Recently when I’ve told people how busy I’ve been, I’ve been met with positive responses like ‘Well done, that’s awesome for you!‘.
Whilst I’m forever grateful for lovely supportive friends and family, I’ve felt almost embarrassed that I must have been framing ‘being busy’ as some kind of brag of how ‘important’ & ‘successful’ I am.
Because being ‘busy’ is actually the opposite of success for me.
Okay, so there’s a difference between good busy and bad busy, I realise. I’m talking about bad/stressed busy; where you end up just trying to keep your head above water to keep from drowning in emails and tasks. Where you spend all day on a constant speed setting of HIGH and things like eating lunch become second priority or else you’ll fall behind. Where things feel totally out of control.
In my mind, if I am this busy, I have failed.
When I went freelance, I did so for a reason. I wanted a business that would allow me to live at the speed I wanted whilst providing a service I loved doing. It was important to me that my work was well-balanced with my life and hobbies.
I set myself some ‘non-negotiables’ and wrote these down so that as soon as one of these came under threat, I would take it as an alarm that I’ve been doing something wrong and I need to take a step back. Here’s what that looks like:
“If I can’t take time to…
- Walk the dog twice a day
- Make a healthy lunch for myself
- Read at least one book a month
- Make and keep to doctors appointments
- Exercise at least once a week
- Do my hobby (eg. this blog!) at least twice a week
- Keep the house clean
- Meet with friends or family once a week
…then I am too busy and something needs to change.”
These might seem like silly small things, but that’s precisely why they’re so important. Like, if I don’t even have time to make and eat lunch what is life??
Over the past few weeks I’ve been struggling to post even once a week here on the blog, and the house cleaning has… well… not been a priority, let’s say. When things get to this kind of stressed busy, it’s not something to be proud of, because it means I’ve let things slip in other areas of my life.
It also means that I’ve failed at working effectively as well; if I’m just flailing around just trying to get tasks done, then there’s no way I can be following a strategy or think about how to use my time in the best way.
So, when someone asks me how my week has been I don’t want to reply “busy”, I want to reply “my week has been great; productive, effective AND well-rounded”. That is what success looks like to me.
Next time you’re feeling stressed busy and out-of-control, consider your own ‘non-negotiables’. If these look like they’re under threat then take a step back and ask yourself ‘what has gone wrong’ and ‘how can I make sure this situation doesn’t happen again?’. I say this partly as a reminder to myself, by the way!
What are your non-negotiables? How do you know when you need to take a step back?
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