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

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

 

Help! Can I really do it?

Did you ever climb trees as a kid, feeling excited about the view you’d have from the top?  Do you remember that feeling of being half way up and then suddenly being hit by doubts? You’ve been making great progress but suddenly you’re paralysed, and you feel like you can’t even find the next foothold…..

In that frozen moment of no confidence it’s hard to imagine getting to the top isn’t it?

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Our journey to finding work we love, work that fulfils us and fits in with our family, can be a really tough climb.  Moreover, it’s often very specific fears that cause our crisis of confidence.

Women we coach say things like:

  • I'm going to fumble in the first interview!
  • I'm too scared to ask for the hours and conditions that I want!
  • I'm struggling with all the technology!
  • Is it even possible to find a rewarding flexible job?

These are real fears getting in the way of your achievement.  To succeed we have to push through confidence obstacles.

How can we push through a crisis of confidence?

First of all – Re-ignite your motivation!  Remember WHY you started climbing

To fire up your desire for change you can remind yourself of the details of your dreams.  What exactly have you been striving for? Think about how dissatisfied you’ve been feeling with your current situation.  What are the specific issues you’ve been wanting to fix?

If you’ve already written down your goals this is a great time to review them (or put them into writing now!).  As you look at your goals, imagine that you’ve achieved them – you’ve made it! How would that feel?

I know why I want to make change but it’s so hard!

Consider your choices!

When you’re actually climbing a tree you don’t have a lot of options – it’s really just up or down.

But when we’re striving to change our careers we could also choose to just stop – to decide that it’s all too hard and stick with the status quo.

But think what you’d be missing out on!!

To keep going towards your goals, your mindset becomes central!  We need to believe that we’re capable of learning and making the most of opportunities.

What can you learn that will help you make progress?

When we believe that we can develop our skills it feels easier to take a risk and try something new.  We’re able to recognise that it’s our effort and our attitude that most influences our success.

Try to remember times in the past when you’ve learnt new skills and coped well with a challenge.  Try to recall when you’ve felt most confident in recent times – what were the key factors that helped you in each situation?  By noticing what works for us and doing more of it we can create a circle of growing self-belief and confidence.

And now it’s time for action!

We encourage you to make a plan and get excited about renewed progress!  Here are some questions to get you started:

  1. What’s the first thing you need to do?
  2. What can you do TODAY that will help make some progress – is there a phone call you’ve been putting off?  A LinkedIn profile to start writing?
  3. What resources are available to you?
  4. Who can you reach out to for help?

Please be assured that you’re not alone!  We all get stuck and doubt ourselves. If a chat about some of these ideas would help you right now you can book a free coaching chat with us

We’re in your corner and very much want to see you do work that you love!

Best wishes,

Kate and Deb