This topic makes me very uncomfortable because I am addicted to being busy. I feel weird and disjointed if I’m not working at all hours, if don’t have 10 projects stacked up, if I’m not stressed out. And when I’ve got downtime, I volunteer so I have something to do—crazy! But this is wrong. I know it is wrong. And I’m working hard to be aware of my busyness and need to feel that I’ve always got something going on. That’s why I check email all the time, why I check Facebook, why I want to feel needed by clients, why I feel I need to be out there working…dancing…playing…singing…performing. ACCKKKKK!
And then it all crashes down. I’m an Irish dancer and got a sprained ankle this past weekend after landing a leap funny in the Raleigh St. Patrick’s Day Parade. I got it because of three things: I was emotionally exhausted after arguing with my teenage son, I didn’t get a lot of rest the week before (or the night before) and Raleigh’s streets are not good for jumping on—they are curved! Because of the sprain I couldn’t dance in the big performance on Fayetteville Street and I missed two other performances that weekend. Hmmm….
Sometimes we have deadlines we can’t work around and we just have to deal with the loads of life. And sometimes, we have choices not to take on so much. I know I have a problem with saying no, especially when it comes to performing Irish dancing before St. Patrick’s Day! March and April are also busy for me because I’m the lead parent while my CPA husband works the trials of tax season. I really try to look at my calendar and anticipate problems, and make sure I’m not doing back-to-back deadlines or events that are geographically far apart. Yet, I don’t like to say “no” to good opportunities.
I do know why I want to volunteer and be busy so much. I have an additive personality and once I find something I like, I can go crazy on it. Examples include running, Irish dancing, poetry, Star Wars, competitive raw almond eating. I know my husband wishes I included cooking and housecleaning on this list. I also don’t want to be average at something. I want people to think I’m smart and capable. I like being competitive; I like winning awards. You can’t win awards if you don’t work hard. If you win awards, then other people besides yourself know you are capable. In the family I grew up in, my parents thought I was a complete weirdo. They often asked me, “Why do you strive so much?” Maybe I was born with an invisible dopamine drip. But if there’s a high, there has to be a low—and, boy, have I felt the lows pretty harshly.
I also have a need to be liked and to be needed. But don’t we all like to be liked? Yes, but in my case I need to be sure to keep my boundaries in place and not say “yes” to everything. I do a gut check and listen when I’ve said “yes” to a request that’s a “should.” Meaning, I “should” do it—if I can place a “should” in that sentence, I know I need to say “no” or a “not at this time.”
Now, this is all wonderful weird Alice insight, but what wisdom can I share with you from my experience?
- Get off the email addiction kick. Don’t check email first thing in the morning—do a creative project first and that includes exercise! In my head, I tell myself stories that folks will think I’m an idiot or incompetent if I don’t have my blog ready by Monday morning at 8 a.m., or if I don’t send out that email out. These are stories and old tapes of me seeking my mother’s approval. My mom would go ape shit if I didn’t call her back at a certain time (we didn’t have email back then). If I neglected to respond, she’d give me the silent treatment for days. I guess I’m scared if I don’t respond to an email, my friend or client will also give me the silent treatment. Old patterns, my friend. I have to admit to myself they are there and that my mom will never approve of me. I can CHOOSE to work on another task that will generate income or help my strategic planning and set aside those other emails for later responding.
- A few days before a huge event (like the St. Patrick’s Day Parade or a business trip where you’re driving down to four hours or a retreat you’re leading) get 7-8 hours of sleep. You might have to say “no” to a few fun things and that stinks, but it’s worth it later.
- Plan to have at least one rest day during your week—for me that’s Monday because I work Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays. Don’t feel guilty if you’re not producing that day—you’re recharging and preventing injury!
Okay, so I have a lot of good things to work on. Life is wonderfully fluid and a very good teacher. Once you become aware of your old patterns and go-tos, you’ll find yourself a little ashamed, a little vulnerable, and then ready to kick an addiction’s ass!