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Have You Created a Habit of Busyness?


In our home we have a child nearing the age of one that still enjoys our late night company. I used to fear that she was trying to slowly kill us through the method of sleep deprivation, but now I understand that she loves us so much that she wants to see us at even the oddest of hours. A change of perspective sometimes saves your sanity.

During one of our late night visits while slowly rocking her in the dim light of the room, I suddenly, violently, had a thought pop into my head – I forgot to start the dishwasher! Followed by: I have to remember to pick up milk tomorrow….Did I ever send out that last work email?….What time is my son’s hockey game Monday?….and on and on it goes.

This wasn’t a new occurrence. Lately I have been creating my ‘to do’ lists by nightlight. While going through these things I needed to accomplish, I suddenly had a reality breakthrough with the thought: It’s 2:30am! Why do I care about this right now?!

The progress to this place was a slow one. It starts with a busy day, which turns into a busy week, which is suddenly a busy month. We say yes more often than we should, we add “just one more” thing to our list and continue to pile on the obligations. We create a habit of busyness and stress. Living with a – “I just have to get through this day/week/month” – is not a recipe for life that should be encouraged.

These are the times we need to reset. 

We have to rethink our days, refocus on the priorities and re-learn how to say no and how to expect less from ourselves. Honestly, most of what we put on our plates is self-inflicted. In the moment that one plan/task/project seems small (and it probably is), but when we couple it with: a spouse to stay connected to, children to take care of, schedules to manage, work to do and a house to run – we are left with zero time for ourselves and no energy left at the end of the day.

We all know we need to focus on the important things, to take time for ourselves and to let go of perfectionism. It’s common sense. The effort to realign to these ideals shouldn’t be huge, but when you are running on empty the thought of figuring out one more thing can feel daunting.

If you are feeling overwhelmed, I welcome you on my journey over the next few weeks to re-prioritize and to simplify.

Here are a few small changes to start:

1) Banish the late night thought train.
Before you go to bed create your list. Write down everything you need to figure out the next day, everything you think you need to do in the weeks ahead or anything else that is on your mind. The goal is to reduce anxiety/stress at night and increase your rest. By knowing that it is already accounted for, you can let it go until the next day. If you start to think through these items, remind yourself that they will be taken care of tomorrow and remove them from your mind. Learn to let go.

2) Beg, Borrow or Steal for “Me” Time.
Find a way this week to have your own time. Talk to your spouse about helping in new areas, let go of an obligation or re-imagine your day. Can you take a lunch from work to go for a walk or read a book? Can your spouse pick up the kids and take care of dinner so you can meet a friend for a drink? Can you take a sick day to relax (not to accomplish your growing ‘to do’ list!)? Find time. Even 20-30 minutes to do something you want to do, instead of something you have to do, will help.

3) Identify Your Top 3.
There is something powerful in seeing your priorities in writing. Write down what is most important to you and keep the list small. You shouldn’t have five things on your ‘Top 3’ list! No matter what how you look at it, that math doesn’t work. Knowing, speaking and writing your priorities can help you to decide where to place your energy and attention.

4) Stop at Good Enough.
Reduce the pressure you put on yourself. For many things just identifying the ‘good enough’ point is helpful in removing extras from your plate and opening up free time. If it’s not a top priority, does it need so much attention and energy? Is the effort worth it in the end? For example, you may want to send out holiday cards, but do you need to plan on making each one by hand or could you order them?

Are you finding yourself at a point where busyness has taken over? What tips do you have for controlling the chaos?

Have You Created a Habit of Busyness?

Amy Bellows, PhD

Amy Bellows holds a PhD in Psychology and has had the opportunity to work in various settings including leading adolescent group therapy sessions, working with victims of sexual assault, helping woman inmates adjust to post-prison life, conducting parenting education classes and assisting with drug and alcohol dependency treatment plans. The unique challenges and opportunities that come along with being a part of a step-family is a special interest of hers. Amy is currently working in the corporate environment with a interest in group dynamics and change management. You can find her on her website, or on Twitter @AmyBellowsPhD.

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APA Reference
Bellows, A. (2015). Have You Created a Habit of Busyness?. Psych Central. Retrieved on May 26, 2020, from


Last updated: 10 Nov 2015
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