25 May 2021

How to Turn Your Busyness Into Productivity and Happiness

When someone asks you “how are you?”, what’s your immediate answer?

I’m going to take a wild guess and say that your answer is at least related to “busy”.

Yes, you have a successful career and busyness comes with the package, doesn’t it? Your hard work has led you to where you are today, and you’re not afraid to own it.

But… What if this busyness becomes too much of a habit? What if you find yourself choosing work over your personal life too often? What if you feel busy, but you don’t seem to get the important things done?

This is something worth reflecting on and in today’s blog post, I’m going to share with you how to do just that.

I’ve been there...

Not too long ago, I was proudly wearing busyness as a badge of honour. I had a successful career in corporate and my busyness was a necessary by-product of that - or so I thought. Knowing that “I made it” made me feel validated and accomplished because it meant I had met the high standards I set for myself.

My ambition was the greatest drive for my motivation to keep going, to keep working, and to advance my career even more. After all, that’s what I always wanted, right? Focusing on my work, I prioritised it over other aspects of my life that needed attention as well. My divorce was the wake-up call that showed me exactly that.

I finally found the courage to admit to myself that the career I’ve been building for 20 years didn’t always fulfil me and was often built around external validation. Sure, I loved working towards my goals, but I was also craving more freedom, more peace, more time to slow down and enjoy the present moment.

Once I decided to take control of my own life, my badge of honour became work-life integration that served my well-being whilst still achieving my goals.

The secret reasons we love to keep busy

“One of the most universal numbing strategies is what I call crazy-busy. I often say that when they start having twelve-step meetings for busy-aholics, they’ll need to rent out football stadiums. We are a culture of people who’ve bought into the idea that if we stay busy enough, the truth of our lives won’t catch up with us.”

Brené Brown

1. A sense of importance

If you’re busy, it means you have something to do or work towards. You’re active, you’re productive. Your boss and your team count on your amazing work and you thrive on that.

It makes you feel important, doesn’t it?

On top of that, your ambition is unstoppable. What’s running from one meeting to another, one appointment to another, one task to another, if not a clear sign that you’re incredibly driven?

Everyone watching you will see how motivated you are. You keep getting all kinds of things done left and right, answering calls, working on a hectic schedule. But are you getting significant things done?

2. A coping mechanism

This one is a bit tough.

Busyness can become a numbing strategy. We use it to avoid dealing with other parts of our lives that may not be working so well.

It’s a vicious circle: other parts of our lives aren’t working well because we prioritise work above all else, and we also use busyness as a distraction from that.

Here’s what I want you to understand: it’s completely normal. You love your job and you want to do it well, so you can’t have other thoughts stopping you from that.

Numbing yourself in order to keep going is a common coping mechanism, but it also means that your work will take over your entire life if you let it.

How to shift the meaning around busyness

Change the story

There are 3 layers to this, so let’s take them one by one and see how the smallest steps can take you to the life you want.

  • Time isn’t money

We’ve all heard the widely known, but outdated story that if we keep busy, it means we’re working, so we’re doing well and making money. This is the story most of us have been telling ourselves, but it’s tricky to get rid of it. Yes, hustle culture, I’m talking about you.

On some level, this is true. Working does get you paid. And if it’s been going brilliantly for you, I’m happy for you.

But what if you could work smarter rather than harder? Some days, you could actually get work done early and enjoy some quality time with yourself or your loved ones.

Here’s an idea: track your time. Use a tool like Harvest or even Spreadsheets to figure out how much time you spend on certain tasks. Perhaps you can do some of them faster or even leave them for another day.

  • Be productive, not busy

Right off the bat: busyness doesn’t mean you’re productive. I know it sounds harsh, but it’s true.

Tell me if you relate to this: you jump from meeting to meeting, deal with low-value tasks, send emails every 5 minutes, or have conversations that don’t really lead to anything, you remember that thing you had to do 2 days ago… Then, 6 P.M. comes and you realise you haven’t done any impactful work that day.

Look, it doesn’t mean you’re not doing amazing work - because you are. But being constantly busy isn’t necessarily productive. Actually, the time spent on insignificant tasks can make you less productive because you won’t have the energy for the more important ones.

Ask yourself - are you dealing with the tasks that actually move the needle? Or are you avoiding the more difficult tasks and wearing yourself out with smaller ones? Are you prioritising what matters? Are you letting yourself get distracted with things that could’ve waited?

Take a minute or two to breathe. Look around, check your to-do list for today. What’s your main goal for today or this week? Focus on that.

  • Your words matter

The way you talk to yourself can drastically change your life.

Life doesn’t happen to you. You’re in control. Change the story you tell yourself - perhaps you don’t have to be that busy after all. Perhaps you can make time for self-care, human connection, or anything that makes you feel your best.

When someone asks you about your day, try an answer that has nothing to do with work or responsibilities or anything that makes life feel stressful.

Be brave enough to feel

Humans are pretty clever, aren’t they?

We’re very good at avoiding dealing with our emotions. Working is a favourite one for this - you can keep your mind busy with what you do best instead of looking at other parts of your life that might need a bit more nurture or learning. It’s easy to numb ourselves like that.

How about we stop being clever for a quick second?

Be brave instead. Slow down, press pause. Take a deep breath and leave the work thoughts at the door. You don’t have to accomplish anything right now. For a few moments, you don’t have to be strong, successful, or ambitious. I know you love being all of that, but there’s so much more to you that makes you worthy and fabulous.

What’s going on in your life? How do you feel? Allow your emotions to flow through. Listen and tap into what you need.

Remember I mentioned above that you had to prioritise the important tasks? This time, prioritise yourself.

Many of us enjoy juggling lots of projects and keeping busy. That’s absolutely fine. Especially in senior roles, long hours are common. But more often than not, we’re standing in the way of our own freedom.

We tell this overwhelming story to ourselves that we’re constantly busy and stressed out, but miss out on the fact that we have the power to change it.

My challenge to you is to reflect on your work-life integration (not necessarily balance!). Does it truly serve you? Are you getting important things done, and enjoying life as well?

It’s easy to push off your happiness “just this time” repeatedly and wake up one morning realising that you’ve been doing it for months. Prioritise your needs, don’t wait until the weekend, the next holiday, or the finish line of your current big project.

Here’s to replacing busyness as a badge of honour with well-being, happiness, and self-awareness! This is something I support my clients with and I’m always just a message away, so please do contact me if you need support.

Do you find it difficult to let go of busyness and allow more freedom into your life? I have an exciting new offer coming very soon. Join the waitlist to be the first to hear about it and to secure exclusive discounts and bonuses (there’s no commitment when you sign up so what do you have to lose?)

Jeni Carroll

As a certified life coach, Jeni helps busy, successful women ditch overwhelm & selfdoubt & rediscover their energy, passion & freedom with proven strategies.

Ready to ditch the overwhelm and self-doubt? Start your transformation now.