The Busy Trap - What's really behind your ToDo list, and how to take back control

Have you bumped into a friend at the supermarket and had the following conversation?

You: Hi! How are you?

Friend: I’m insanely busy! You?

You: I’m crazy busy too!

You wouldn't be alone! A strange cultural phenomenon has led us to wear “busyness” as a badge of honor. This also extends to our kids - they’re often scheduled to within an inch of their lives outside of school with extracurricular activities.

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Somehow we’ve normalized — and even praise our busyness. But are we really doing ourselves any favours? The truth is, our insistence on staying busy can have damaging effects on our mental well-being: more stress, exhaustion, burnout, and an inability to focus on the present. And our kids come home at the end of the day as tired and stressed as we do.

So, what’s the deal with being busy? Why are we doing this to ourselves?

Here are a couple of home truths to ponder:

We spend a lot of time doing things we should do, or that society expects of us, or that everyone else is doing. Our houses should be spotless, we’re expected to have manicured toes and no greys in our hair, everyone else is sending their child to extra sport/music/drama/tutoring! No wonder we get a sense of overwhelm from all the things we do, compared to the far smaller quantity of things we’re actually capable of doing with the time available.

And perhaps deep down, a lot of us are using busyness as a way to hide from ourselves. Who would we be if we weren't busy accomplishing stuff? What truths about ourselves or our lives would we have to face that we can avoid facing when we’re crazy busy? Are we reassuring ourselves about our worth by making a link between being busy and being important and valuable?

We recommend coming out behind your “ToDo list” and taking back control of your life.

Here’s how:

  1. Ditch the “shoulds” and do the “want to’s.” Prioritise your ToDo list by the most valued tasks. Anything that’s not truly important to you personally, delegate to someone else, or just ditch it! What events have you committed to over the next month? Which of these are less meaningful, or events you feel you should go to (but don’t really want to)? Find a way to graciously relieve yourself of these commitments.

    When we pursue goals that we want to do, because they’re important to us, we have a recipe for high levels of wellbeing.

  2. Reframe success. Turn your “ToDo” list into a “TaDa!” list. Instead of being overwhelmed with everything you haven’t ticked off your list, at the end of each day write down what you have achieved. Then sing “TaDa!” and do a happy dance.

  3. Detox from your busyness addiction. When we’re on the urgency treadmill, it can feel excruciating to slow down – but you may end up getting more done if you try. Experiment with doing nothing at all for 10 minutes between tasks: the harder that feels, the more you may need it!

  4. Be the change. Reverse the cultural narrative around the pride of busyness. Resist the urge to compete with the “busy bees” or engage in one-upmanship. Your schedule does not make you important.

The truth is our busyness is self-imposed. It's in our control because of the choices we make. Instead, we encourage you to enjoy what’s important, be present with your loved ones and savour the moments.

We’re in your corner,

Debra and Kate

8 habits to make confidence a way of life

When do you feel at your most confident?

For me, I would love to bottle the energy, optimism and self-belief I have after an early morning boxing class, to help me work towards my goals every day.

Dial up a burst of confidence

Thinking back on the past week; bring to mind a moment when you felt great about yourself.

Take a moment to reflect on it:

  • Did you feel full of energy and optimism?

  • Did you feel a strong belief in your own abilities?

  • Did you feel well supported by people around you?

  • Did you feel ready to cope with setbacks that might occur?

Imagine if you could feel like that all the time?

Imagine how it might help you progress towards your goals and deal with challenges and potential setbacks!

We know you want to be confident and move towards your dreams

When reality bites

We all want to make steady progress towards our life goals. But the reality is that it’s hard to build consistent self-belief, to make confidence a way of life. Luckily, like physical fitness, we can develop confidence bit by bit.

Here are eight habits you can develop to build your confidence and maintain your belief in yourself.

You might like to pick one or two to focus on at a time or choose what’s most needed each week.

Confidence Habits

  1. Notice what’s working for you! We need to learn to pay attention to the positives. It’s so easy to be critical of what we feel we haven’t done well that we often don’t pay attention to our awesomeness!
    On a regular basis - quickly run your mind over the last day or so and look for examples of things you’ve done really well.

