Why are we all so busy?
Is busyness making us happy? – This newsletter, like many editions of Inspire, has come out of my own experiences. However, this topic, more than many, has got me pondering about the way we live our lives in the 21st century. We have more opportunities and options both in and out of work than any other generation. Materially we are better off, many people have more than one holiday a year, more than one TV, car, etc. Yet is this a case of ‘More is Less'? Many surveys point to the fact that we are less happy and satisfied than in the past. There are higher rates of depression and mental health issues in the western world. So what is all this busyness and doing more about?
I was talking to a potential coaching client yesterday and she was saying that there is so much she wants to do and get involved in, but where is the time and energy? I was pondering whether we have lost the ability to say ‘No' or ‘Not now'. Are we driven to think we must grab every opportunity now, as we fear it might not come along again?
Are you too busy? Do you find it difficult to say no to opportunities?
Is our busyness an avoidance strategy? – Could it be that for some being busy the whole time stops them from having to face what they are really feeling: perhaps a sense of loss, disappointment, unhappiness, lack of satisfaction or joy in their lives. Perhaps it is easier to keep busy than face the reality of their lives. What happens if you stop, what do you feel? What would it be like to have a whole day or weekend with nothing planned? Would you love and revel in it, would you find it daunting or even feel lost as to what to do?
Are you keeping busy in order to avoid facing reality or your true feelings?
‘Millions of people long for immortality who do not know what to do with themselves on a rainy afternoon.' Susan Ertz
What is the link to busyness and our ego? – Now obviously for many people their busyness is about doing well at work, providing for their family, giving the best opportunities to their children, and giving back to the community in some way. But how much is it also about our ego? Is it about ‘Look at me and how much I do, aren't I amazing?'.
I say this while reflecting on myself. Yes, it is wonderful that I do a lot of voluntary work, which I do enjoy, but is there a point when it just turns into the madness of ego and the ‘look at me', versus what would be really healthy for me.
What drives your behaviour? What is behind your busyness?
‘As human beings, we're trying – sometimes with disastrous results – to run our businesses, raise our children, teach our students, be involved in relationships without giving serious and careful consideration to the roots out of which the fruits in our lives are growing.' Stephen R Covey
Busyness and families – Perhaps parents also fall into ‘I'm a good parent because I spend my weekends taking the children to football, ballet, swimming, parties'. Or even ‘I must do X, Y and Z and A, B and C for my children or else I won't be a good parent'. It seems that our parents' generation probably had an easier life in some ways as there were fewer opportunities to choose from for their children. Perhaps if a family has less opportunities to tempt them they would spend their weekends going for walks, playing games with each other, rather than each off separately doing 101 activities.
I've just run a course for parents at a school about how they support their teenagers' studies. In exploring how they interact with their children using Transactional Analysis, one of the realisations some of them had is the fact that the fun had gone out of their family life, and they wanted to add it back in. See right hand column for a new public workshop for parents.
Are you too busy as a family? Are you having fun as a family?
‘If you're too busy to laugh, you're too busy, period.' Janet Meyer
Are you constantly busy at work? – It is a fact that for many working people the pace of work has increased. Whoever said in the 1980s that computers would herald the age of leisure got it completely wrong! Email is wonderful, but it also drives people to respond quicker, make faster decisions than they would have in the past. People feel that they need to work harder and harder to keep their job and often because they are having to take on more workload because of cutbacks in staffing levels.
Speaking to one client recently she said that nobody takes lunch or team breaks any more, they just work on through at their desks. Yet all the research shows that the longer and harder we work without breaks the less productive we are. My dad would remind me of the ‘law of diminishing returns' when I was studying too hard as a teenager. We are more productive both mentally and physically when we take regular breaks.
What can you do to start to work smarter not harder?
‘No matter how much pressure you feel at work, if you could find ways to relax for at least five minutes every hour, you'd be more productive.' Dr. Joyce Brothers
How to tackle your busyness – If you have decided that your busyness is not healthy or productive then…
- Identify what is driving your behaviour – Is it a fear of letting others down; a sense of importance or feeling needed; a desire to do as much as possible in your lifetime; not wanting to miss out on opportunities? Perhaps with a good friend, counsellor or coach you need to explore what is behind these drivers, and perhaps change any limiting or unhealthy beliefs which are stopping you from changing (see right hand column for more on Catalytic Coaching).
- Identify small steps you can take each day – Some people might decide to take drastic steps to change, but from my experience small steps can go a long way to making a difference in how busy or calm we feel.
- Micro breaks – If you feel you can't take breaks (which is probably a sure sign that you need to!) take a micro break. Stop for a minute every hour. Even sitting at your desk, sit up, breath in and out deeply. Stretch your arms and back and legs. Look up and ponder the best way to move forward in what you are doing. Perhaps set an alarm on your computer to remind you to do this.
- Draw on your wise mentors – If you are not able to tap into your own wisdom, think of some wise mentors (people known to you or not, real or imaginary, alive or dead), what words of wisdom would they give you in your busy life? For those of you with a copy of my book, you might like to do the exercise on pages 47 to 49 drawing on the wisdom of mentors.
- Take a day away to renew your spirits – Read the quote on the right hand column from Maya Angelou about the importance of taking a day out, in order to come back to your daily life refreshed, rejuvenated, motivated and inspired.
- Meditate, learn yoga – Do something that gets you in touch with yourself, and your body. If meditating doesn't work for you, you might find something like the Buddhist practice that I do which involves chanting out loud and does not need the degree of focus that most meditation needs.
What one step are you going to take today to slow down and take a wiser approach to life?
For training and coaching call Melanie on 01865 377334 or email firstname.lastname@example.org (or click here) to arrange a time to speak in confidence. For more information about Grovelands visit our website: www.grovelands.org.uk (or click here).