The Curse of Being Busy: Tips to Avoid Burnout and Increase Productivity

We burn time doing things that aren’t important because being busy makes us feel productive – even if we’re not.

I attended a networking event recently and I asked someone how they were and their response with exacerbation was, “I’m so busy”  It’s becoming a common response I get when I ask people how they are.

Since when did ‘being busy’ become a human condition?

We often celebrate being busy like it is a badge of honour. We often (and falsely) believe being busy is a sign of success, so the cycle continues and we regularly send ourselves into a state of burnout. This isn’t unique to adults either, I worked in education for 10 years and the same culture was indicative in a young student body. Feeling guilty for taking time out, or feeling inferior if they weren’t seen to be working as hard, or as busy as their peers.

With all of the demands of modern life, 24 hour access to technology, social media and the need for gratification and fear of missing out, we are finding it increasingly difficulty to switch off and disconnect. This challenge of switching off was one of the main areas of concern raised at a well-being event I was speaking at in Soho Hotel last month.

We frequently stop rest and relaxation. We stop doing the things we love in favour of adding to, or getting further down the to-do list. But what we don’t realise is by doing so, we stop our natural coping strategies. The strategies that keep us mentally and physically well and healthy. We stop exercising, eat on the go –  stop preparing meals, skip meals, stop specialising, stop doing things that allow time for reflection, with families, local communities and things for ourselves in favour of work, which more often than not leads to burnout.

Burnout stifles creativity, focus. Being busy invariably doesn’t mean we are being productive – research shows us the more “busy” we are the more ineffective we become.

Researchers at the University of Chicago found that the belief that being busy is a sign of success and hard work is so prevalent that we actually fear inactivity

Frightened of inactivity. WOAH.  I think it’s time to hit the re-set button don’t you?

I have put together some tips to reclaim some of your time, boost well-being and maximise your productivity.

Recognise your peaks and flows

We all function at different capacities – ever notice at some points of the day you are on FIRE and focused and other times of the day your energy is completely depleted? Pay attention to your body and  its natural energy rhythms. When you are in flow, give yourself more work and maximise this time of the day. When your energy is lower do less during this time.

Restrict your to-do list

We all have to-do lists that become never-ending and we normally put ourselves right at the bottom of them, hence never quite prioritising our own wellbeing and personal development because there are other things ahead of it. Stop. Use your to-do list to encourage you to focus and be more productive. Restrict it to 5 things. This will encourage you to actively complete (or ditch) a task before adding a new one.

Mind your diet

Certain foods are natural mood boosters and stimulate concentration like blueberries which are rich in antioxidants and oily fish. Start to get curious about what food you eat and what you can incorporate into your diet to give you a little bit of a leg up!

And Ps. lots of water is your friend!

Regularly schedule in self-care

Yup. Respite, pause and time for processing are vital for self-preservation and working at your true capacity and simply functioning from a place where you are thriving and not feeling exhausted and overwhelmed. If you’ve got to the point where you know you are neglecting your own well-being in favour of work or are constantly feeling overwhelmed by the never-ending to do list, it is even MORE important to prioritise your well-being. Doing so will increase focus, productivity, encourage creativity and boost your own well-being and eliminate burnout. Start doing the things you’ve stopped doing, journalling, mindfulness, exercising, colouring, painting, connecting with that friend you keep putting off, volunteering, trying something new, singing, dancing….whatever it is you’ve stopped in favour of your to-do list – do more of it.

Sleep properly & switch off

Seriously. Getting a good nights sleep improves overall health and wellbeing, concentration, creativity to name a few.

The temptation to be on our phones and social media all day and the last thing at night and the first thing in the morning is negatively affecting how we sleep and more-so our mental health .

Switch your mobile phone off, or better still – remove the temptation and leave your mobile phone out of your bedroom. The world won’t end reintroduce a stylish landline for emergencies and if you use your mobile phone as an alarm clock – buy an old school one instead.

Introducing a bedtime ritual, a transition that helps you prepare yourself for sleep. That might be, focusing on deep breathing, listening to white noise, turning down your lights, having a soothing bath, burning lavender incense, reading, bedtime mindfulness meditation, let you brain wind down and go to bed an hour earlier than you intend to go to sleep.

If you would like to kick-start getting into a realistic, consistent and healthy routine where you are no longer operating from a place of burnout and a constant state of ‘busyness” join us at our next self-care retreat! 


Header image: Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

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