In this week’s episode, I want to dive into a topic of why breaking the habit of busyness is so frustratingly difficult. So, let’s start by defining what I mean by the habit of busyness. Have you ever had an opening in your calendar, maybe someone canceled on you or you had a free day, and what was your first instinct? Did you leave that time open or did you immediately start filling it up with tasks and to-do lists? If you lean towards the latter, my friend, you might just be addicted to busyness. It might be time for you to break up with busyness.
We all tend to do this. We see free time as an opportunity to get things done, to check off those tasks we’ve been putting off. But what often ends up happening is we start a project, and then we realize we just want to rest and do nothing. And so, we find ourselves engaging in what I call “busy work.” It’s work that makes us feel productive, even if it doesn’t actually show any results at the end of the day.
Why is it so hard to break up with busyness?
Now, let’s get into why it’s so hard to break this habit. Busyness has two components that keep us hooked. First, there’s the adrenaline rush—the feeling of urgency that pushes us to take action and get things done. It becomes addictive, whether we consciously realize it or not. Sure, if we calmed down and thought about it, we might say we don’t actually enjoy that rush. But there’s a part of our brain that finds pleasure in it, and that’s why we keep coming back for more.
The second part is our aversion to empty space and quiet time. When we have a gap in our schedule, it can be uncomfortable. We don’t like facing our thoughts or feelings that arise in those moments. So, what do we do? We fill up the space with food, drinks, shopping, or more busyness. This is especially true for high achievers—those of us who strive for excellence and thrive on accomplishment. We struggle with the idea of having nothing to do because it makes us feel unproductive, unworthy, and like we’re doing something wrong.
Can rest be productive?
But here’s the thing—I want you to believe and internalize this: rest is productive. Take a moment, look in the mirror, and say it to yourself. Can you truly believe that rest is productive? It’s essential to challenge the belief system that equates busyness with importance, value, and love. Having less on our to-do list, fewer projects, and fewer roles can actually bring greater balance into our lives.
Now, I know some of you might think, “But Katie, I’ve already committed to so much!” Well, guess what? You have permission to uncommit yourself. It’s okay to say, “I can’t do it anymore. I need to take care of myself.” Of course, there are commitments we can’t simply drop, but we need to differentiate between the ones that truly matter and those we’ve wrapped our worthiness around.
So, why is it hard to break the habit of busyness? It’s because we’re addicted to the adrenaline rush and the false sense of productivity it provides. And it’s because we struggle with empty space and fear facing our thoughts and feelings. But avoiding healing only keeps us stuck and prevents us from finding true balance.
So, here’s your homework: ask yourself if you genuinely believe that rest is productive. Look at your calendar and intentionally leave some open space. Repeat to yourself, “Rest is productive,” and see how you feel. Let me know how it goes—I’m here to cheer you on as you strive for better balance in your life.
Oh, and before I go, I want to share a wonderful review we received from Marianna. She loved our episode on procrastination and found it super helpful in getting things done. Thank you so much, Marianna, for your support! Your kind words mean a lot to me.
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