I’ve started to notice how the general greeting, “How are you?” is often followed up with a second question: “Busy?”  Or if not, I’ll often answer the first question with, “Good, busy!” 

This got me thinking: Are we now starting to determine our wellbeing by how busy we are?  And is this really the best way to establish how we are?  In the Psylutions office, we have an ongoing joke about how ‘busy and important’ we are.  And whilst it’s tongue in cheek, I do think there is some truth to it.  Who doesn’t feel more important when you’re busy?  When working on a graduate assessment centre project last year, I remember a crazy week that involved managing (and assessing or facilitating) 2 assessment centres in Melbourne on the Tuesday, catching a delayed flight into Brisbane that night to arrive at my hotel room after midnight, a 9am meeting the next morning, followed by working from my hotel room all day non stop, ordering room service for dinner and finally finishing for the day after 9pm, only to get up early the next morning for another four back to back assessment centres over the next two days.  Needless to say, I slept well at the end of the week!  Then it was on to the next capital city the following week (with a dislocated shoulder, but that’s another story!) to do it all again.  When we tell people how busy we are, there’s often a sense of pride involved as they look at you in awe of what you’ve been able to achieve or how hard you’ve worked (well, that’s what I perceive the look on their face to mean anyway…)  And my example probably doesn’t even compare to what some people have managed in a week.

But where did this perception that being busy is a good thing come from? 

If you’re busy, you’re in demand, and therefore must be good at what you do.  Right?  If businesses are busy, they must be highly profitable.  But what if you’re busy because you’re not good at time management?  Or your organisation doesn’t have the necessary resources?  Or if you’re spending too much time working on projects which decreases their profitability?  Then busy isn’t necessarily a good thing.

Being too busy can also have a detrimental impact upon other areas of your life – your relationships, family, friends, sleep, and health, both physical and psychological.  In this day and age where we seem to feel we can have it all, and be everything to everyone, it’s almost impossible not to be busy.  But are we all trying to fit too much in?  After all, we weren’t designed to be constantly on the go for every waking hour of the day.  And if you’re trying to do too much, do you still do things well? 

I read an interesting article recently (http://www.nytimes.com/2013/02/10/opinion/sunday/relax-youll-be-mor... ) about how we are all so busy, and although time is a finite resource, what we can do is manage our energy levels more effectively.  Ironically, the best way to increase your energy levels is to take time out.  Take a break (don’t eat lunch at your desk), take more holidays, and get more sleep.  Doing so allows your body and mind to rejuvenate, so that when you are working, you can be more productive.  Therefore you can work smarter, and not harder!

It’s also beneficial to know when your energy levels are highest, and you’re at your most productive.  I know that I work better in the morning, and therefore try to schedule more challenging or demanding tasks in the morning, and where possible, leave less mentally challenging (but still important!) tasks for the afternoon.  Taking regular breaks works well too, as physiologically speaking, we tend to cycle from a state of alertness to one of fatigue every 90 minutes.  Taking a break helps you to renew and come back fresh and therefore be more productive.

Are you too busy?  How do you take time out?  What impact does this have on your energy levels?

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