The Battle Against Busyness: How to Reclaim Life

I have to work to live.

I have work to make money because I have to pay for my house and my car and our food and freakishly expensive Legos for my son’s birthday, then I can earn down-time and relax.

But then there are other obligations I have to do, also, like ALL of those committee meetings.

Once I get done with all of THAT, THEN I can earn down-time and relax.

But then there are the kids’ activities. After THAT I can earn down-time and relax.

Wait…now my house is over-the-top nasty. Why is there a half-eaten bowl of cereal in the bathroom??!?

Too much busyness for woman checking her watch
I feel you.

Once my house is acceptable, THEN, and ONLY THEN will I deserve down-time and relaxation.

But then it will be time to take the boy to that open house thing he remembered to tell me 5 minutes after he was supposed to be there.

What is up with the constant, overwhelming busyness hamster wheel that so many of us are caught in??

It’s exhausting, right?

This is how SO MANY PEOPLE live their lives day after day, year after year, and they NEVER get that down-time and relaxation they have been working so hard for.

In this article, I am going to investigate why we are so over-the-top, out of control busy, and more importantly, action steps we can take to jump off that crazy hamster wheel and do the LIVING in our life.

I need this, too, so here we go.


*Advertising and Affiliate Disclosure: Some of the links in this post are affiliate links and if you go through them to make a purchase I will earn a commission. The decision is yours, and whether or not you decide to buy something is completely up to you.



What is with the busyness?…

Busyness at a desk

In the Joe Pinsker article for The Atlantic, “‘Ugh, I’m So Busy’: A Status Symbol for Our Time,” Mr. Pinsker takes us back to the turn of the 20th century America to a time when busyness was only for the broke.

He describes the trend of that era as, “the richer one gets, the less one works and the more likely one is to try to show off one’s ample leisure time.”

This is DEFINITELY not the case now as Mr. Pinsker follows that up with current data that shows that in the 21st century USA, wealthier folks work more hours than those who aren’t wealthy (notice that didn’t say work HARDER, effort is a completely different metric).

Where am I going with this? Am I saying that we shouldn’t work or that poor people are lazy?

No way.

Poor people are some of the hardest working people I know, and we obviously have to bring in money to support ourselves and our families.

What I am trying to get at here is the ATTITUDE we have in most parts of this country about what it says about someone who consistently denies themselves leisure time, and that attitude is that we view that person as important and of high value.

“In a curious reversal, the aspirational objects here are not some luxury goods—a nice watch or car, which are now mass-produced and more widely available than they used to be—but workers themselves, who by bragging about how busy they are can signal just how much the labor market values them and their skills.”

Joe Pinsker – The Atantic

He goes on to interview Silvia Bellezza, professor at Colombia Business School, whose research on alternative forms of status suggests that because expensive watches, Louis Vuitton bags and the like (even in counterfeit form) are now more accessible to someone with an average income, being “time-poor” has become the symbol of being “better.”

Woman in busyness mode with her computer and phone

Ms. Bellezza’s research had Americans comparing the social media feeds of two people, one who posts frequently about their busyness and one whose posts are often focused around their leisure activities.

What opinions about the person enjoying leisure time did the American study participants come away with? Ms. Bellezza summed it up as “Oh, this person probably cannot work. There must be something wrong, and they’re going to go back to work as soon as they can.”

Interestingly, participants from Italy saw things completely different and quickly concluded that the social media poster enjoying down-time must be well-enough off to be able to do so.

So this is cultural.

I constantly feel this pull in my own life.

We should be DOING, always DOING, and if we have a free 5 seconds…well…we REALLY ought to be able to fit in one more thing.

How can we slow things down?…

But, what does it feel like to be the person that really wants to say “no, I don’t want to take time out of my day for this meeting,” or “I know my child wants to also take trap shooting class along with their 8 million other activities, but I just don’t want to go to one more thing.”

It feels scary.

No one wants to be judged as lazy.

So, if you feel this incredible societal pressure, too, how can we possibly buck that trend?

Decide.

It can’t possibly be that simple, right??

Well, it definitely isn’t EASY, but the answer itself IS that simple.

Decide that you don’t want to live trapped in this hamster wheel of busyness anymore and do what it takes to hop off and never look back.

Hamster
Awww, don’t look back, cute hamster!!

I definitely have your back on this and below I have compiled decisive action steps you can start today to slow your roll and get you to the point of actual LIVING your life.

*Don’t feel like you DESERVE to be less busy or happier? Stop on over to our ultimate guide on self-love to get action steps and see things differently!

