The past year and a bit has been a blur. This period started out a few months leading up to my wedding where I was working crazy hours and trying to plan a wedding, all the while balancing out copious volunteer commitments and whatever bit of a social life I could squeeze out of it.
Then I got married and things just got crazier. I made a snap decision to quit my job two weeks before the wedding to move to another agency that was similar but just a better fit personally. Right after my honeymoon I started my new job, and then two weeks after that I became the president of IABC Ottawa. While I had trimmed down some of my volunteer commitments, I still hung on to a few others, I still took on speaking opportunities (more than ever, in fact), I still felt guilty about not writing my blog regularly… And did I mention that agency work is naturally demanding?
A real addiction
The truth is I got addicted to busy. I had to be busy. If I wasn’t on the verge of a mental breakdown I just wasn’t getting enough done! It’s a rush and when things work out you feel exhilarated and a great sense of accomplishment.
At what cost though? Attention to detail (something I used to pride myself on!), organization skills, falling behind on trends, relationships (fortunately my husband is the same way, but definitely was straining on friendships and family)… The list goes on. However, more than anything else, it hinders your ability to have great ideas.
I didn’t realize in the thick of it (too busy, obviously), but without taking time to free your mind and de-clutter your life, it becomes really difficult to have good ideas and impossible to have great ideas. Also when you’re suffering from acute busy-ness, it becomes very difficult to see the forest from the trees and you lose an important sense of strategic oversight.
What is the cure?
I realized the error in my ways due to a crippling injury. After dislocating my knee at the CHEO BBQ this past June, I had no choice but to relax. I slowed down because of the physical limitation, but also because my mood was down. I hate feeling useless and dependent and so I shut down and started operating on a bare minimum basis. I watched a lot of TV and slept a lot. I still worked but had to rely on others to drive me to work which means I worked a normal 9-5 day. I missed events, re-scheduled any off-site meetings and spent my evenings at home.
And what happened next?
Because it was already non-refundable booked, I went to the IABC World Conference in New York three weeks after my injury. I took the time to read all the session description in advance and planned on attending the ones I was really interested. I studied the attendee list to determine anyone I really wanted to make a point to meet or see. The outcome was a really amazing conference experience that left me inspired and brimming with ideas. I even stayed up until 2 am one night drafting pieces of blog posts for future use. While I’ve been to numerous conference the last few years, it’s been a long time since I felt that way coming out of one.
And in virtually every other area of my life I had a similar epiphany. Taking the time to think through what you are doing means you will inevitably do a better job of it. Although I’m doing less I’m feeling generally more productive and assured that when I start something I’m committed to finishing it with an appropriate amount of effort.
Am I cured? It’s hard to say at this point. My challenge the next few months will be saying ‘no’ to new opportunities that I may want to participate in but that will take up too much of my time. Are you drowning in busy? What’s your best tip for coping?