"Gosh, you are so busy!” is a statement I often hear from people. It’s an assumption people make based upon how I design my time and what I say YES and NO to. (It's often then followed up by them telling me some form of how busy they are, and that they wish they weren't, and how hard it is that we're all busy, and down the "busy spiral" the convo will go -- IF I let myself get hooked into their busy....)
The truth is, sometimes my NO is not because I am "busy" or have other plans, it’s because I know what kind of space and time I need to reboot and take care of myself. Not being busy is a form of self-care for me (mental, emotional, and physical). It makes me way better at my job and what I do say YES to. And it makes me more enjoyable as a human being to be around. (Except for possibly those who may not love my NOs or boundaries around busy which can happen.) It's okay... after a lifetime of experimenting with this, I've learned again and again that being intentional about my time and energy keeps me more present, clear, and well, makes me better for me, and ultimately makes me way better for those I love and lead.
I can remember the "thrill" of busy; rushing, being booked tight, moving fast, zoom zoom zoom, back-to-back, skipping personal needs, missing moments of connection. An adrenaline thrill that would ultimately often land me on the couch and recovering for the weekend, also later realizing that I'd missed some gold in being fully present with people. Years ago when my kids were younger (it was 2008, my daughter was 3), I said goodbye to my kids, jumped in the car for a client meeting, got to the site, and I as parked (while future jumping into the day and the agenda), realized I didn't remember what my kids had talked about at "breakfast." I'd really not been present with my kids. This wasn't new, but it hit me differently feeling it. And I can remember a little voice inside me say, "Anese, if you're not present for your life and your kids, what's the point of all this? Really?"
I was in Chicago, and in that parking garage, a new relationship with my busy started to form.
Here's what I've learned... I don’t enjoy being busy. I don’t get energy from it. I’m not my best for others when I’m in it. I don’t enjoy listening to busy brags. And I don’t need to be busy to boost my value. While busy can be a “badge of honor” in today’s culture and people often feel more valuable for their relentless busy-mess, I actually believe and see that it has the opposite effect (and worse). I also see that people don't often even think about this topic as busy has just become a bad habit -- "I'm busy" is the new "I'm fine."
Busy doesn’t make us more valuable or powerful, it makes us more tired, less present, less well, and often with a lot of messes to clean up from unintended impact when we’re moving fast (which, btw, only creates more busy-ness and to-dos).
Busy often leaves us rushed, depleted, diluted, resentful, sloppy, and not as solid for others.
So it’s worth taking a minute.
Are you being intentional with your time and energy, or just caught up in the vortex of busy? How has "busy" become a default habit? What IS your relationship with "busy"? (This may be the first time you're considering this. Great. Give it space.)
As to my story above, that really got kicked off for me in that parking garage in 2008, I’ve worked on my relationship with this word for years. I’ve given talks about the “energy of busy” (here's a video of a longer talk at Inc.'s Women's Summit), I’ve written about it (several articles on this blog - search "busy"), I’ve helped organizations address it (and clean up the messes that go with it), and I’ve coached others to change their relationship to it as well. No one ever complains about shifting their relationship with busy and becoming more intentional and present with their time and energy.
Busy begets more busy. Period.
Pausing and presence is the antidote to busy.
And taking a pause to be intentional about how we spend our time and energy can eliminate it.
It’s a daily practice of awareness and intention.
Here are 5 things that help me dance with "busy" and how to manage it:
1) I pay exquisite attention to how my body and energy feel and what my intuition tells me about opportunities, asks, people, and conversations. And then I honor those senses. #gold
2) I have criteria for my YESes in case I get stuck and can’t decide. (I have 7 criteria for a full-body yes. If the decision doesn't meet the full 7, there is a minimum of 5 out of 7 required, and those missing two need to have a solid counterpoint for not being there.)
3) I say NO to a lot -- more than I say YES now. This helps my YESes mean more, hold integrity, and have energy.
4) I treasure my well-being and clarity, so I often say NO to late nights out, drinks, watching lots of TV, non-present conversations, and spending my time where it doesn’t feel aligned.
5) I work my I.E.P.* And use the IEP Method® daily.
This all works, it all falls apart, it changes, it’s a constant dance. It’s taken me years to find what’s true for me; where my energy contracts and expands, the cost of saying “yes” when my system says “no,” doing things that I know will take me off path, and doing things because I don’t want to let someone down.
After really leaning into this for years, I now find myself super grateful for the energy of busy (and even overwhelm) when it shows up because when I feel it, I know it is an invitation to pause, breathe, reassess, and check my truth. And still, navigating my "busy" is a daily practice of awareness and intention. #workinprogressalways
How about you? How’s your busy?
*IEP is your Intentional Energetic Presence which is created by the quality of your Intentions + Energy + Presence. There is an entire methodology to optimize IEP. You can learn more on this site.