Career AdviceSelf Improvement

Getting Out of the ‘Busy’ Mindset

posted on March 27, 2019 | by Sanhita Mukherjee

Getting Out of the ‘Busy’ Mindset

Imagine you’re going about your day when you run into an old friend or an acquaintance you haven’t seen in a while. You get talking and they ask how you’ve been. You find yourself responding with a quick “Great, but super busy!”

Talking about being busy has become the new normal – so much so, that most of us do it without even realizing it. It is often our unthinking, go-to response, much like the good old “I’m fine”. In a world that values hustle and productivity, it feels almost wrong not to be busy all the time. And sure, it feels great to go to bed knowing that you’ve completed your mile-long to-do list. But do you still feel good about yourself on the days when you don’t get everything done? How about on the days when you sleep in, instead of waking with the sun? Or on the occasional Sunday you spend on your couch binge-watching Queer Eye?

If your answer is no, you might be buying too much into the busy mindset. When you let how busy you are dictate how you feel about yourself, you create unsustainable habits that may lead to burnout. Being under constant stress also creates a toxic environment for yourself and for those around you.

If you’ve been feeling the effects of this culture of busyness, but are unsure of how to break out of the cycle, try these tips.

Do not use stress as a way to bond

This is an easy habit to slip into. Someone talks about how busy they were over the weekend, and you share your own story of how much you had to do. Knowing that others are just as overwhelmed as we are, is comforting – it reassures us that we are not exceptionally bad at managing our time.

But bonding over stress has an invariable flipside – it normalizes overwork and everyone gets caught up in a busyness one-upmanship that nobody wins. So the next time someone discusses their busy schedule, empathize with them (maybe even offer to help out if you can) without sharing an equally busy story of your own.

This goes for social media too. You know the kind of posts I’m talking about – Facebook updates about pulling all-nighters or artistic photos of red-eye coffee on Instagram with captions like ‘You can sleep when you’re dead!’. Posts like these do nothing but glorify overwork and sleep deprivation, so it’s best to take them with a pinch of salt. And do be mindful of putting up such posts yourself!

Move away from shop talk at parties

Parties are a great way to meet new people and tell them about the business you just set up. And asking someone about their work is the safest ice-breaker there is. But if you find that the parties you go to are frequently becoming like mini networking events, it may be time to hit pause on the shop talk.

People usually have so much more going on in their lives outside of what they do for a living. Ask them what they did over the weekend, what are their favorite places to eat in the city or if they’ve been on a cool holiday lately. Not only will you get to know a person better, but you may also end up actually unwinding at a party if you treat it as a non-work-related event.

Do not sign up for things just to fill time

Sometimes, we get so hooked to the feeling of being busy, we end up signing up for extra things the minute we have a bit of free time. The next time you feel overwhelmed, make a list of all the things on your plate. Is there anything on that list that you volunteered for, even though it wasn’t important to you? Events that you got roped into attending because you couldn’t say no? Chores that you could have asked for help with, but preferred to do yourself?

You may be surprised by the number of things that fall into these categories. By agreeing to do them, you’re just putting pressure on yourself. You’ll be amazed at the time you have to yourself when you start saying no to these meaningless extras.

Be comfortable with doing things that are just plain fun

I was once talking to a friend, and I mentioned a new movie that I had watched over the weekend. “I wish I had time to go for movies, but I’ve been working all weekend,” he replied. Now, he was probably just venting about the stress he was under, but I immediately felt vaguely guilty – like I was somehow slacking off while others hustled even through the weekends.

With people constantly talking (and posting) about how busy they are, it’s super easy to feel like you’re wasting time when you do things that are just plain fun. But everyone deserves some time to enjoy things that have nothing to do with work or productivity – without feeling guilty about it. Pick up that twisty new bestseller, binge-watch your favorite show on Netflix or bake a decadent cake if that makes you happy.

And this takes some practice, but be unapologetic when you tell people about the fun things you did. Stay away from words like ‘light read’ or ‘guilty pleasure’, and avoid following them up with justifications (“I’ve been so stressed with that new project, I needed to watch a mindless series to unwind.”)