I’m really busy right now, but it’s better than the alternative.

I hear these words like these spoken quite often, like a well-worn mantra that many don’t question. It happened again a few weeks ago. I asked a business acquaintance how he was doing and he responded with another version of the same, “I’m busy but it’s a good busy.” When I questioned him, he became curious about his own response, so we talked about it. Among other things, he pointed to the ever-present pressure to do well in his business. It feeds his family after all.

Even so, we agreed that he could have simply said something like “Things are going really well. Thanks for asking.” Do you feel the difference in the quality of those two responses? One seems to justify or defend, the other is a simple statement of what I assume to be true… things are going well.

I have certainly gone through periods of time when my work and personal commitments were significant, leaving very little breathing room between activities. I’m remembering one year in particular. After dinner I would often close the draperies and collapse in front of the TV for a few hours, only to become plagued by worry-thoughts around bed time.

I was making plenty of money but I still experienced stress. Is it because I simply don’t thrive on a packed schedule, or because I was pushing myself to do things that brought in money, but weren’t all that satisfying? I’d say a bit of both.

What Makes Being Busy so Alluring?

There are several factors at play. For the sake of focus, I’m going to talk about this lovely little chemical produced by our adrenal glands, adrenaline. Adrenaline production is a by-product of relentless busyness, especially when it’s fueled by worry thoughts, including thoughts about how busy you are!

Adrenaline isn’t inherently bad, but it has a limited role in our body systems. It’s meant to give us a surge of power and energy in emergencies. Once the emergency passes, our bodies naturally move back into a resting state, during which time there is a drop in energy until things level off.

Bursts of adrenaline give us a buzz or feeling of excitement. But when you don’t get a chance to unwind from stress, when the battering of adrenaline and other stress hormones continues without a break, the body goes into overdrive. The result is a drain on your body’s vital systems.

The Hidden Link between Adrenaline and Stress by Archibald D. Hart, PhD. (1995, USA)

When you don’t allow your body to return to its natural resting state a cycle of addiction sets in. Why do you think afternoon caffeine breaks are so common? More fuel! A break from “doing” might be a better approach. Why not take a walk around the block, a short nap, or a dance break? Sounds good, seems simple, but when in the throws of activity, it’s hard to stop.

Many people tell me that if they stop they’re sure they won’t start again. That’s the chemical addiction speaking.

This is what “busy” is trying to avoid: the sudden drop in energy, and the thoughts and fears that arise. That’s what keeps us busy. It’s not our schedules. It’s our attitude about productivity and fears about a future that hasn’t happened yet.

Busy is not a requirement for success

It’s a myth created by a mind that fears the future, and a body system that gets caught in an adrenalized addiction cycle. It’s further held in place by some socially accepted notion that busy is “good.” It might feel good for a while, but if you decide that it’s the only way you’ll succeed, that it’s better than the alternative, no breathing room for you.

What’s a Busy Person to Do?

Often, when I start coaching an entrepreneur who is attempting to create more space for themselves in their life, exercise and self-care routines are the most frequently named missing practices. Next on the list of neglect is time spent with friends and family.

Their first assignment?

Take at least one completely business-free 24-hour period off each and every week. That means no email, no catch-up project and no phone calls, nothing associated with their business.

It seems counterintuitive. How can you disconnect for 24 full hours when you’ve got so much to do? Because busy is not necessarily productive. When you interrupt the cycle you have a real opportunity to shift from “busy” to “effective.”

I’m Here to Help

If you recognize yourself in these observations and are ready to move from the edge of overwhelm back into flow, I’m here for you. I’ve got the experience, tools and resources to help you move into “Chapter Next!”