Stop the Busy-ness and Be More Productive Part 2 Crazy Busy? Or a Life That’s Full and Interesting?
In my latest musings on “busy-ness” and productivity, I’ve been thinking about how we, well, think about being busy. There seems to be a growing tendency to “glorify” being busy in a way that emphasizes not only how “productive” we are, but also the stress and the drama.
In his article, “Busy is a Sickness,” Scott Dannemiller realizes that much of his “busy-ness” is compounded, or even created, by his “awfulizing” it in his head.
In other words, the way he thought about everything he had to do, changed how he felt about it—how he perceived it.
I, too, can recall conversations I’ve had in which we’ve all commiserated with each other on how much we have to do – “glorifying” and “awfulizing” at the same time. However, it doesn’t have to be a conversation with other people – if I’m not careful I also do this with myself, in my own head!
Dannemiller recounts an incident when he described his busy day to a friend, who then remarked, “Sounds like a full day. Have fun!” At first this bothered him, as his friend wasn’t sympathizing with how “awful” his busy day was. When he realized that the stress of his busy day was actually stress he brought on himself, he saw that he was manufacturing a sense of urgency both in himself and those around him, creating anxiety and even resentment.
This relates to a concept in the Alexander Technique called “end-gaining.” The idea is that when we are overly focused on the outcome of an activity (the goal, or “end”), we do not actually pay attention to what we’re doing in the present moment.
In terms of a busy day, we may be so anxious about getting everything done that our mind is always on the next thing, rather than what we are actually doing. We fail to be fully present to our current activity, whether that is a meeting, writing an email or watching our children’s soccer games.
Physically, when we’re overly focused on getting something done, we lose sight of how we’re doing it. Take the simple act of walking across the room to get your phone. Your focus is simply on getting it, and NOT on how you’re walking to do so, which, if you’re like the vast majority of us, means you are employing unnecessary tension. The more rushed or anxious you are, the more tension. In the scheme of things this may not be a big deal, of course. If, however, your whole day, every day, is filled with moments like this, you will start to notice the effects and feel the stress. For anyone with back pain, neck tension, or balance problems, it could be disastrous.
I’ve noticed that I, my Alexander students, and people in general, tend to push themselves forward in some way when we’re in this mode, maybe jutting the head or chest out, pulling ourselves out of balance – sometimes a little, and sometimes it’s quite extreme.
In the book How the Body Knows Its Mind, Sian Beilock writes, “When people think about events in the past, they lean backward slightly, and when imagining the future they lean forward. These are small shifts, only several millimeters in one direction or the other, but nonetheless they exemplify our inclination to translate time into how our body moves through space.” *
In my experience, when we’re strongly attached, or anxious about, getting things done (in the future) this seems to be exaggerated. Practicing the Alexander Technique, on the other hand, requires you to be present.
When you’re very busy it may feel like you don’t have time to be conscious of yourself on top of everything else. I would contend, however, that it’s even MORE important on a busy day, than on one when you don’t have much to do. When I work with my students I help them notice what they’re doing in the moment, and that in itself helps lower the stress of the situation. Awareness may come initially at the mental (what am I thinking?) or physical (what am I doing with my body?) level, and with that knowledge we gain some say in the matter – some control over – how we proceed, what we think and do, moment to moment. Through awareness Dannemiller found that he was able to reframe his “awfulizing” of busy-ness in a positive light, and subsequently he enjoyed what he was doing more!
SO, my two main messages for you:
- NOTICE if you’re “glorifying” and/or “awfulizing” being busy. Can you think differently about it – reframe it for yourself? What if, instead of thinking, “I’m so busy” you think, “I have a full and interesting day today” or “I’m lucky that so many people value my work!”?
- Allow yourself to be PRESENT to the activity at hand. If you’re interacting with others they will benefit from your undivided attention. If you’re working independently the work itself will benefit from being your sole focus. And the bonus is you’ll be less stressed, and your posture and balance will benefit too. 🙂
This is an ongoing practice for me, and Alexander Technique is the best tool I’ve found for being present in moment whatever I am doing.
How do you relate to the concept of “being busy?” What are your challenges? Can you reframe it? Do you have strategies that help you?
As always, I’d love to hear from you. Please leave your comments in the space below.
* Sian Beilock, How the Body Knows Its Mind (New York: Atria Books, 2015), 121.
Image courtesy of jesadaphorn at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
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I enjoyed reading your blog,noticing my own end gaining as I read/ scanned it! Wanting to get to the nub of it quickly. It resonates completely, asking myself am I present? And by the very nature of that question am probably not which is paradoxical and amusing all at once. Food for thought, thank you Imogen
That’s so interesting, Amanda, that you noticed you were end-gaining as you were reading. (I can totally see why – the post came out longer than I intended!) Maybe you are present to your question about being present? Maybe asking it brings you to the present. Much food for thought indeed 🙂
Great post – I’m very aware that I do this.. And I’ve got a job list that is huge because I’ve got too much going on at once, delusions of superwoman, “busy doing nothing activities”, procrastinate when fear of failure if not getting it right prevails, distracted not focused. List goes on!
Glad the post resonated, Sue 🙂
After I became an A.T. teacher, I recall one day where I was quite busy rushing around the streets of New York City, checking off the things on my to-do list. As I walked quickly, I freed my neck, as we Alexander folks do. My peripheral vision opened up, and I became aware of the space around me, the breeze blowing, and the sun shining. And in that moment, it occurred to me that I was actually enjoying moving quickly! I found a great deal of pleasure in the heightened pace of my day, and that has stuck with me ever since.
That’s wonderful, Ariel! And yes, the Alexander Technique can help us move quickly too – indeed we can be present to the speed, if you like, which completely changes things!
Your emphasis on the “moment” resonates with Echart Tolle “living in the Now” and it is refreshing to be conscious of walking to the phone or answering the door. Must observe my posture and guess should be straight up if I am in the present? Thank you for your article.
I think we can be present to whatever position or posture our body is in. After that awareness, however, we may be drawn to change something 🙂 I’d think of freeing yourself from the slump, for instance, rather than being straight up, which could cause unwanted tension. Thanks so much for your comment, and glad you like the article.
Would like to know more about your blog please!
Thanks for your interest, Rita. More and more these days I’m writing about how “body intelligence” (especially the principles of the Alexander Technique) can help women in business – it’s become a great interest of mine as I find it invaluable myself. I hope you’ll consider following my blog (or newsletter) by signing up in the sidebar on the right.