Why are we all so busy these days? We all know it’s happening, but most people seem unable to give it up. It’s a curious phenomenon in American work culture: people are almost proud of being busy, of working extra hours, of running themselves ragged. It’s become trendy to be chronically busy—and that’s a problem. Instead of spending time with family, exercising, or enjoying our lives, we’re running from appointment to appointment and having to schedule outings with friends weeks in advance (if at all). Some people are so busy that they develop behavior don’t even know how to deal with downtime. If you’re chronically busy, you may wish your schedule had more free time, but you’re probably not taking steps to make it happen. Let’s take a look at the dark side of always having something to do.
Your Health Will Suffer
Stress is not kind to your body, and if you’re chronically busy, you’re more than likely also chronically stressed out. Besides the fact that many people who are too busy don’t sleep enough, get enough exercise, and eat a poor diet, doctors have linked stress to many different health problems. Insomnia, depression, headaches, and a greater risk for heart attacks are just some of the ways your health can suffer if you’re constantly under stress. In addition, many people are stress eaters, which can cause weight gain and related health problems.
You Won’t Work Efficiently
While it might seem that working extra hours or spending time getting errands and chores done is time well spent, you’re likely not performing at peak levels if you’re always busy. Multitasking is one culprit. One study out of the University of Michigan showed that switching tasks midway through increases the time it takes to complete not only the first task, but the second as well—by 25%. That’s a lot of lost productivity on its own. Add to that sleep deprivation or insufficient exercise, and productivity and focus drops even more. That’s time lost that could be spent on self-care or other important activities.
You’ll Miss Important Experiences
The sign of a successful manager or employee is knowing when to say no. For example, when you try to do everything, nothing takes on the importance that it should. You won’t prioritize the important things in life, and instead, try to prioritize everything—which you don’t have time for. Are you writing work emails at your son’s baseball game? Or worrying about how clean the house is instead of taking time to make plans with friends? If you say yes to everything, you’re probably saying no to a lot of enriching experiences. When you think about what’s most important in life, is it working until midnight, after everyone else has signed out for the night? Or is it investing in your life and relationships?
Why Are You Too Busy?
What’s interesting about the current culture of busyness in the United States is that it doesn’t seem to be a problem in most other countries. Life is on a slower pace, and people take more vacation time to relax and enjoy themselves.
If you’re too busy all the time, it’s important to think about why. Is working extra hours helping your career? Does saying yes to everything benefit you and help you lead a richer life? Many people try to please everyone else at their own expense, increasing stress levels exponentially by never saying no to a request.
Some people also use chronic busyness to avoid certain things in life. If you’re scared of intimacy, success, or your own reality, you may be filling your hours to avoid having to think about what’s really going on in your life.
The good news about chronic busyness is that you can start working on the problem right away. Write down all your obligations, and really study where you’re spending the most time. Which of those tasks could you give less attention to? What areas need more attention? Many people don’t spend enough time with family, prioritizing sleep, or pursuing athletic activities that can promote mental skills, overall health, well-being and productivity.
If you’re too busy, it’s probably going to take some work to correct the problem. You can’t just decide to stop being busy and magically have more free time. You have to make a conscious effort, and you may need to get help if you’re struggling. In many cases, overscheduling and overworking are rooted in deeply held beliefs that can be a challenge to overcome. You might want to consider working with a social or mental health professional if you’re having trouble changing your busy lifestyle. It may take a lot of work to break through your past patterns, but the rewards are worth the struggle in the end.