Keeping busy helps our brains and bodies stay active and stimulated. However, over-packing our schedules can cause undue stress. Let’s focus on getting the right balance.
Busy Mind, Strong Mind
Between work, family obligations, achieving fitness goals, and trying to keep a social life, our days can get hectic very quickly. Some people thrive when constantly on the go. Keeping busy is truly essential to keeping your brain and body fully stimulated and this helps you grow as a person.
A recent article from NPR even shows that keeping a busy schedule helps your brain stay healthier as you age. A study showed that older people with busy lives tested higher for cognitive performance.
Over worked, Over burdened
We all know how being too busy can also cause us to crash. Our performance at work may suffer, we might become short-tempered with our loved ones, and when we finally have a moment to relax, we may feel the need to spend a whole day binge-watching our favorite show.
Being too busy sure can be a burden. When the stress piles up, it wreaks havoc on our bodies as well. Each one of us has our own physical stress response. Some people break out in acne, or experience increased or decreased appetites, lack of sleep, or some other symptom. We all share a negative physical and psychological reaction to being over-stressed.
If we do need to keep up a certain level of busyness to stay healthy, but not get out of control and over-stressed, then we must work to find the right balance. Each person will have their own personal relationship with how busy they need to be. Some people need far more down time than others, and this is perfectly OK.
Whatever your personal level of optimal busyness is, there are a few ways that you can best keep your balance and avoid becoming overworked and stressed.
Monitoring Your Stress Level
Being aware of how you are feeling throughout the day is key. When you feel stress building up, it is important to take action to relieve it before it burns you out. You might need to take a break from whatever is stressing you. Take a walk, sit down outside, or have a glass of water.
If you can’t take a break from what is stressing you, you can always take some deep breaths and count to 10 before getting back to it. Knowing how stressed you are in the moment will help you mitigate its negative effects.
Stress can also build up slowly over time. When you sense this coming on, you might want to consider taking a long weekend vacation, making an adjustment to your routine, or finding some other way to keep it from getting to you. You can also always seek the help of a therapist or counselor, there is no shame in that and it helps many people.
Making a Routine that Works for You
Having a manageable routine can be greatly beneficial. It gives us something to rely on and fall back to when other parts of our life get hectic. It’s important to think about how we’re going to allocate our work, fitness, family, and fun time. If we don’t make time for each of these things, then our life can easily get out of balance.
Click here for some great reading on building the right routine
Each week, think about how you plan to spend your time. Look ahead and think about your obligations, interests, and tasks that you need to pursue. Think about how much time each one will require (and be honest about this! Good time estimation is key to a good routine) and map out your week.
Is there enough time for healthy habits, is there enough time to get your obligations done? If not, cut out the things that matter the least. This may be difficult, but feel no remorse as you axe things from your schedule. You are the master of your life, and only you can know what will work best for you.
Making good use of your weekends can also be one of the best ways to manage your level of busyness.
Here’s some great advice on using your weekends from some highly successful people.
Managing Urgent Vs. Important
The urgent versus important matrix is an excellent tool used by many to help prioritize the tasks in front of them.
Check out the diagram below:
To use this, categorize the things you need to do in one of the quadrants.
Things that are urgent must be done quickly, and are time-sensitive. Things that are important are essential to do. However, that doesn’t mean they necessarily need to get done right away.
When things are both urgent and important, prioritize getting those done right away. Then you can focus on things that may be urgent but are less important. In planning your week as discussed above, plot out how you will manage the things that are important, but not urgent to make sure those get done too.
Things that are not urgent and not important can be ignored for now.
The image below fills in the quadrant with examples of activities you might find in each section:
Putting it all together
We know that keeping busy is essential to modern life and that it has many cognitive benefits as well. However, being too busy is a recipe for too much stress. Too much stress is bad for you, your body, and even those around you.
Being aware of and actively managing your stress level, developing a routine that works for you, and prioritizing your important and urgent tasks will help keep your busyness level in check.
For any help your guidance on the matter, I’m always happy to provide what knowledge I can. You can also seek the help of a time management professional or counselor to help manage your stress.
As always, best wishes for a happy, healthy, and optimally busy life,