No matter what is happening in the world, I know that one of the biggest challenges I — and you — face is stepping away from the siren call of “busy”. And since I know that confession is (often) good for the soul, here goes: I haven’t been writing much lately. Yes, I’m still writing new articles for this blog. And the newsletter. But I’ve been telling myself that I don’t have time to really dive into writing that next book. That I’m too busy with other tasks. But the truth is: I need to get off the merry go round.
It’s not hard for me to get caught in the cycle. I hop on and spin around and tell myself that I’m too busy to get off and get stuff done. And I don’t want to get off, no matter how tired I am, because busy is addictive. But it’s also exhausting, stressful, and keeping me from what I’m passionate about. So, here’s what I’m going to do to hop off the merry go round of too much to do and too little time. I invite you to play along with me with these five steps.
One – Get off the merry go round by not using “busy” as a badge of honor.
Decisions are powerful, my darling. When you decide you will no longer use “busy” as a badge of honor, you’ll be well on your way to hopping off that merry go round.
You know what this badge of honor is, right? We say it without thinking when someone asks how we’re doing: “Oh, I’m so busy.” When is the last time you heard someone say they’ve been resting a lot? I would love to hear more people talk about how they’ve been simplifying their lives and saying “no” to more.
Let’s be honest here. Busy is addictive because getting stuff done makes us feel good, or even smug. It keeps us from feeling the things we don’t want to feel and provides a way to avoid the challenges of interpersonal relationships. You can avoid entire areas of your life by being busy! But you can’t do that forever. You’ll either hit the wall (I don’t recommend that), or you can step off the merry go round yourself.
One of the most important first steps when you choose to drop the busyness badge is to make peace with the fact that you are worthy of being loved and accepted for exactly who you are, no matter how much (or how little) you accomplish. You don’t need to prove your worth or earn love through being busy. Love is your birthright.
Two – Get off the merry go round by clarifying your desires.
Sometimes, darling, we stay stuck on the merry go round because we don’t really know what we want. So, we become convinced that everything is important. But if we want to get off the merry go round, we need to get clear on what our real desires are—and knowing what we want also means knowing what we don’t want.
An exercise I find helpful is to write down 1) my vision for my life, 2) my values, and 3) my non-negotiables. Take a moment to do this yourself. It’s much easier to see what decisions you need to make to support your vision, align with your values, and maintain your non-negotiables when you write them down.
Next, put your goals on paper. Write down what you want to accomplish and how you plan to do it. Studies show that when we commit to writing down our goals, we’re more likely to follow through.
Now that we have these things written down, we need to review them regularly. And we’ll use them in steps four and five when considering what to put on our calendars and what to take off. When we’re clear on what we want and how we’re going to get it, it’s a lot easier for us to get off the merry go round.
Three – Get off the merry go round by getting clear on what you desire. And why.
It’s hard to stay motivated when we aren’t quite sure what we want. Or why. It’s easy to hop back on the merry go round when our goals don’t match up with our deeper desires. Let’s take another look at those goals we wrote down in step two and ask ourselves the five whys for each one. Start by asking,
- “Why is this my goal?”
- “And what would that give me?”
- “Well, why do I want that?”
- “What will that give me?”
It takes at least five sequences like this to get down to the deepest reasons for our goals. That rock-solid, soul-deep why will help us stay motivated when we get tired, frustrated, and desperate for some way to numb the feelings. And don’t be afraid to also get clear on what you don’t want. That’s super valuable input.
It’s also really important that we include how we think our goal or desire is going to help us. We need this part of the why to stay motivated. And don’t be afraid to dig down as deep as you need, even if the deepest why for your goal seems selfish or petty. No one else needs to know this but you, and you don’t owe anyone an explanation.
You do owe it to yourself to know why you want something. Your why will help you accomplish your goals, but it only works if you’re honest with yourself.
Four – Get off the merry go round by remembering the three D’s.
Now that we know what we want and why we want it, it’s time to get some stuff off our plates. I like using the three Ds to clear my commitments: delete, defer, and delegate.
- The First “D” is for Delete. Look at your goals and then look at your commitments. Now be honest: What is on your calendar or to-do list that won’t help you reach those goals? Those things will waste your energy and your time. Darling, you may object, but if you’ve dug down deep in step three and figured out why you want your goals, you have already figured out for yourself what matters most to you. Don’t waste your energy on things that don’t matter.
- The Second “D” is for Defer. Sometimes we think that deferring is procrastinating, but they aren’t the same thing. When we procrastinate, we are looking for excuses not to do something we know we need to do right now. Deferring a task is an intentional choice. Look at your to-do list and identify the non-urgent tasks that you don’t have time or energy for right now. Decide to save those tasks for a time when you do have the time and energy, or when you really do have to do them.
- The Final “D” is for Delegate. Can you hire someone to take some things off your plate? Who in your family can you allow to help? Yes, kitten, I said allow. It is a privilege to be invited into someone’s life this way. When you ask someone for help, it strengthens the connection you have with them. It builds intimacy and trust while giving you time and energy to love them. Delegating also gives us the opportunity to learn how to receive help in a gracious way. It sets an example for others, giving them permission to ask for help one day, instead of struggling alone. So, darling, don’t feel like you have to get off the merry go round on your own. Give others the chance to assist you by asking for help when you can.
Five – Get off the merry go round by making your calendar your best friend.
We’ve looked at the calendar a bit in previous steps, but kitten, it’s time to really harness it to work for us. Let’s review the next few months.
- What’s set in stone, and what can we shift if we need to? Reapply those “Three D’s” to your calendar, too.
- Consider block scheduling. Were can you bundle similar activities together. It takes energy to get into the rhythm of a particular task, so constant switching asks so much more of us than focusing and channeling all our energy into one type of task for an extended period of time.
- Though this feels challenging, block off a single day per month to completely unplug. You will be surprised at how little you miss, and how taking this break from electronics helps you reconnect to yourself and your loved ones. Those electronic items fuel our addiction to busyness, so it’s really important to set them aside on a regular basis.
- Finally, check in with yourself on a weekly basis. It might feel frivolous or impractical when you’re still whirling around on the merry go round, but that’s exactly why we both need to do it. Stepping back gives us a chance to plan our lives, catch ourselves before we get sidetracked from our goals, and sharpen our intuitive focus.
So, darling, are you ready to get off the merry go round?
When we’re on the merry go round, we’re in reaction mode, responding to other people’s priorities instead of our own. And reaction, darling, is one of the things that keeps us stuck there.
It’s as simple as that: a shift in perspective, a commitment to your desires, and some solid time management. And, oh, I know that some of these strategies might be difficult at first. But once you follow through and experience life off the merry go round, you’ll be amazed by the difference.
Would you like to work through these steps with a pro? Get some support from someone who knows what it’s like to feel stuck on the merry go round?
Are you seeking practical advice? Someone to talk through potential pitfalls and solutions? Do you desperately need support around your crazy-busy life?
I have limited space for one-on-one clients. You can find details about packages and pricing here.
Drop me an email at: debra AT debrasmouse.com and we’ll schedule a call to see if we’re a good fit.