Morning Ritual for Intentional Living…

This decision to abandon the illusion of value in busyness needs to begin sometime, and there is no better time that first thing in the morning.

You are fresh, you are rested (maybe), and the world hasn’t kicked you in the face yet.

A morning ritual is something that I advocate over and over on this site, as evidenced in this article about happiness after 40, but that is because it sets the intention for your day.

Morning ritual for less busyness, woman reading and drinking coffee

If your life was a garden, a morning ritual is that bit of water and fertilizer you sprinkle on daily to keep things green and weed-free.

Because the happiness of people adds to making the world a better place (and that is some important business), I have made a freebie for just this occasion to help you start every morning RIGHT.

Your FREE Intentional Living Goal Setting Template is a journal that takes a holistic approach to make priorities for your day.

Within this journal, you will be planning out how you will implement the rest of the action steps in your post.

Download now for instant access and to get started NOW. ↓

This will be your command center for living your best life.

Confused? Let me explain this a little bit more.

Intentional Living…

If you have heard about intentional living, but not really sure what that is, it simply means making decisions about how you want to DESIGN your life.

This includes how you want to feel at the end of the day, what your main priorities are, how you want to treat your body, how you want to treat your space, how you want to spend your minutes, what you want to learn or do, and so on.

By setting intentions, you are no longer a victim of circumstances.

That’s not to say that crap isn’t going to happen that will throw off your plan, it totally will, but through setting intentions you will BETTER align your use of time to the things that are TRULY important to you so when unexpected things pop up, you are more equipped to deal with it.

You are less prone to getting trapped in non-purposeful busyness.

EXAMPLE: you have ALWAYS wanted to learn the piano, but have never allowed yourself the time, so today you have set an intention to make learning the piano a priority.

Later today, a friend asks you to join a committee for that organization she really loves. You love her, but aren’t really into that kind of thing.

Without a plan, you would have felt pressure to say yes because you have that free 45 minutes in your evening and no excuse to say no, BUT INSTEAD, this morning you set that intention to align your life in such a way as to make time for learning an instrument.

THIS is what will make your heart sing, not being on a committee you don’t care that much about. You graciously decline the offer.

Boom, intentional living.

Just say no…

No sign

So, yes, one thing you MUST, MUST, MUST do to banish busyness is to say no to things.

Salt. The Earth.

I am not saying that you shouldn’t care about other people and what they want, what I am saying is that doing what your heart is COMPELLED to do rather than what you feel obligated to do WILL make you happier and therefore WILL make more of an impact on the world and those you love.

If what you’re doing or being asked to do isn’t for you, graciously say no and use that time to go find what DOES ring your bell.

Journal like there’s no tomorrow…

Flowers at a funeral

That may sound morbid, but that is exactly what I mean.

Cliche? Maybe.

I have heard the words “you have cancer” before. I know how the rug of life can be pulled out from underneath you.

So, what if today were your last day? Wouldn’t you at least want to have spent a few moments doing things you care about?

You may be super uncomfortable thinking about your own mortality, and I get that, our society VERY MUCH avoids this topic.

But, other cultures have actually embraced it and use it as a way to remember to focus on your priorities.

I first read about this practice in an easy-read that I thoroughly enjoyed (and that was able to hold my attention-a nearly impossible feat), Joy on Demand by Chade-Meng Tan.

Tan was able to retire from his successful career with Google at 45 and has since made it his mission to bring joy to the masses.

In this, his second book on happiness, Tan explains how Buddhists think about death often as a way to keep daily experiences in perspective.

It is hard to get upset about the long line at Subway when that morning you reminded yourself that you’re going to die.

In his book, Tan goes as far to say that thinking often about your end will actually MAKE you happier, and after exploring this guy’s website, it seems that he has definitely stumbled across some secrets to joy-he looks like a good time for sure.

Get a sneak peek inside Tan’s book on Amazon here.

So how can we incorporate this idea into our day and make it an action step to get us off the busyness train?

Think about it when you journal in the morning.

Journaling for less busyness

Either download my free intentional living journal below if you haven’t already, or use your own journal, but either way, as you are setting your goals and intentions for the day, look at it through the filter that life is short and you won’t be here forever.

How do you want to spend your minutes today?

Meditation for less busyness…

Isn’t meditation just one more thing we have to DO??

Yes and no.

Meditation CAN be something you add in and make time for in your day (and you will ABSOLUTELY be glad you did), BUT you can also weave meditation into things you are ALREADY doing.

