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.

Busy.jpg

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

Face your fears - to make progress towards your work dreams

Imagine it’s a hot summer day and you’re at the beach. The water looks so good, you definitely want a swim. But, as you start walking into the surf the cold hits your belly and you stop dead – you know the feeling!

face fears resilience work you love

Returning to work or changing jobs or careers can feel the same.  You know you want to be in a fulfilling role that satisfies your career dreams AND works with the rest of your life. But getting there often means braving some cold water.

Do you want fulfilling work that satisfies your career goals AND works with the rest of your life?

Where to start?

When we want to make change in our lives it’s our own thoughts that are often the biggest roadblock.  We think and think about what we want, but our fears stop us taking even a small action.  You need a way to deal with the unhelpful thoughts and move forward day by day. We suggest giving these 3 steps a try.

  1. Recognise your fears
    What exactly are the thoughts that make your freeze? Are you:
    - Worried you’ve lagged in your skills?
    - Concerned you won’t be able to compete in the job market?
    - Feeling you’ve lost confidence?
    - Wondering how on earth you’ll juggle everything?
    It’s uncomfortable to dig around in your thoughts and feelings but once you’ve identified the unhelpful thoughts that are spiralling around and around you can start dealing with them.
     
  2. Reality check
    Once you’ve identified what’s freaking you out the next step is to bravely take a clear look at your fears.  Are they real?  For example, if you worry that your skills are out of date you might test this by reading relevant job ads and descriptions online. Maybe you have a friend with a similar background to you who could help you realistically assess your skills and give you some industry insights.  You’re looking for clarity with this step, so if there are skills you need to refresh or learn you can devise a plan.
     
  3. Take a small step forward
    Now that you know your real position, you can start to practically move forward.  This isn’t about diving headfirst into the deep – it’s about working out the first step in a plan that will help you achieve a broader goal.  What is ONE thing you can do this week that will move you forward and you can feel proud of? You’ll be amazed at how good it feels to take a small action and it makes the next step so much easier!

What’s ONE thing you can do this week to move you forward?

As you work towards your dreams, keep these steps in mind. New fears will pop into your head needing to be dealt with. Now you’ve got a strategy!

If you’d like help to face your fears and  do work that lights you up, get in touch. We’re here to help you.

Best wishes for now

Kate and Debra - Flourishing Mothers



How to stop overreacting and start taking control in 12 seconds

Have you ever wished you could go back in time a few minutes and do-over your reaction to a situation?  Sometimes it would be fantastic to be able to press the rewind button!  We might then be able to respond calmly and thoughtfully, find the right words or action, and overall feel that we were being our best selves.

How we manage our own attention matters

In recent weeks we’ve been running workshops focused on building resilience and wellbeing, discussing these topics with corporate women, a group of teenage mums and local school parents.  What’s really stood out is that how we manage our own attention matters!  If we can create some mental space for ourselves we can better focus on the moment and react in a more thoughtful and deliberate way.  This focus on the present allows us to:

  • Notice our emotions and the story we’re telling ourselves about the situation
  • Re-frame the story to be more helpful to us
  • Choose how we want to respond
  • Help those around us to do the same

Imagine that you’re working from home, trying to meet a 5pm deadline when a fight erupts between your kids that’s just impossible to ignore.  You might well storm into the room and start yelling, which then likely escalates the situation, adds more to your stress, and makes that deadline harder to meet. 

Creating mental space doesn’t take long but can have a huge impact

What if instead you’d been able to take a moment to assess the situation and plan your reaction and words to the kids?  Stern discipline might be needed but making a deliberate decision to issue a punishment feels more empowering than an emotional reaction. 

4 ways to create mental space

So how can we do it?  Different strategies will work for different people and different situations so here are a few ideas:

  1. Learn to do a rapid reset – you can focus on counting your breaths and deliberately slow your breathing in just 12 seconds.  You could also step outside for a moment and grab a few breaths of fresh air.
  2. Can you relish the chaos? – can you look at the situation and see the funny side?  Our lives are often crazy and messy but there’s fun, humour and inspiration that can be spotted in the chaos.
  3. Find your focus – when we’re stressed our minds are racing and it’s harder to make decisions.  If we can slow our brainwaves and focus on the immediate problem we’ll perform better.
  4. Remain in the present – remind yourself to come back to the present moment.  Try to avoid being distracted by thoughts of what could have been, or worry about the future.  Right now the present is where you can make an impact!

And please remember to be kind to yourselves!  Even with plan and practice our good intentions can get derailed, but we can keep on trying to reduce the number of “re-wind” moments.

With love

Flourishing Mothers

PS.  We’d love to hear your ideas about how to create mental space too!  Please offer your thoughts below.

creating mental space 040917.jpg