18 SIGNS YOU ARE TOO BUSY AND WHAT TO DO ABOUT IT
Being busy can creep up on us. If you’re feeling tired or stressed, it may be time to re-assess your schedule and slow down. Here are 18 signs you are too busy and what to do about it.
WHEN LIFE GETS BUSY
We all know that life can get busy. Sometimes we don’t like to say no to an invitation, let people down or miss out on opportunities. Deadlines at work and expectations to do more and achieve more weigh on our minds and make us push our bodies. We can even fall into the trap of mistaking busy as a sign of a full, rewarding life.
However, our bodies and brains can’t always keep pace with our schedule. We feel overstretched and overwhelmed with all the things we’ve added to our To Do list, goal-planner, project list, Google calendar and mental shopping list.
Being busy takes hold and we’re often too busy to think about how busy we are, and definitely too busy to take a moment to slow down and re-group. We’re too busy being busy to consider and find a way to stop being busy!
HOW DO YOU KNOW WHEN YOU ARE TOO BUSY?
What are the tell-tale signs that perhaps we tend to ignore or hide away from until it’s too late? Burn-out, health issues and relationship problems are just some of the issues that arise from ignoring the little signs of being too busy over the long term.
Keep reading for some signs you are too busy and what to do about it. How many do you recognise in yourself, or in your loved ones?
SIGNS YOU ARE TOO BUSY AND WHAT TO DO ABOUT IT
Here are 18 signs you are too busy and some little action points or further reading to help you be less busy.
1. You can’t concentrate
One of the first signs you are too busy is when you find it difficult to concentrate. When our brains have too much to think about there’s too much mental clutter. We can’t focus on the task in hand and think clearly. In our minds we flit from one thing to another.
Action: Try this exercise on brain-dumping to get your thoughts down on paper, get clarity in your mind and take action on what’s important.
2. You find it difficult to sleep
Do you hit the pillow exhausted, fall to sleep and then wake up in the night for some reason but unable to drop back off to sleep? Perhaps you can’t get to sleep in the first place because in your head you’re running through your task list for tomorrow or remembering all the things you forgot to do (or didn’t get round to doing) today?
3. You don’t maintain relationships
Relationships need work. They need time and energy but most importantly, they need you. When you don’t have much of either time or energy then you haven’t got these spare to pour into your relationships. We hear ourselves saying no to an invitation, a catch-up with a friend or loved one. We send a quick text instead of taking time to call.
Action: Think about when you last spent quality time with family or friends. Can’t remember? Perhaps you’ve been too busy. Could you arrange a time for next week?
4. You’re on auto-pilot
I use this term a lot but it feels right to explain a life where you’re just going through the motions instead of living a life of purpose and direction. Life comes with its fair share of challenges and most of us have to do the mundane and routine for a large proportion of the day. However, this doesn’t mean that we stop creating the best life we can and checking-in with ourselves to make sure our priorities align with how we’re spending our days.
Action: If you feel you’re more on auto-pilot than on purpose, try my free 7-day intentional living challenge, Your Intentional Life.
5. You’re distracted
When our brain is in overdrive, it’s impossible to stay connected and present with what we’re doing at any one time. Multi-tasking is often thought to be a helpful trait when it comes to doing lots of things, all at the same time. But actually, our brains can’t keep up and we end up doing nothing properly.
Action: One of the classic signs you are too busy is when you’re thinking or doing one thing, but thinking about or doing something else. You’re not present, engaged and mindful. Read these 10 ways to reduce distractions.
6. You never take a break
When did you last have a weekend away, take a holiday or even just have a proper lunch-break away from your desk? Have you got too much to do to take a breather? Do you feel your home or work will collapse if you’re not there 24/7? Breaks are good for us and help us perform better because we’re re-energised and feel better when we look after ourselves sometimes.
Action: Read this article on how to make time for yourself if you struggle with self-care because you’re just too busy.
7. You can’t make decisions
There are many reasons why some of us find it difficult to make decisions. It could be out of fear, lack of confidence in ourself. It could be because we procrastinate or we haven’t identified our priorities and don’t know what’s important. The other reason you might struggle making decisions is that you’ve got too much busy-ness going on in the rest of your life that you can’t think straight. You don’t have the mental space to weigh up the pros and cons and make a clear, considered choice over your next plan of action.
