is action, while busy work is merely activity.” So we can tell ourselves that we’re doing real work but, sometimes, is it just busy work?
And all the while we’re running about in our busy lives we have an inner monologue running through our brains, commenting on what we’re doing and how we’re feeling. This little voice may tell us that we have no time, there’s too much to do and we’ll never get it all done. This voice makes us feel more stressed and overwhelmed and makes us feel like victims in our lives, where we have no control or say over what we do. We listen to this inner voice and if we keep telling ourselves that we can’t do it all that’s what we believe and we’ll look for proof that we’re failing. Telling yourself that you have enough time or that you are capable doesn’t magically delete things from your to do list but it can change how you feel and approach what you have to do.
When our lives are so busy that it’s overwhelming it stops us from enjoying, appreciating and fully participating in our lives. If we’re stressing about going here and there, doing this and that, we’re projecting ourselves into the future and missing out on what’s happening right now, in the present. Little moments of joy found in a conversation with a friend, laughing with your child, a flower in bloom or the taste of a delicious meal, are lost because we’re too busy to notice them.
So, what can we do to be less busy and enjoy our lives more? Here are five ideas:
• Plan your downtime as well as your work time so that it doesn’t get frittered away. Think about what you want to do, who you want to see or places you want to go, that in the past you’ve told yourself you’re too busy to do, and schedule in time for that specific reason. Even if it’s time to read a book, soak in a bath or stare into space, if you schedule it it’s much more likely to happen.
• Instead of trying to get as much done as possible by working non-stop, do the opposite and take regular breaks. There’s lots of evidence to show that we’re more productive after taking a break than slogging away for hours on end. Get some fresh air, stretch your legs, have something to eat or drink and you’ll be better able to focus on the task. Try Googling the Pomodoro technique
• A few times a day pause to check if what you’re doing is real work, not busy work, and if it isn’t ask yourself why that is. You can set a reminder alarm on your phone if it helps
• Before saying yes to someone or something consider what that means you’re saying no to, and vice versa
• Create a gratitude habit, such as writing down three things you’re thankful for or that were good about your day, each night before you go to sleep. There’s solid research that shows it helps you to focus on what went right rather than wrong, and trains you to look for those small but highly valuable moments of joy each day
If you want to share your thoughts on this or any other episode please do email me firstname.lastname@example.org. And I’ve put the links I’ve mentioned in the show notes for episode 42 at gabrielletreanor.com/podcast.
Remember, if you’ve had enough of feeling stuck and trapped by your overthinking, worrying what other people think and lack of confidence in yourself, and you want my focused attention to help you feel lighter, freer and more like the you you know you really are, go to theoverthinkerscoach.com to find out how we can work together.
Thanks for listening, until next time, lovely people.