I recently discussed why being “busy” isn’t honorable and how to start choosing to live your life on purpose by focusing on what matters most.  And I know that most people want to do this – yet it’s hard to do.  Sometimes we get so wrapped up in our busyness that we don’t realize we’re overworked, overwhelmed, and heading for burnout.

So, how can you tell when you’re getting overly busy and spending too much time and energy on the wrong things (and too little time on the right things)?  There are certain tell-tale warning signs to watch out for – so you know when it’s time to course correct.

Sign #1: You’ve dropped things from your life that give you positive energy and help you decompress.

You know that being overly busy is exhausting – physically, mentally, and emotionally.  Yet, when you get busy, you drop the things that make you most calm, sane, and happy, don’t you?  Those things that help you decompress.

I’m talking about exercising, spending time alone, meditating, praying, eating well, reading a good book, and so on.  Whatever it is that gives you energy and helps you stay calm and sane.  And you’re not alone – this is something we all do.

Think about how crazy that is for a moment.  Doing a bunch of crap that makes you frustrated, burdened, stressed, and generally unhappy is prioritized over those things that bring you joy, peace, energy, and happiness.  And the things that bring you joy, peace, and energy are what help you to decrease and manage your stress in the first place.

This leads you into a circular tailspin that is making you even more exhausted.

Sign #2: You’re constantly telling yourself that you need to get more organized and focused.

I’m not here to tell you that you shouldn’t be organized or focused.  However, being organized with and focusing on the wrong things won’t help you.  Ever.

So, if you find yourself saying that all you need to do is to focus more (and better) and get more organized, take a step back and rethink whether that’s the real problem.  Because often it’s not.

And I know what I’m talking about, because this happens to be my go-to mechanism for coping with overwhelm from too much to do.  I’m a master at thinking that all I need to do is organize my tasks better and increase my focus. Unfortunately, this rarely works.  Yet I often double down and try to get even more organized and focused.

And I’ve noticed that most people who feel overwhelmed do this as well.  You know Albert Einstein’s famous quote about the definition of insanity, right?

If you find yourself doubling down on the “I just need to be more organized and increase my focus” excuse, it’s time to rethink how you’re prioritizing. Because that’s often the real problem.  And becoming more focused and better organized won’t help that.

Sign #3: You find it difficult to unplug yourself from work (even when you don’t need to be working).

If you find yourself:

  • checking your email when you know you don’t need to (such as when you’re having dinner with your family or right before bed),
  • working so much your clients and co-workers can’t tell when you’re on vacation,
  • scheduling calls or other work during the weekends a lot (especially when you know it can wait until Monday),
  • taking your laptop and/or taking work calls when at your child’s recital and/or sports activities, and/or
  • having little to no time to yourself

it’s time to revisit how you’re spending your time.  This can be hard to do, because most of us convince ourselves that we’re necessary to whatever is going on at work and that it requires us to be available 24/7.  But it’s not true – and it’s time to admit that you’re not that important.

I know that sounds harsh, but the simple fact is that your world of work will continue without you.  It won’t come crashing down because you aren’t available from time to time and it will still be there tomorrow.

Plan to have time away from work and stick to it – even calendar it (and notice how the world doesn’t come crashing down because you took 2 hours away from work and with your family one evening).

Sign #4: Doing fun stuff with friends and family feels like a chore.

Sometimes, when we get stressed our brains stop functioning properly.  And, because of our tendency to feel the need to drop those things that give us the most joy, these fun (and important) activities can start to feel like a burden.

Here’s the thing: going to dinner with your spouse or a friend, attending your child’s recital or baseball game, and meeting a friend for drinks should NEVER feel like a chore.  They’re supposed to make you happy.  So, if you aren’t enjoying them, it’s time to pause and rethink your priorities.

Sign #5: You find yourself saying “I can’t”, “I don’t have time” and/or “I’m busy” a lot.

This one’s pretty obvious.  The trick is accepting that being busy isn’t a badge of honor and doesn’t make you more important.

When you find yourself saying this, it’s a sign to let go of the ego and start questioning how you’re spending your time.  Because saying “I don’t have time”, “I can’t”, and/or “I’m busy” presumes that there’s something you’d rather be doing that you can’t figure out how to fit in.  And it’s time to re-prioritize.

Where are you?

Now it’s time to apply this to your life – and I want you to answer two questions with brutal honesty.

First up: which warning signs ring true for you right now?  If you’re being honest, I’m willing to bet that at least one or two of these warning signs are showing up in your life right now (because being busy seems to be the societal norm these days).

Second: what are you willing to do about it?  Commit to doing something specific that will obliterate this warning sign from your life quickly.

I ask that you share the answers to these questions in the comments below.  First, it will help you take real action (there’s something about sharing that will help keep you accountable).  Second, we all struggle with being too busy – and your sharing might be what someone else needs to make a much-needed change to their life too.

Until next time…


P.S.  Ready to truly do something about all this busy-ness?  Get the OMG Antidote Kit: How to Cure Overwhelm Due to Multitasking and a Gargantuan To-Do List.  This kit will help you (1) reclaim your time and settle your mind when in the thick of feeling overwhelmed (so you can start thinking clearly again), (2) learn a methodology to help you prioritize with ease (so you can be in control over what gets dropped and what doesn’t), and (3) be more productive and get more done as a result (so you can spend your time on what matters most).