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From Crazy Busy To Unapologetically Unbusy

Written by: Donna Oberg, Executive Contributor

Executive Contributors at Brainz Magazine are handpicked and invited to contribute because of their knowledge and valuable insight within their area of expertise.

Executive Contributor Donna Oberg

When I left my corporate career, I was regularly asked, “What are you going to do next?” or “How will you keep yourself busy?”. I had been TOO busy for most of my life. Definitely, for most of my career. I thought I wanted a break, but what I didn’t understand was that I had become addicted to being busy. How did that happen? What did that even mean? Could I beat this addiction? Can you? What will people think if I’m no longer busy? And then it hit me: if I wanted to live the life I was meant to live and become the person I was meant to be, a key ingredient would be to become Unapologetically unbusy.

Tired woman looking at laptop computer

Let’s be clear: Being unapologetically unbusy does not mean laziness. It’s about being intentional and purposeful in our activities, focusing on productivity and enjoyment, which includes moments of stillness.

And so, I embarked on a mission to understand how busyness manifested in my life and find strategies to become unbusy.

The pace of life has exponentially grown, particularly in the last two decades, with a constantly connected world and information at our fingertips. Social Media and the era of instant responses have just added to our busyness.

But when I left my corporate life, the pandemic had a firm grip on the world and our activities. For a while, it forced a certain level of slowdown. You could feel, see, hear, and even smell the stillness. With less traffic and activities, the skies seemed bluer, nature seemed louder, and the vibrancy and scent of plants grew more intense. Such a contradiction to the fear felt from the possibility of illness, death, and financial loss.

With every change throughout history, people and society adapt. This was no exception. Soon, we found ourselves busy again with Zoom meetings, homeschooling, long-awaited decluttering and house renovations, online courses, and newly adopted hobbies, or hobbies resurrected. In a short time, some people even found themselves working longer hours, not having to fight rush hour commutes and shuttling kids to after-school activities.

Then, the long-awaited re-opening of our lives and the world, and we weren’t just busy; life once again became chaotic.

So, what did busyness look like for me?

In my experience, there are three types of busy. Although I’ve experienced them all, I tended toward Crazy and Good Busy.

  1. Super Busy

  2. Crazy Busy

  3. Good Busy

Super busy

When we say we are super busy, we almost beam as we wear this busyness like a badge of honour.

We have shockingly full calendars, colour-coded, organized and timed to the last millisecond. We pride ourselves on getting to events with seconds to spare and multi-tasking, boasting that we need little sleep to function.

Crazy busy

People who are crazy busy do not beam as they say the words; they look and sound exhausted, scattered, irritated and often without hope that things will get better. Any suggestion to do one more thing, even if it’s a fun activity, causes them to enter the fetal position.

Good busy

We’ve found what we love to do, dive in with all we have and rarely come up for air. Time passes easily and quickly. Even here, our self-care and relationships often take a back seat on our list of priorities.

In each of these scenarios, as Garland Vance explains in his book Getting Unbusy, our “commitments exceed capacity,” and our busyness just might be “killing us.” Yes, even if you are good busy!

You might not see the signs at first, but they can creep up on you until they firmly grasp your mental and physical health and knock you off your feet. You may even find yourself in the hospital.

Maybe you feel the tension in your chest, headaches, irritability, disrupted sleep, and exhaustion. You start noticing a few extra pounds from excess cortisol (the stress hormone) or from ordering food delivery and stopping at the local fast food place way too many nights in the week.

Relationships suffer, too. You haven’t connected with family and friends for too long, not even with the pandemic-inspired Zoom cocktail nights.

You. Are. Just. Too. Busy!

Immediately after leaving my corporate career, I read 11 books in 4 months, sometimes reading until 3 in the morning; I started a blog, created a website, launched my coaching business, took online courses, volunteered and began certifying myself in multiple coaching areas. I tackled decluttering, bought colouring books, and started a new hobby. At first glance, this doesn’t sound bad, and it was significantly slower than the office.

But what I see now are two things:

  1. I didn’t know how to turn off my brain and truly be in the present or in stillness.

  2. I felt guilty about not being “busy,” and I perhaps was avoiding the reality that I wasn’t sure who I was outside of my corporate identity.

In Brené Brown’s Daring Greatly, she writes: “One of the most universal numbing strategies is what I call crazy-busy. … We are a culture of people who’ve bought into the idea that if we stay busy enough, the truth of our lives won’t catch up with us.”

And so, it was. I had become addicted to being busy!

I quickly realized that for this chapter of my life, starting my new business and exploring the possibilities of the future, I could not continue racing against time (an impossible task). I wanted to live my life with intention, purpose, and joy. I would focus on productive, meaningful work, play and relationships and on getting unapologetically unbusy. To achieve this, I would need to use three powerful strategies.

