Photo Credit: TheeErin via Compfight cc
Photo Credit: TheeErin via Compfight cc

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?

2 thoughts to “Be better by being less busy

  • Kerry Mortimer

    From one self-confessed ‘being busy’ addict to another, your post really resonates with me Kelly. I have not found the cure and I haven’t quite been forced by a crippling injury or otherwise to break the cycle. Perhaps we will both be works in progress.

    I completely concur that saying ‘no’ is a huge step in the right direction. In fact, about 6 weeks ago. I wrote a very short message to myself on a post-it note and stuck it to my laptop. It reads “Just say NO”. It’s a good reminder and has slowed me down on taking on more “projects” whether it be helping a friend with some marketing ideas for their business or offering to produce a video for the hockey year-end party. These “projects” that I love doing and have a genuine interest to help out with – just end up leaving me and my family (I too have an understanding husband) with too little time for us.

    Now repeat after me “Just say NO.”

    PS I will tweet a photo of my home made “Just say NO” sign. Maybe I could start selling these to others with our ailment. 🙂

  • Kelly Rusk

    Love it Kerry! That’s what so difficult, it’s not saying no because you don’t want to do something… It’s the power to say no to something that really interests you and you want to be a part of but just don’t have the time for. Totally hear you on that!


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