These types of meditation focus on mindfulness, being aware of the present moment, and I have a few varieties for you to try below.

Mindful eating…

Couple mindfully eating for less busyness

One form of mindfulness meditation that I find to be intriguing is mindful eating.

If you are trying to get off of the busyness hamster wheel, but aren’t quite there yet, this meditation will NOT be one more thing to add in to your day because you simply do it while you eat.

In this practice, you focus on the action of eating, the ingredients, every detail of taste and smell, so you can start your morning with mindful eating of your breakfast!

There is actually a non-profit organization, The Center for Mindful Eating, that is dedicated completely to this practice, and they tout that mindful eating “helps us become aware of our thoughts, feelings, and physical sensations related to eating, reconnecting us with our innate inner wisdom about hunger and satiety.” 

Their website offers many free guided mindful eating recordings you can listen to for free!

To help explain this concept more, I found this informative (and entertaining) video that from Fit Men Cook that looks at mindful eating from many different angles, and at the end gives 5 tips to incorporate it into your meal.

Take this further by learning how to do the “raisin meditation.”

Watch the video below from Clare Josa, give it a try, and then apply that same technique to different foods in your life.

Mindful eating can help in your battle against busyness AND could have the added benefit of improving your eating habits.

Nice.

Movement meditation…

This is another form of meditation where you don’t necessarily have to take more time to practice it, but rather you can incorporate it into things you are already doing.

In movement meditation, you are simply observing in detail what you are doing and how you feel while you are doing it.

You aren’t passing judgment on these thoughts, you are simply nothing them and moving on.

EXAMPLE: You are preparing your breakfast.

Your mindful thoughts may be: “I am walking to the fridge. I am grabbing the handle, it feels cool. I am pushing aside the salsa and grabbing the milk. The jug is damp. I am placing the milk on the counter.” etc.

So what does this DO for you, exactly?

It pulls you in to the present moment.

Your mind is too focused to be ruminating over that tense staff meeting yesterday or worry about dealing with that difficult co-worker later today.

It trains your brain to be right here, right now, where it should be, and your mind can learn it well enough to transfer to other parts of your day.

Being present=less time for worry about the future=less stress, and reduced feelings of out-of-control busyness.

Another way to practice movement meditation is when walking.

Woman doing walking meditation for less busyness

If you already go for a daily walk, this can be incorporated in.

Simple!

In walking meditation, you become hyper-aware of your surroundings and how your body feels while you are walking.

Observe how your feet feel when they come in contact with the cement or earth, which direction the breeze is coming from, what scents you encounter, or any other details.

If you want to listen to instructions to get you started, try this 15-minute guided walking meditation from 5 Minute Meditation channel.

Yoga for reduced busyness…

Woman reducing busyness through yoga practices

Just like with meditation, there are myriad types of yoga that will help get you in the right mindset to bust free from the endless busyness in your life.

However, I am going to highlight two that I feel will be incredibly powerful for this undertaking.

Please remember that if neither of these forms “speak to you,” there are tons more styles of yoga out there that will bring more peace to your life, so find the right one for you.

Restorative yoga…

In restorative yoga, rather than flowing quickly through a sequence, in restorative yoga you hold each pose longer, 5 minutes or more, to be able to deeply relax into the stretch.

Instead, you work into a pose and hang out there in stillness until the all-clear to move on to the next.

Woman reducing busyness through restorative yoga

Sense a theme here?

Being successful at not being so busy begins with being IN THE PRESENT moment so that you can step out of the mental fog that tricks you into thinking that to be “worthy,” or “valuable,” or whatever it is for you, you have to constantly be DOING.

For this type of yoga, props are essential.

Straps, blocks, bolsters and blankets are laid on, leaned on, sat on, or held.

The props are used to take over for some of the work of the stabilizing muscles so that you can focus on the heart of restorative yoga: the STRETCH and the CHILLING OUT.

For a restorative yoga experience at home, try the Relaxing Restorative Yoga at Home: 5-Class Series from Yoga Download.

Escape from busyness with this Yoga Download Restorative Yoga Program

Download the Yoga Download app and you can get up to 20 days to try everything for free, so give it a whirl!

If you love it, I am really excited to tell you that if you use this link, you can use a coupon to give you 50% off any subscription to Yoga Download!

YESSSS!!!

Kundalini yoga…

Woman seeking less busyness through Kundalini yoga

A second form of yoga that can help you to feel more grounded and less busy is Kundalini yoga.

The specific purpose of Kundalini is to move energy up your spine.

