I have been busier than normal the last few weeks. I’m usually not uncomfortably busy, so this has made me think about busyness in general. I think being overly busy is the norm for so many people. In fact, it may now qualify as a socially-accepted disease, one that is worn like a badge of honor. Being crazy busy may be the new normal, but I don’t like it.

When my schedule is jammed, little things drop by the wayside. I don’t read books nor do I have any unstructured time. My normally clean desk becomes covered in piles of mystery paper. I feel less optimistic and more anxious. Little things start to get to me.

When I’m too busy, we also stop having any sort of meal plan at our house. This means that most days my husband and I take turns asking each other, “What should we have for dinner tonight?” The other one usually replies with something like, “Umm, I think there is some chicken in the freezer…” My husband and I love good meals. It’s grim without them.

These symptoms of excessive busyness are all little inconveniences, but they do add up.

I’d like to make some changes and get out of this busyness loop. I’ve been looking at my schedule and seeing how I could do it. Sometimes the solution to doing too much, is to do less. However, sometimes cutting things out just isn’t worth it.

I wonder if there could be a more nuanced approach. Instead of making external changes, maybe there’s a way to address this internally. Perhaps I could be busy, but not feel too busy. It’s worth a try.

Is Doing Less the Solution?

Usually, cutting out activities means giving up the things I enjoy the most: playing tennis, seeing friends, going to yoga and reading. And over time, deleting these hobbies is a bummer because they are fun and energizing. After a good tennis game, I’m high on life for quite a while. And after visiting with a dear friend, the whole world feels right again.

I don’t want to cut out my fun. That’s not going to be the solution to my challenge with busyness.

Do the Same, but Differently?

I think, I hope, that I can keep a slightly less busy schedule, but change my mindset. Given this, here are some techniques that I’m trying:

  1. Do Little Things that Make a Big Difference

I was resting a couple of Sundays ago, but had to get ready for the week. I was exhausted. The preceding week had been hectic and then I played in a tennis tournament on Saturday. (Crazy! I know. But it was fun and memorable.) I wanted to get ready for my upcoming week, but I felt lazy. I came up with a motto to motivate me. I found a yellow sticky note, wrote it down and put it on the corner of our kitchen counter:

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I then started thinking of small tasks that I could do that would lighten my load over the next few days. I made a list:

  • Write down notes about one of my projects that have been knocking around in my mind, mostly during the night.
  • Trim the dogs’ nails and brush their teeth.
  • Figure out a meal plan for the week.
  • Tidy up the house.
  • Meditate.

None of these tasks are time consuming, but they’re easy to skip. Because I had a list, I got them done. I felt like I had a head start on the week, without taxing myself.

  1. Take Care of Looming To-Do’s

This reminds me of another one of my favorite mottos: Do the Worst First.

Unfortunately, our health insurer is discontinuing our family’s coverage at the end of the year. I’ve been working on finding insurance for our daughters that live out of state. This is a real pain and has weighed on me heavily. I decided to make getting this done a priority. By not having it on my “to do” list, I’d probably feel less busy.

I got to work on it that week. I wish I could say that getting this taken care of was easy. It wasn’t. But, for now, I think it’s almost done. Not having it hang over my head is a big deal. I feel less busy and I didn’t have to cut anything fun out of my schedule either.

3. Leave for appointments and meetings 5 minutes early.

When I’m busy, I start to cut corners with how much time I need to get places. It doesn’t feel good to walk into a meeting the very minute it is supposed to begin, especially if I’m leading the meeting. Yuck! I hate that!

I decided to start leaving for appointments and meetings 5 minutes earlier than I normally would. Instead of arriving just in time with lots of clock-watching in the car, I can relax, enjoy the drive and arrive without stress. This is a good change.

  1. Add Some Gratitude.

While flossing my teeth recently, I felt impatient and frustrated that I needed to floss again. I had just done it the day before!

For some reason, it then hit me that I could be grateful for each tooth as I flossed. I gave it a try. As I shimmied dental tape between my teeth, I thanked each tooth for being there. It may sound (really) weird, but it actually made flossing fun and before I knew it, I was done.

  1. Put on pajamas early.

If I’m home in the evening, I love doing this. Once it’s dark, I can put on my pajamas. With them on, my workday is officially over. I can relax. Because there is so much time between when I put on my PJs and when I go to bed, I feel like I’m staying up late, while still going to bed early. This is the best thing about the end of Daylight Savings Time.

Sometimes Mother Nature Steps in to Help Too.

I was wrapping up this blog post yesterday and was surprised to wake up to this:

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As I walked my dog that morning along the Big Sioux River, the north wind blew fiercely into my face. The snow found the one-inch opening between my scarf and hat and pelted my eyes. When trudging north, I had to lean forward and look at the white ground. Every so often, I could squint my eyes and glance at the horizon.

When walking Holmes, this was our view:

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The forecast that day was for more snow and wind. The roads weren’t great and cars were cautiously crawling down the streets. After I got home, I checked my email. One by one, my meetings were getting cancelled and my day started to look far different than I had planned. It became an ocean of openness. I was not going to be busy that day after all!

So I take it all back. There’s no one-size-fits-all solution to busyness. Sometimes, I need to schedule less. Sometimes, I need to schedule more. And sometimes I just need a good winter storm to take it out of my hands!

After our walk this morning. We had fun!

After our walk this morning. We had fun!