April 5, 2007

Overwhelmed and busy. . . do we have a choice?



This is not related specifically to public speaking, but it's something I've seen coming up a lot lately among my Internet pals. And probably my real-life pals, too, except right now I'm too busy to see them.

People are busy. People are overwhelmed. People have too much on their plates. Here's how I responded to a thread about this subject on a network I belong to (quoting myself - is that weird?):

"I think that part of the reason this becomes such a problem is that we put too much pride in being 'busy.' We can't wait to tell everyone how 'busy' we are, as though having too much to do is a badge of honor and makes us really important. It makes us feel 'needed' and 'wanted' in the world.

When I let things go and allow myself to say no to being overwhelmed and taking on too much, I feel so much better and can really tackle the things that are important to me. It's a relief not to be competing with everyone else for 'who's the busiest.' And then I can really get down to the business of my business."


I really feel that "busy-ness" is a competition for a lot of us. At one point I recognized this in myself, after having started and run my nonprofit organization for several years while also working a full time job. The busier I appeared and the more meetings and events I organized and attended, the more important I felt. Then I got tired of the constant pressure.

So I made a conscious effort to stop this endless competition. Sometimes I still find it hard not to answer "Busy" when people ask "How are you?" Isn't that what everyone says?

Marilyn Jenett added something valuable to the previously mentioned thread.

She said, "Success to me is best represented by freedom - the freedom to work when and how I want to. Being constantly busy and overwhelmed is really giving the message to the subconscious mind that you are NOT successful - and not in control of your life and circumstances."

Something to think about. And someone else on the thread mentioned that sometimes it's not even psychological - that physiological responses to life happenings can make us feel overwhelmed.

A few months ago, I was pleasantly surprised to read a blog post from Jason Kotecki at Escape Adulthood that brought up this same issue - busyness being a "badge of honor."

We all know this is going on, and we're all exhausted by it. So why don't we stop? Do we have a choice?

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3 comments. Please add yours! :

Tim (@Twalk) Walker said...

Good post, Lisa. I've harped on the cult of "busy"-ness many times myself, and in fact I've tried to banish the word from my vocabulary.

When we say "I'm so busy!" it's often as an abdication of responsibility -- as though this busy-ness is something unavoidable that falls on us, like rain. But in fact we DO have control -- often far more than we're willing to admit.

A good book in this vein, by the way, is CrazyBusy by Dr. Edward Hallowell. I re-read the book over the weekend in preparation for reviewing it on my blog. Stay tuned . . .

Lisa Braithwaite said...

It's so ingrained in our culture to talk about how busy we are; it's a hard habit to break!

Michael Crosby said...

Hi Lisa,

I've had that busy stuff going on so much that it raised my blood pressure and I was overly stressed.

Maybe that's part of wisdom also, knowing that busy is not good.

When I go to the gym, I try to talk to people, and often I get back short, curt responses. It's as though they have so much going on in their lives, they don't have time to talk. Or that they're too important to talk.

It could be my fault though. I probably shouldn't go up behind some girl who I don't know and tap her on the behind before I say "hello".

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