I’m talking life-force energy, prana.

The poses and very specific breathing practices in Kundalini are intended to push prana up through the center of your body, which is the path to greater enlightenment.

There is also the possibility to have what is called a “Kundalini awakening.”

According to Prevention, a Kundalini awakening is “when the life force energy inside you rises from the base of the spine. You know you’re having a Kundalini awakening when you have increased energy, vitality, clarity of mind, and greater awareness…this fleeting feeling allows you to focus on opportunities in life, instead of the problems standing in your way.

Sounds a lot better than riding the busyness hamster wheel, huh?

To work toward your own Kundalini awakening at home, Yoga Download features senior teach and author, Guru Jagat.

Guru Jagat
Guru Jagat

Her bio reads:

“Deemed the modern face of Kundalini Yoga, Guru Jagat brings a fresh perspective to this ancient practice. A senior teacher with over a dozen years of experience, Guru Jagat studied under Yogi Bhajan, the Kundalini Master responsible for bringing the practice to the US.”

Guru Jagat offers multiple Kundalini classes on the Yoga Download app!

And don’t forget that you can get 50% off any Yoga Download subscription with this coupon.

What to read…

The next step toward working to be less busy is finding authors, mentors, and resources that can help take you further on your path.

One such resource that I just stumbled across is Sloww.com.

Sloww, how I love you…

I am so excited that this site fell into my lap (or was dropped there) because the message speaks right to my soul (you know that feeling, when you read something and you get this jolt inside you-like, where have you been my whole life?).

I am trying to resist the urge to quote the ENTIRE site because it is so apropos, but here is part of Sloww.com’s mantra, as taken from their “Start Here” page:

Sloww synthesizes the timeless art of living for our modern world because we aren’t taught how to live in school—or even better, how to be fully alive, holistic humans.

Sloww supports slowing down in a fast world because slowing down is the gateway to all things good—which aren’t things at all.

Sloww encourages lighter living because more hasn’t added to our lives—we must subtract the heavy superficial “stuff” (physical and mental) and shift inward to a lighter space where we can meet life face-to-face.

You had me at “sloww.” *swoon*

Sloww.com offers a free bit of inspiration sent to your inbox every weekend (you know what I’ll be checking obsessively this Sunday).

The site is gorgeous to look at, but equally inspiring with posts like “Total Work: When Humans are Transformed into Workers and Nothing Else (Were we Born only to Work?)” and frequent book reviews to help you find other authors to inspire you.

The Tao of Pooh…

Another source of inspiration to slow down and JUST BE comes from an unexpected place, Winnie the Pooh.

I read The Tao of Pooh by Benjamin Hoff in my youth and, for me, it was one of the most influential books I have ever picked up.

Some people are die-hard Pooh fans, and I will admit that I’m really not, but, this book doesn’t take you on your typical frolick around the Hundred Acre Wood.

Both this book, and the one that follows it, The Te of Piglet (which I also recommend), brilliantly explains Taoist philosophy to unknowing Westerners, such as myself, including the principle of the Uncarved Block (Pooh), and the Virtue of the Small (Piglet).

My well-worn copies

These books help to dilute the strong power the worship of busyness may have over you and helps you to celebrate the simple and the slow as virtues in themselves.

I stole these books from my older sister’s bookshelf when I was a teen, and on my bookshelf, they remain for always (sorry, sis).

The Tao of Pooh and the Te of Piglet are now available bound together on Amazon here, how handy!

Anything Paulo Coelho…

Here is a person that knows something about slowing down, but not originally by choice.

Paulo Coelho was imprisoned on three occasions in the 1970s for vocal opposition to Brazillian military rule.

A pilgrimage on the Road to Santiago de Compostela in Spain where he walked the 500 miles brought about a spiritual awakening for Coelho who since has penned multiple books about self-exploration and enlightenment, including The Pilgrimage, a story about his 500-mile journey.

My personal favorite is The Alchemist which was introduced and gifted to me by a mentor and can be found on Amazon here.

It remains one of the most meaningful gifts I have ever received as it spoke to me exactly what I needed to read and the moment I needed it.

My copy

Another wise and modern-day spiritual leader I follow is Deepak Chopra.

After this post, hop on over to our article on what Deepak Chopra believes makes people MAGNETIC. Check it out here!

In conclusion…

Through the use of intentional living, meditation techniques, yoga, and finding mentors, I hope that you are able to end the constant busyness in your life and able to find more time for things and people you love and more purpose.

Thank you for reading, and take care!

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