Action: Try these ideas on how to declutter your mind and give it room to focus. Even pick a decision you’ve been struggling to make. Write a list of pros and cons. Give yourself a deadline to weigh up those pros and cons and put that date/time as an alert on your phone. When the alert pings up, commit to following through on that decision.
8. You forget things
Once again, one of the signs you are too busy is when you can’t remember things you used to remember. What did you have for breakfast? What time is that meeting you have this afternoon? Where did you write down that phone number? What did you need to buy for dinner? Too much on your plate means not enough space for your brain to recall things. It’s too busy remembering ALL the other things in your busy, overstuffed life.
Action: Write a simple To Do list of the important things you must do today. Try this article for tips on how to write a simple and strategic To Do list.
9. Your space is cluttered or messy
Ok, so I know some people are more untidy than others, but it may also be that your outer environment is untidy because you don’t have time, energy, motivation or space to keep it in order. Take a look at your desk now and see if it really helps you think clearly and be productive. Or, has it got a little out of hand as you chuck one thing down only then to rush onto the next!?
Action: Make a time in your diary (this appointment is a good one to keep!) to declutter your space. Save, file, organise, declutter and shred. Create space and breathing room on your desk and in your mind. You’ll find you work better and stop wasting precious time. Read this post on how to declutter your home and life for some helpful tips.
10. You wake up tired
If you’re tired first thing in the morning it’s a sign that you haven’t had a proper night’s sleep. Perhaps you have too much on your mind from too much in your schedule. Again, perhaps it’s time to look at your evening routine, stop burning the candle at both ends and cut down on screens and checking emails when you’re in bed.
Action: Make a list of 3 things you could do this evening to wind down ready for sleep. Do you need to buy or plan anything to make that happen?
11. You no longer enjoy what you used to
Perhaps you like to read, kick-box or knit? Maybe you haven’t done these things for a while or don’t really enjoy them when you do get around to do them (because you’re thinking about what you should be doing instead?). Stop being so busy doing things you feel you HAVE to do and start enjoying things you WANT to do.
Action: Make a list of activities, books, music etc that you enjoy or used to enjoy. Keep the list handy so you can reach for it when you have some spare time.
12. You can’t remember what it feels like to not be busy
If you’ve forgotten what it’s like to be at peace with yourself, not chasing your tail or playing catch-up, maybe you’re too used to being busy.
Action: Hop over to find a guided meditation on the internet. Find one that you can do for just 5 or 10 minutes and give it a go. Try again tomorrow, and the next day. Slow down and stop being busy just for this window of time. Focus on yourself instead of the world around you and you’ll find it gets easier with practice. How does it feel? What do you hear?
13. You feel resentful or angry
Why do other people have time to relax, to go out with friends, to read a book. What am I doing wrong? Why is my life so bad? When we’re not happy in our life we direct our anger and frustration towards other people. We get envious of what we perceive them to have and angry that we don’t have it ourselves.
Action: A more fruitful way to approach this could be to think about why you feel bad about your life, exactly what makes you feel like that and how you could change things. Resentment and anger won’t make the changes you need but they will make you feel bad if you don’t do anything about it.
14. You waste time on social media
This has happened to me and it happened for two reasons. Firstly, when I was too busy and overtired then I couldn’t relax properly. I turned to scrolling through my feeds because I was too worn out to do anything else. Secondly, I preferred to see what other people were doing with their lives instead of facing up to making changes in my own.
Action: I encourage you to check your feeds only at set times of the day or delete the apps off your phone so you have to actually log in to a computer. Explore making changes in your own life instead of looking at the lives of other people.
15. Your identity is defined by your busy-ness
Sometimes when we get busy it’s a signal that something in our life is out of sync. We’ve got our priorities screwed up, we’ve fallen into a spiral, we need to make better decisions or we’re hiding behind busy to avoid a situation. I often used to say I’m busy when asked how I was. “How are you?” “Busy”, I would reply. It was easier than saying I was angry, overwhelmed, unhappy. Don’t confuse how you are with how busy you are or it’s a sign that your schedule might be masking the real you.
Action: Journal your thoughts about who you are, what you like and what makes you feel good with these journal prompts for self-care.