Strategies to become unapologetically unbusy

1. Becoming present in each moment

You’ve heard this before, no doubt. And you may have rolled your eyes when you read it here. You might think I’m just stating the obvious, and yet so many of us struggle with being present, so maybe it doesn’t hurt to remind us/ourselves. Or perhaps you found yourself a bit frustrated when you read this because in the world we live in today, it’s easier said than done when you are working excessive hours, maybe 2 or 3 jobs, just to pay the bills and keep a roof over your head.

But being present doesn’t need nor should it feel like another task. The best part is that even taking 5 or 10 minutes a day to be present can have life-changing impacts on your physical, mental, and emotional well-being. Practicing daily and regularly can significantly lower feelings of stress, irritability, and anxiety and give you the strength to overcome the hard moments.

It can be achieved in many ways; here are just a few:

Truthfully, the only moment you have control over is the present moment, and it is a powerful way to experience life and relationships and to achieve clarity on your purpose. It is when we reach stillness that we can connect to our purpose and passion.

“In today's rush, we all think too much, seek too much, want too much, and forget about the joy of just Being.”— Eckhart Tolle

2. Lean into and understand our need to numb

Perhaps you are using busyness to avoid the unpleasant things in your mind and life. In the section above, we talk about financial strain; maybe it’s an unhealthy relationship or loss. For me I realized I felt a loss of identity when I left my corporate career, and even though I had an idea of what I wanted to do next, I didn’t have a clear vision of how I was going to get there, and that was scary. With the lockdown in place, I began the numbing process of getting busy in any way I could.

Is there something you are avoiding in your life by keeping unhealthily busy?

It wasn’t until I admitted to myself that I had lost my sense of identity and spent time understanding that loss and my fear of the next steps if I was going to find and live my purpose that I realized I was using busyness to numb those feelings. It also gave me a great excuse to explain why I couldn’t achieve my dreams. I was too busy.

But after accepting the reality that I was in numbing mode, I took a step back, spent time ‘detoxing’ from my corporate identity, and began to be very intentional in finding the right mentors, getting educated in the coaching field, exploring my spirituality, being present, and focussing on being passionate and productive every day. I concentrated on being passionate, intentional, and unapologetically unbusy.

As usual, Brené Brown in Daring Greatly does a fantastic job explaining how if you “numb the dark … you numb the light.” I wasn’t willing any longer to let life pass me by and miss all the joyful moments.

3. Setting boundaries and saying no

Before you read any further, please take a good look at your schedule this week or for the next ten days. If you are not the type of person who puts things in their calendar, then take the time to write down everything you’ve committed to over the next 7 or 10 days.

Ok done? When you did that, did you feel like the person in the picture at the beginning of the article? Then, it might be time to set some boundaries and learn the power of the word No.

The first step is acknowledging that feeling of being overwhelmed and overcommitted. Awareness is critical, but action is how you will overcome.

Next, take another look at your schedule and begin the process of setting boundaries and saying no. Are there things you are doing because you don’t want to disappoint someone, or you feel guilty if you don’t? Start by saying no to one of those things. I know it is hard, but boundaries and saying no doesn’t mean you don’t care. It means you understand the importance of your health and well-being and, yes, the importance of your dreams.

Now that you’ve created some space, reflect on when your energy is at its peak. Are you a morning person, afternoon, or evening? Time is finite; no matter how fast you go, you can’t race against it. But energy is renewable, so one of the best ways of maximizing your productivity is tackling your most challenging activities when your energy levels are at their highest and setting boundaries around those times to allow you to do just that.

Finally, it’s important to circle back to point one. Find the time and protect that time to experience being in the present and still. It will not only help you fully experience each moment but also allows you to recharge and renew your energy. This will be challenging for some, but it is like a muscle, and it gets easier and stronger the more you exercise it.

My hope is that whatever type of busy you are, you’ve found something in this article that sets you on the course to become Unapologetically Unbusy!

If you are ready to become Unapologetically Unbusy and the person you were meant to be, in the body you were meant to be in, follow me on Facebook, LinkedIn, or contact me on my Website and book a discovery call!

Donna Oberg Brainz Magazine

Donna Oberg, Executive Contributor Brainz Magazine

Donna Oberg, Author, Certified Flourishing Coach, Nutrition Coach, Wisdom Coach and Disability Advocate, was born with Cerebral Palsy. Living an adventurous and fiercely independent life with her disability has taught her many powerful lessons, including the power of being grateful for her disability. Donna’s mission is to inspire others now to become the person they were meant to be in the life they were meant to live.



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