The Positive Energy Workplace

How to Set Boundaries When You're Busy


The energy of busy is killing us.

Yes, killing us. How's your life right now, dear reader?

Busy? Full? Crazy? Overwhelming?

You have your business, your life, your wife, your man, your kids, your friends, family, and pets, your mortgage...

It's daunting.

It's one of the biggest issues I see people bumping up against; ask almost anyone how they're doing and you're often greeted with "Busy! OMG! I'm soooo busy!" It doesn't matter if they're the CEO of an awesome company, a teacher, a designer, or a stay-at-home parent, anyone; human beings grapple with busy. "Busy" has become the new "fine," a cultural badge of honor, and a scapegoat for not getting a ton done. Busy is killing us.

I get asked almost daily how to manage busy, how to create more hours in the day, how to stop the madness.

There's a simple, really uncomplicated, immediately actionable first step. Ready?

Stop saying you're busy. Please, please, please, for the love of all that's good, stop saying you're busy.

It's that simple. Step one: Stop saying you're busy. Period.

Think about it: When's the last time you were inspired by a conversation in which the other person talked about how busy she was? When's the last time you felt energized getting into your own vortex of busy?

Busy is not inspiring, it doesn't make you more important or valuable, and it doesn't give you more time or energy or bandwidth. Despite your good intentions in braggin' busy, "busy" just makes you tired ... and busier.

Even better, if you're leading a team or organization, if you're busy, they're busy, and now you're all pooped.

Change your relationship with busy, change your language, and change your life. Ready?

Here are five ways to stop busy once and for all:

1. Tweak your language.

Years ago I realized even the word busy exhausted me. Both when I used it, and when others downloaded their busy on me, I could feel my energy drop. So I changed my language: "I'm richly scheduled." "I'm well used." "I'm on purpose." This changed my game.

2. Tweak your mindset.

Full schedule? Or major impact? I woke up one morning, checked my phone, and my heart sank. I had 15 appointments that day. Brutal. I was tired before I even got out of bed. And then I reconsidered. "Hmmm, there's an opportunity to connect with Neil, Joe, and Julie here." Ah... "Cool! I'm chaperoning my daughter's field trip there!""OMG, I get to explore XX with this client? Sweet!" And on and on. My energy shifted. My day was 1,000 times better. Consider the people and the impact of the day, and connect to purpose. Yum and done.

3. Tweak your life.

Are you seriously burning out and too busy to even grab a good meal, 10 minutes to yourself, or a quick workout? Truly, truly, truly so richly scheduled that these are non-options for you? (Feeling bitter yet?) Time to change your life. Redesign baby. Redesign. Get more support, say no, get better at prioritization and delegation, do something. You're going to have to redesign. Sorry, it's just true.

4. Tweak your story.

The first step to changing the story of busy is to identify why you tell it, and decide what story you'd like to tell instead. For example, if you hear yourself storytelling and "braggin' busy" because it makes you feel important, listen up, because that's great information--where are you feeling unseen? If you hear yourself being victim to busy, listen up--where do you need to take a stand and set more boundaries? If you hear yourself saying no to things you really want to say yes to, listen up--where do you need to prioritize? Explore your relationship with busy, decide what you'd like it to be, craft that story, and live into it.

5. Tweak your friends.

I had a student who carried the energy of busy like a badge of honor. She wasn't that busy. Nope. However, her friends had a premium value on busy--it was their social currency. It made them very important. So she'd adopted busy to fit in. For all the wrong reasons. If you feel you have to be busy to "keep up" and "stay important," reevaluate and either change your friends or model a new way of being.

Whatever your "busy," it is a choice. If you thrive on busy and this is energizing to you and those you lead, I'm leaving you alone. But if not, you get to choose how you want to relate to busy. Time to show up for yourself. Ready? Go.

// This article first appeared on January 5, 2015 on

// Image credit: Getty Images.

  • There are no suggestions because the search field is empty.
New call-to-action
New call-to-action
New call-to-action

Recent Posts