One Thing At A Time Please!

What does the word ‘busy’ mean to you?

You might be in luck if you’re ‘getting busy’…

If you’re ‘keeping busy’, maybe you feel fortunate to be occupied with meaningful activities.

If ‘busy’ has become your default response to ‘How are you?’ (usually accompanied by that stressed out smile and a sigh), then maybe it’s time to evaluate what your busy means.

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That fact that I gave up a full-time job and still find myself ‘busy’ has been a surprise to me.  My husband pointed out something the other day: “You’re just one of those people” he said (like it was obvious) “as soon as you get some free time you fill it with something else”.

“Oh” I said.  I guess I hadn’t realized that was the case – but maybe, just MAYBE, he’s right (UH-GAIN.)

 

Whilst I have a small social life, I do love NEW – learning to do new things, having new experiences, seeing new places.

As an example, I recently added a Tae Kwon Do class into my weekly schedule.  Joining the class I felt nervous and embarrassed (the white ‘dobok’ wasn’t really designed to flatter my specific body shape), but I get such a kick out of learning a new skill.  But that’s another hour or so in my week that I’m occupied with something.

So yeah, maybe it took me quitting my job to realize that some of my busy angst comes not just from the external factors that we all have to deal with (kids, home, job, friends), but from within as well.

I’m in the early stages of my journey to Getting UnBusy, but I’ve already identified one of my habits that leads to my sense of ‘busyness’, and it is….

MultiTasking

I don’t know if this is primarily a female thing, but multitasking is definitely both my super-power and my kryptonite.  I try to cram as much as I can into each unit of time I have available:

  • When I’m driving alone, I listen to learning podcasts
  • When I’m waiting on my kids at their activities, I work on planning my cycle class
  • When I’m watching TV, I look at social media and check emails, do meal-planning, write shopping lists etc.
  • When I’m working on my laptop, I have ALL THE TABS open – I respond to every notification as it comes up.  This really is my worst habit.

These are not necessarily bad things when looked at in isolation, and I will write more about sneaking in those extra windows of efficiency later.  The problem is that I tend towards multi-tasking ALL THE TIME.  When I’m doing this I’m not focused on one thing completely and thoroughly (honestly I’m doing two other things as I write this.)

This article from BigThink.com resonated with me SO MUCH, particularly this quote from Psychology Today: “when you multitask ‘successfully’, you activate the reward mechanism in your brain which releases dopamine, the happy hormone. This dopamine rush makes you feel so good that you believe you’re being effective and further encourages your multitasking habit.”

I’m addicted to multi-tasking!  But guess what – there’s a price to be paid. Unsurprisingly, the task will not be completed quite as well, and you will feel more worn out as a result of the constant attention switching (neural resources, depletion: sciencey stuff).  For me, I feel like I never get a break or wind-down very well.

Beautiful things happen when you’re mono-tasking and you’re in the zone (one of the reasons I love indoor cycling).  A good friend gave me the book ‘Flow‘ which describes that specific experience of being ‘in the zone’.  As Wikipedia defines it, Flow is “the mental state of operation in which a person performing an activity is fully immersed in a feeling of energized focus, full involvement, and enjoyment in the process of the activity”.  Exercising, be it cycling, Tae Kwon Do or busting out some burpees, is one of the few scenarios where there’s not much opportunity for me to be distracted and why working out can be so mentally refreshing.

So yes, multi-tasking can be great and often necessary, but it could be making you less efficient overall, getting you more tired out and leaving you with that feeling of being constantly busy all the time.

Here are two times this week I put aside the distractions:

  • I watched a movie at home without once looking at my phone OR working on a shopping list OR working on anything else ‘productive’
  • I didn’t take any other tasks to my daughter’s dance lesson.  I spent a whole hour playing Hangman and Tic Tac Toe with my son (extra points for going old school, we played on a piece of paper rather than on a device.)

 

Here’s my challenge for this week – if you are a constant multi-tasker like me, find one activity that you totally focus on for a period of time and nothing else.  This could be while you’re at work: shutting your email notifications off for 30 minutes so you can make progress on a task you need to complete.  This could be while you’re at home, setting aside 15 minutes to read a book.  This could be on a drive home one evening, turn off your radio or your podcast and just enjoy time with your thoughts.  It could be as simple as eating your lunch away from your desk and not doing anything else – just appreciating your food!

 

Let me know how it goes, and if you find any spots in your day where you can squeeze in some UnBusy, tell me about them!

 

 

 

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Comments (3)

I’ve recently started running again, but this time around I started listening to podcasts whilst I run. I’ve decided after a month of trying it that I don’t like it is as much, and will switch back to music again. I was able to get into this amazing state of mind with music where my only thought was either “right foot” or “left foot” (I suppose you could call it Flow — haven’t read it, so I can’t know for sure). It was amazing. The podcasts seem to keep me from that.

I encourage people at work all the time to close their email and instant messenger, turn off their phone, and focus on something for 45 minutes. I do it all the time. In fact I think I will right now.

I often listen to podcasts in the car, and it can be a great use of that time. But I’m trying to stop being productive every single minute on every single car journey – it’s good now and then to enjoy the silence, or some music that you love – just to BE.

That state you describe whilst running is pretty awesome, I think it’s almost like a form of meditation. Meanwhile I’m addicted to notifications, I’m still working on that.

Also I used ‘whilst’ both in this post and this comment – owning it and working it.

[…] from the constant To Do list in my mind, which contributes to my ‘busy’ feeling.  Minimizing the continual multi-tasking is helping, but exploring meditation seems like the next natural step to learn how to tame the […]

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