16. Self-care slides
Do you have time to exercise regularly? Eat healthily? Prepare nutritious meals? Take a nap if you need it? Drink plenty of water? Self-care and looking after yourself doesn’t have to be costly or time-consuming but it deserves a little place in your daily schedule (as do you). One of the signs of being too busy is when you fail to do things for you because you’re too busy doing everything else.
Action: Try these 50 simple self-care ideas that take 10 minutes or less.
17. Multi-tasking is your default
Do you eat your meals whilst checking your phone? Wait in a queue whilst answering emails? Watch your kids play in the playground whilst making that important phone call. We all have to multi-task every now and then but do you do this more often than not?
Action: Make a pact with yourself to practice doing one thing at a time.
18. You rely on props
Do you need several cups of coffee or a handful of chocolate bars to get you through the day? Do you reach for the wine or beer when you come back home from work? Slow down and listen to what your body is really asking for.
Action: If this is something you struggle with, can you swap caffeine for decaffeinated or sugar for nuts, vegetables and a healthy snack. Maybe batch-cook food for the freezer so you’re not relying on ready meals. Don’t forget to include it in your meal plan for the coming week so you can pop it on your shopping list.
WHAT TO DO IF YOU ARE TOO BUSY
If you recognise any of these signs you are too busy and would like some tips on what to do about it, here are some steps you might like to take.
1. Remember that change starts with you
Whatever changes you need to make in life, they begin with you and your mindset. If you’re not happy with a situation, you need to take steps to change it. Commit to those steps and follow them through.
Change won’t happen just because you’re reading this blog post. You have to take action in your own life!
Read this post on essential mindsets to get the most out of life for some ideas.
2. Define your priorities
Being busy can creep up on all of us and some seasons in life are busier than others. Generally speaking though, you are in control of what you let in and keep out of your life. The key to getting it right is to get crystal clear on what’s important to you and what’s not. Is work and career important? Perhaps it’s your kids? Maybe it’s your health? Or your aging parents? Or even your financial situation?
Know your priorities and then it’s easier to know where to spend your time and energy. You can’t do everything so maybe it’s time to focus on some things and let the others slide for a while.
Read this post on how to define your priorities and why it matters. There’s a free printable worksheet you could complete too.
3. Declutter your schedule
My site is about simplicity and the cornerstone of simplicity, to me at least, is clearing clutter to create space – in my home, schedule, heart and mind.
Say no to things which don’t add value, value the freedom of blank space on your walls and in your diary. Find calm, peace, appreciation and ease by having less stuff but choosing quality over quantity.
Have less, enjoy what you have more. Do less, enjoy what you do more.
Here are some tips on how to be less busy by decluttering your schedule and doing less.
4. Check-in with yourself regularly
Assess your schedule and your daily routines. Does how you spend your days make you feel happy and satisfied or do you need to make some changes? What you decided to take on a year ago might feel overbearing and energy-sapping if you’ve now got other commitments that need your time and energy.
5. Let things go and say no
Saying no gets easier with practice. Postpone an invite, cancel a commitment. Be intentional about your time and invest it wisely. You won’t get it back again.
Action: Try this article on 7 ways to be intentional with your time.
OVER TO YOU…
And now it’s over to you! If you recognise some or all of these signs you are too busy and it feels like they’re present in your life more often than not, it may be time to pause and reflect.
Don’t let the commitments in your schedule take over from the commitment you should make to yourself.
Be kind and look after yourself. However much you feel like the world will stop because you press pause for a little bit, I’m sure it won’t!
RESOURCES FOR TIME MANAGEMENT AND PRODUCTIVITY
I write about intentional living but one of my favourite topics is time management and how to make your time really work for you. The principles of good time management share many parallels with intentional living – prioritising what’s important, letting go of what’s not and making the most of the time (and life) you have now.
Here are some resources on time management and productivity which you may find helpful:
MAXIMISE YOUR TIME
If the action points I gave you above to help you be less busy seemed too daunting, let me walk you through it!
Maximise Your Time is my time management and productivity course with intentional living at its heart. We go through all of the steps I mentioned above to help you make the most of your time and getting stuff done, without feeling overwhelmed and over-busy.