The Sneaky Addiction That’s Ruining Your Life
“I don’t have the time for that…”
“How do these people even find the time?”
“There just aren’t enough hours in the day!”
Have you ever caught yourself saying things like this? If you’re like most people, you say them — or at least think them — everyday.
It feels good to complain about a lack of time. In fact, not having enough time is one of the greatest excuses in the book, but…
That’s all it is — a hollow excuse.
The truth is… you’ll always find enough time to do things you must do.
You might not have time to do all the things you want to do. And you definitely don’t find the time to do all the things you know you SHOULD do (you know, like cook healthy meals, exercise, take a class…)
So where does all that time go?
It disappears thanks to the pursuit of “busy-ness.” As a culture, we’re all so obsessed with being busy that people let that take precedence over achievement, growth, and even real pleasure.
That sounds stupid when you put it that way, doesn’t it? Why would we value feeling busy over building a life worth living? It’s because…
People Are Addicted to Stress
Most people are so attached to their stress that maintaining the appearance or feeling of “busy” becomes an addiction. It’s not that they’re consciously seeking it out, per se.
But they’re used to a certain level of stress in their lives — usually a lot — and they’ll do what it takes to maintain that level.
Take email as an example.
How many emails are sitting unopened in your inbox right now? 50? 500? 5,000?
If you worked diligently and managed to get your email inbox down to zero, chances are good it would be stuffed to the gills again inside of three weeks.
How much are you willing to tolerate? What volume of stress is bearable to you? The bigger that volume is, the less you’ll be equipped to deal with life’s little surprises.
See, when you have a large amount of unresolved items on your plate — emails you haven’t read, decisions you haven’t made, important actions you know you need to take but just haven’t gotten around to yet — the more you’re inundated the less agile and clear-headed you’ll be when something pops up and surprises you.
You’re busy 24/7 with home stuff, work stuff, kid stuff, and something serious happens. Let’s say your parent gets seriously ill. Or perhaps it’s a car accident — the unresolved issues you have will get in the way. You won’t be equipped to deal with that nasty surprise.
It’s not just negative things, either.
Let’s say you found out that you’ve won a six week, all-expenses paid vacation around the world. But the only catch was you had to drop everything and leave tonight.
Could you do it? Probably not.
Very few people could. Because we’ve all got these very busy lives and this immense backlog of stress.
This brings us to an interesting question:
Why Are We So Addicted to Our Stress?
Why do we love being busy?
This answer might make you uncomfortable, but…
Without the stress and layers of busy-ness, you have to pay attention to things you might not like paying attention to. You might have to focus on things you don’t like about yourself or your life. And that can create psychological pain.
We humans are pretty hardwired to avoid pain, so we put tons of things on our to-do lists — after all, it’s easy to ignore things that make you unhappy. (You recently gained twenty pounds, or you hate your job, or you haven’t seen your best friend in eight months.)
Now, there’s nothing wrong with being very active. If you’ve got a lot on your plate and you’re taking care of it all without leaving half of it undone for tomorrow, and you’re still able to grow and achieve, then good for you.
Even so, though, you could probably go even further if you were willing to take a step back and look at your level of busy-ness.
How Effective Are You?
If you’re constantly running around, adding more and more to that never ending list of things that keep you busy, you are gumming up your cognitive process. If you’ve ever heard of the term context switching, you already know how this affects computers.
Run too many processes and your machine starts to slow down. Eventually it doesn’t work at all.
Your brain is a computer, too — too much context switching due to the pursuit of staying busy makes you slower and less effective at everything you do.
If you don’t give yourself the permission to take a break (a break without your phone in your hand, checking email, writing a text, making a note to buy more ketchup or whatever) you are actually making things worse for yourself.
Rest is crucial for your well being and progress. Recharging is essential to our brains. With a list of busy work a mile long, can you ever really rest?
Here’s what you can do differently today:
Take the list of whatever low-value tasks you had planned and choose to handle them differently. Which ones can you delete entirely? Which ones can you handle in five minutes? And which can you put off until tomorrow?
Once you’ve cleared yourself a block of time, use that time wisely. Close the laptop, put the phone down and go for a long walk in nature. Read a book on a topic you’ve always wanted to learn. Call a friend and make plans to see them in person. Repeat this tomorrow, too.
Once you’re no longer run by your to-do list, you’ll have the time and space to enrich your life.
Break your attachment to being busy, and you’ll be surprised where your life can take you, so give it a try.
Editor, Brian Rose Uncensored