The 7 kinds of busy. Which one are you?

What Katie Holmes did next

What Katie Holmes did next

I found an old appointments diary in a box recently, flicked through it and realised the strangest thing.  I was far more frantic when I had two kids and a non-demanding job than I am a few years later with three kids, two step-children and my own business. 

How?  Different types of busy.  My old diary is crammed with things that I took on for the wrong reasons: pride, self-consciousness, people-pleasing, avoidance, disorganisation, lack of assertiveness – it’s a mess!

And so was I.  Staring at my bedroom ceiling for three weeks, stricken with glandular fever – publishing contract in one hand, divorce papers in another, missing my pre-schooler’s first Christmas concert – I realised things didn’t have to be as hard as I’d been making them.

Here are 7 Types of Busy, (adapted from Soul Sisters Empowerment Group) that can take us seriously off-track:

1. 'Badge-of-honour' Busy

Being busy equals being significant.  Keeping your schedule jam-packed keeps you as important as everyone else – it's how you create your worth.

People say, 'I don't know how you do it!' (and secretly, you love hearing that).  The truth is, you don't know how you do it either – or even if you want to.  All you know is that other people notice and admire you what you’re doing – and you love that.

2. 'Nobody does this as well as I do' Busy

You'd like to cut things out of your schedule, but you'd probably end up doing them anyway, because nobody else does things 'properly'.  Exhibit A: the way he’s folded the towels!  Exhibit B: those sentences your colleague wrote!  You’ll have to do it all again!

You're the only one who can complete all that is expected of you at work and at home.  Well, technically others could probably do it, but would they do it well enough?  One of your most-used phrases is ‘Here – let me do it!’

3. 'Running away' Busy

There is something big that you really should attend to: perhaps it's an unhappy relationship, an unrewarding job or something else that you find very daunting.

Instead of tackling what should be first on your list, you fill your diary with unnecessary tasks so that you 'don't have time' to face the important stuff. 

You could go on like this indefinitely, filling your life with distraction, pushing the real problem under the surface while you invent excuses for not having time to address it.

4. 'Comfort zone' Busy

You’d love to try a new hobby, online dating, seek a promotion at work or start a health kick – but it's a big step and you're scared.  What if it doesn't work out?

Staying busy keeps you in your comfort zone and protects you from taking risks.  The more busy you are, the longer you’re ‘off the hook’ and safe from failure.

5. 'People pleaser' Busy

You have a need to be liked.  'Yes' comes out of your mouth before you even consider an alternative response.  What if you say 'no' and they don't like you as much?  What if there’s conflict?

Is it easier and safer just to take the request on?  YES!  You'll do it!  And you’re exhausted!

6. 'Flapping' Busy

You're disorganised at home and at work.  You spend a huge amount of time looking for things that you've misplaced.  You're regularly late for appointments.  You leave everything til the last minute. The first thing you do when you’re overwhelmed is write a Facebook status about it.

Your lack of organisation creates chaos and manufactures extra work.  It takes you much longer to accomplish things than it could.

7.'Scared to ask' Busy

You feel like a fraud at work.  You're not sure you understand the task.  Rather than seek clarification, you go to enormous lengths to try to work it out yourself.

You're scared of asking 'silly questions' and choose to complicate your life in an effort to avoid these.  You’ll send emails rather than call, then waste time waiting for a response. 

Uncovering your motivation to stay so over-burdened is the first step in untangling yourself from a life that is 'busy' in unfulfilling ways, and creating in its place a life that is 'full'. 

Is it time for a new diary?

Emma Grey is the director of the life-balance consultancy, WorkLifeBliss and author of Wits’ End Before Breakfast! Confessions of a Working Mum.  She blogs here and here.

Do you find yourself constantly busy? Which kind of busy do you fit into?

What do you think?


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