ep.031 Being Too Busy

It’s almost the end of the school year in the US, which means students are gearing up for final exams, projects, presentations; plus recitals, concerts, awards ceremonies–I’ve been to a few of those in the past, they’re fun, lots of clapping. But I’ve never heard of someone getting an award for being the “Most Busy” or seen a report card grade for “Outstandingly Overscheduled.”

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Now that may sound ridiculous, yet for some reason it feels like society puts high value on packing your schedule and pinballing from one event to the next. Busyness makes some people feel important, accomplished, and needed, as if busy is a badge of honor and the more busy you are, the bigger deal you are. But like I said,

You won’t get any gold stars or blue ribbons for being busy.

There ARE some things you might get, but you probably don’t want them. If you’re too busy you might get stressed out, get less sleep, get sick easier, get worse grades, get no free time, get less enjoyment from life, or get disconnected from your family and friends. Those are the rewards for being overscheduled, and whether you want them or not, you’ll get them if you’re too busy.

I want you to imagine you’re on a road trip, and along the way you see signs for rest stops and gas stations ahead, but you never stop to refill your gas tank, you just keep driving all day and night. Maybe you even watch the gas gauge and think, “Oh it’s not empty yet, I can still make it a few more miles before I run out of gas!”

But since you didn’t take time to stop along the way to gas up, at some point you will be forced to stop when your car runs out of gas.

And you won’t be able to get going again without refueling. If you can’t call a tow truck, which is a hassle itself, you’ll have to walk all the way to a gas station for a refill can and then walk all the way back to your car so the refill can gives you just enough gas to make it to the gas station to finally stop and refill your tank so you can get going again. Doesn’t make sense not to stop for gas, does it?

You work the same way. If you’re always going, nonstop, pushing ahead, ignoring signs that remind you to rest, refill, recharge, reset–mentally and physically–so you’ll have enough energy to continue …

If you don’t stop regularly, you’re going to run out of gas and be overwhelmed, exhausted, and miserable.

In her book, “Enough As She Is,” author Rachel Simmons points out that girls today are told they can do anything, and while that sounds nice, girls interpret it to mean they have to do everything. And as much as girls try to balance schoolwork and clubs and sports and tutoring and activities and work and friends and family and dances and service projects and babysitting and social media … squeezing something into nearly every second of every day, it’s not humanly possible to do everything. And that’s okay. It’s taken me a long time to accept this fact with self-compassion, so if it’s hard for you to hear, I understand.

I want you to take a moment to reflect on your typical weekday routine. Let’s say you wake up around 6am and go to bed around 9pm, which means you have about 15 hours in your day you can do things. Now think about how much time you spend doing something that’s part of your schedule, be it getting ready, eating meals, school, work, exercise, homework, chores, lessons, practice, whatever’s regularly part of your day. Some days may have more or less going on, so just pick a day and figure out how many hours those scheduled things take. Now subtract that number from 15 (the number of hours in your day to do things). The answer you get is how much time you have each day that’s unscheduled–your downtime or free time. Hopefully there’s some time left.

If there is, how do you use that time? Maybe scrolling social media or YouTube? I admit I spend a lot of time on my phone, but there are more-productive ways to utilize free time so you get a better rest, refill, reset, and recharge. You could read, write, or draw for fun, spend time with family or friends, do an activity just because you enjoy it, create something, play a game together, go outside, give service to someone, or just chill by yourself and let your mind and eyes rest. Now I’m not saying you schedule out every remaining minute of your day, those are just some ideas of how you can use your free time.

Now if you don’t have any free time, or have very little time leftover, you may want to take a good look at all that you’re doing, all you’re involved in, all you have scheduled, and reflect on each thing. There’s nothing wrong with being involved in things you enjoy. Discovering your interests, developing your talents, and utilizing your skills all help you grow as an individual. It’s ok to want to do lots of things, but you just can’t do all of them at the same time.

Being too busy can make the things you enjoy not enjoyable anymore.

Living overscheduled takes the fun out of life. And that’s no fun. So ask yourself how you feel about each thing you’re doing and whether it’s something you still want to do right now. If there’s anything that you’re just not enjoying anymore, you may want to consider whether you should continue with it. And while it’s good to honor your commitments, they shouldn’t be at the expense of your physical or mental health. It’s okay to change your mind and change your plans.

Even just one-less thing on your schedule could give you a much-needed window of free time to help you balance out all the other things that are still on your schedule.

Some people use a day planner–it’s like a notebook to organize the events and todos of the day/week/month/year. Planners help them manage their time and keep track of their schedule and responsibilities. They can be a very useful tool. If you already have a day planner, I’d love to hear your thoughts about it as I want to explore them more in another episode. For now though, to help you see how busy you are and visualize your schedule, and hopefully find some more free time, I created a “My Time Planner” worksheet that you can print out, personalize, and post on your wall where you’ll see it, remember it, practice it, and believe it — that’s the important part.

If you have favorites to add to this list, or have a topic suggestion, I’d love to hear from you! Send an email (tweens get the OK from your parents) to hello@EmpowerfulGirls.com .

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