When busy becomes an excuse

We’re all guilty of saying it in various forms: “I’m so busy. Life is busy. Things are crazy busy.” Usually these statements are followed by an apology because we didn’t follow through on something, we’re moody or distracted, don’t keep in touch with someone, fail to start or finish something. It’s socially acceptable to be busy. But when busy becomes an excuse, who does it affect? Possibly your health, emotions, relationships and more.

I read an article in Psychology Today that said “Being busy is the root cause of mindless behaviors — it both justifies and reinforces living on autopilot.” Ouch.

I get it. In today’s round the clock society, there is a lot to juggle. Work, family, household responsibilities, travel, social commitments, hobbies, on and on. The list gets overwhelming at times. How many of us search or wish for another hour in the day? What would you do with it? My extra hour wouldn’t be for sleep (although that’s nice on some days!) – most likely more time with family and friends, a workout, finishing a volunteer project, doing something for me. Where we put our time and energy says a lot about what and who are important to us.

Can we agree that we’re ALL busy? It doesn’t matter if you work, have kids, volunteer, date, travel, whatever. It’s not a competition. And most often we say ‘we’re busy’ not as an excuse to blow something or someone off, but because we genuinely run out of time (or energy).

Of course being busy isn’t necessarily a bad thing. I often consider myself fortunate to say “I’ve been busy.” It means I have a life full of fun activities, a good job, family and friends who want to spend time with me and more.

But what happens when busy becomes an excuse we use on ourselves? When we spend more time on mindless, unproductive tasks rather than really living our lives? You couldn’t exercise because you’re busy. You had to stop at the fast food chain because you’re too busy to cook or eat healthy.

Since my third cancer diagnosis last year, I’m more thoughtful of how often I use ‘busy’ as an excuse, whether to others or myself. I don’t want to live on autopilot! Here are some suggestions that help me not let ‘being busy’ distract or take away from what and who are important to me.

1. Learn to say no.

Saying no to ‘one more thing’ isn’t my specialty but I’m learning! Stretching myself too thin isn’t necessarily a benefit for me, nor anyone I’m interacting with. I want to ensure that I’m present, mentally, emotionally and physically, when I do something or spend time with someone. You don’t need an endless to do list full of things that don’t bring benefit and value to your life.

2. No excuses.

How many times have you thought: ‘now isn’t a good time for [insert idea, goal, action, etc] because I’m too busy? Don’t use busy as an excuse to not follow through with someone or something, stay in a relationship that isn’t working, let someone know they are important, avoid stopping bad behavior, set a goal or simply live life. There is NEVER a perfect time in life. But tomorrow isn’t guaranteed. This moment is. Don’t be too busy to make time for who and what matters.

No excuses – being active is a priority for me
3. Schedule activities to make a priority.

It’s really easy to run out of time to do something, isn’t it? That’s why I love my calendars (phone and wall calendar). Exercise gets added to my calendar. So do volunteer activities. Dates with handsome men. I sometimes even add “call Mom” or a particular friend to ensure I set aside some time. These actions and people are priorities in my life and I want to be certain I treat them as such.

4. Look for opportunities to save time.

Can you combine items on a to-do list? Even better, remove something from your list. For example, I grocery shop once per week, typically online. Ordering groceries online is quick and easy, and then I can pull into the grocery store lot, get my groceries loaded and head home in barely five minutes. I’m admittedly terrible at meal prepping but when I do? Yep, it saves me time during the week to be doing something else. I love being active with friends as it enables me to catch up with them and exercise. Bike rides, walks and hikes are great activities for socializing with friends. A few weeks ago, I was antsy to ride my bike trainer but had a volunteer conference call. I suddenly decided to wear my earbuds during the call (muted of course), while I rode my bike. Score a win-win here!

5. Set aside time for people in your life.

There are moments when it’s important to stop what you’re doing and focus your attention on one person. I try to do that when friends and family call because these relationships are important and deserve my full attention. If I don’t have much time to talk, I’ll say that up front and ask if I can call them later (and I do!). My friends and family (hopefully) know that they are important and appreciated, even if there is time between our connection. However, it’s really important to me to spend time nurturing these relationships because I appreciate when they make time for me in their busy lives. It keeps us close.

My goal for this year is to not just stop saying I’m busy, but genuinely stop being busy. Focus more on quality of my daily life. I want to lay in bed at the end of each day, appreciating the moments that I enjoyed living. I don’t want a life on autopilot. How about you?

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