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  • Melissa Sims

How Busyness Halts Progress

Teresa and I had the great opportunity to attend Podcast Evolutions this past week and it was (as always) a whirlwind of activity for both of us. It’s a convention for podcasters, industry executives, tech gurus, voice talent - you name it! We’ve been doing the podcast now for over four years and have been a little burned out on the amount of extra work it has been for us. But we were reaching people globally with our mindfulness message so it has always been worth it. Recently, we’ve come to a crossroads: our mental health OR the podcast. We’ve both been suffering a bit with the amount of work the podcast added to our plate so we took about 5 months off and are now back at it. We decided to come to this conference in order to assess if we wanted to continue with producing the podcast or let it go.

We didn’t really start the podcast to be more than support for home visitors, but once the pandemic hit it completely took off with over a million downloads, and morphed into another full time job. We were surprised (to say the least), unsure, and definitely undereducated in the world of podcasting. This unplanned success opened up a new world of possibilities, but the busyness of our true work kept those possibilities at bay. 

Teresa and I were exhausted by the end of our week. Session after session, information overload, networking and being social (which we don’t do very often) had us both walking around like zombies by our last day. Thank goodness we had smartphones to take pictures of presentations, or I am positive that we would not have remembered much of anything. Incredibly, even though we really were mentally and physically exhausted, we had some wonderful inspiration and breakthroughs. Good news: we are both walking away from this with a lot of renewed passion not only for the podcast, but for our work in general. 

It is so easy to get bogged down with the minutiae of our every day activities. We hustle along frequently glancing at our goal list and telling ourselves “tomorrow…I will start focusing on that tomorrow.” Add in the fact that as a society we are woefully under-rested and our goals become far less important than our need for sleep. At the heart of the issue is the illusion of productivity that busyness creates. Being busy does not always mean being effective.

The concept of being busy has morphed into a badge of honor. The hustle culture champions the idea that being perpetually busy equates to being productive and successful. However, this relentless busyness can often become a double-edged sword, leading us away from focusing on our true goals and losing sight of the bigger picture. I suppose my point here is that we all need balance, and if we were much better at it, we would be able to take advantage of unexpected possibilities without the stress of overburdening ourselves.

We really do need time to stop and smell the roses: to be present to all of the wonderful things we forget to notice.

Pay attention to how many times you say “I’m too busy” or, when someone asks how you’ve been, your response is “good, just busy.” I don’t think that is where we actually want our focus and energy, right? That was usually my canned response. Wouldn’t it be nice if we could say “I’ve been great. Slowing down and really enjoying life, and being open to all the opportunities available to me.” Can you imagine? 

The consequences of this constant busyness are multifaceted. Physically, the lack of rest can lead to burnout, while mentally, it can cause stress and anxiety. On a personal level, relationships may suffer due to neglect. Professionally, the quality of work may decline as we lose focus on what truly matters - the outcomes and objectives that drive real success and fulfillment. Remember those goals we all set? 

The good news is that there are strategies to combat the pitfalls of busyness, regain focus on our goals, and balance our personal and professional lives.

Start by setting clear, specific, and achievable goals. These goals should be aligned with your bigger picture - your personal vision and professional aspirations. Use the SMART framework (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, Time-bound) to guide your goal-setting process.

Once your goals are set, prioritize your tasks based on how well they align with achieving these goals. This means learning to say no to tasks or activities that do not contribute to your bigger picture. Prioritization tools like the Eisenhower Box can help in categorizing tasks based on urgency and importance.

Regularly checking in on your progress towards your goals is crucial. Set aside time weekly or monthly to review your goals and the progress made towards them. This practice helps in adjusting strategies, re-prioritizing tasks, and keeping your focus sharp.

None of these tools will work for you if you don’t learn to embrace rest and recovery. Stop the burnout cycle! We push, push, push and then need a break. We come back from our break feeling refreshed and inspired, only to lead to the same cycle of burnout. Rest and recovery are essential components of productivity. Proper sleep is not a luxury; it’s a necessity for cognitive function, emotional well-being, and physical health. Aim for 6-8 hours of quality sleep per night and consider incorporating restful activities like meditation or reading into your routine.

Be prepared to adapt your strategies and approaches. What works today might not work tomorrow. Regularly assess what is and isn’t working in your routine, and be open to changing tactics. Flexibility is key to overcoming obstacles and staying aligned with your goals. When you can implement all of these strategies, you won’t need the break from everything. You can be open to opportunity, because you’re rested, clear-headed, and balanced. Your work life and personal life separate naturally when you feel connected to your purpose, when you have your goals clear in sight, and you make progress each day toward them.

Balancing our personal and professional lives isn't about doing more; it's about doing what's meaningful. By focusing on what truly matters, we can ensure that our busyness leads to fulfilling progress rather than becoming another path that leads to burnout.

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