  2. Do more of what’s working - once you get into the habit of appreciating your achievements you can be on the lookout for opportunities to repeat them, and repeat them………….

  3. Mentally rehearse what you need to do before you actually have to do it. Visualising the process AND the desired outcome helps us to believe things are possible and gives us a boost of confidence to carry out the steps needed.

  4. Build your support networks. Try to surround yourself with people who will cheer you on, people who believe you can do it. Also look for role models who will inspire you and provide new ideas.

  5. Keep your eyes on the prize - if you’re feeling overwhelmed, go back to your goals and values. Remind yourself of WHAT you’re trying to achieve and WHY.

  6. Keep calm and carry on! There will be weeks when it’s almost laughable how many things go a bit wrong. Sometimes we need to flex our self-regulation muscles and just keep on going.

  7. Nurture yourself! Sleep, diet and exercise all play a role in priming us for confidence and achievement. Exercise allows us to feel a sense of mastery and achievement at what our body can do, whilst sleep and diet play a key role in our energy levels.

  8. Seek out positive emotions for a mood boost to drive positive action - look for moments of amusement, joy, love, inspiration, gratitude and serenity.

make confidence a way of life

So are you ready?

We know it takes a lot of effort to maintain self-belief and strive for your goals so please let us know if you need some more resources and support.

We’re in your corner,

Debra and Kate



Two confidence zapping words you should never use!

Have you ever planned an exciting party for your child (or yourself) and despite the fact that planning is going well, doubts start to creep in?  

What if no-one comes? What if it rains? What if people don’t have fun?

Then on the day of the party, people turn up, fun is had, guests were undeterred by the light rain showers and you all finish up with big smiles. “See?” you say to your child, “it all worked out, no need to have worried”.

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When my kids start with the “what if’s”, I say to them “what if your moustache was made of spinach?” This is so completely ridiculous it helps remind them of the futility of worrying about something that may never happen.

As adults, we’re guilty of the “what if’s” regularly in life and at work.

When we finally get our dream jobs, doubt can kick in. What if they realise I’m actually not that good? What if I stuff up? What if I don’t like the job as much as I thought I would? What if I don’t belong here?

These thoughts are normal and we all have them. But when we let them take hold, they zap our confidence and make us anxious. They get in the way of bravely exploring the possibilities in our new roles, and impede our chances of success. “What if’s” are just not useful.

The French philosopher Michel de Montaigne once summarised this truth when he quipped:

“My life has been filled with terrible misfortune, most of which never happened”

If you find the “what if’s?” undermining your confidence at work or in life, here’s what to do:

  1. Be your own cheerleader. Back yourself. Imagine things will go well. Allow enough time at work to do things well.

    At the end of the day take a minute to reflect on what went well and give yourself a high five.
     
  2. Bring your best self to each day. Get enough sleep, look after your health.

    Know your strengths and make sure you get the opportunity to use them every day. Make sure you can use your strengths in your job (Hint: if you don’t know what your strengths are, see a strengths-based coach!)
     
  3. Reflect on the worst-case scenario. If the “what if?” actually came to pass, what would you do? Write your answer down in this format: “If (insert the worst-case scenario), then I would (what you would do?)”.

    If you get derailed, knowing what your intentions are gives you the confidence that if need be - you’re capable of rising to the challenge and coping with the event. This diminishes the power the “what if” has over you.
     
  4. Change your perspective. Reframe your difficulties or even failures as an opportunity to learn something worthwhile. What you learn will help you set the right direction next time, and improve your performance in the future.

    In the end, you can only grow by moving towards challenges, not away from them.

We recommend you banish the confidence zapping, party pooping words that are“what if?” from your vocabulary! Those two words only rain on your parade, and chances are, they’ll never actually happen.

In the unlikely event they do happen, don’t let them undo you. Rather, be confident you’ll be able to cope and even grow from the challenge. And then you’ll succeed in at work or in life.

We’re in your corner

Debra and Kate