Stress Management, Well-being and Self-Care

Addicted to Busy-ness

by James Porter June 21, 2011

Many people wish they had more time - "If only there were more hours in a day, I could do it all." Actually, as it turns out, time is not the culprit when it comes to bringing more balance to your life. A survey of 800 graduates from Wharton School of Business revealed that the psychological conflicts that arise from thinking about work when at home and thinking about home when at work are more of an issue than lack of time.

How often have you fretted over a family issue while you were attending a departmental meeting?

How frequently have you tuned out your family at home while you were mentally reviewing an ongoing problem at work?

The key to living a balanced life is being focused and present. That means really being with your family when you're home and really being at work when you are at work.

Balance has two dimensions. The Doing Dimension which consists of our tasks & responsibilities in each of the following four quadrants - Work, Family, Support and Personal. (You can learn more about these quadrants by listening to the accompanying interview.)

Responding to e-mails, voicemails, blackberries, taking the kids to activities, finding time for a social life, taking care of parents, pets, partners, etc., etc. -- all of which can become addictive. An addiction - any addiction -- whether it is an addiction to working, spending, drinking, etc., disconnects us from our inner experience. We live our lives in a trance moving at warp speed often wondering where our day went and if we keep the pace up, we end up wondering where the years went. In other words, we go through the motions, but we're not really there. We get so caught up in what we have to do, that we lose sight of the here-and-now, of our values and what's important to us.

People who solely live on the Doing Dimension over book, over schedule, double schedule, fill their time with one activity, one meeting, one conversation after another. They cannot tolerate any space of time or inactivity often dreading such space will stir up feelings of emptiness or discomfort. This busyness is a major obstacle to experiencing balance.

If we let it, the Doing Dimension can become our master and can seductively pull us away from being present. We end up feeling overwhelmed, out of control, exhausted, resentful and depressed. Unfortunately, we CAN'T stop doing. It's an inevitable part of life. But we CAN learn to integrate the Being Dimension into the Doing Dimension.

So, how does one just BE? There are two ways: One is to BREATHE -- to bring yourself into the present moment. By focusing your awareness on your breath you will find yourself being more present. Even though your mental chatter may be going at high speed, pay attention to the intervals of silence in your thoughts and in the speech of others. Notice that when talking to a colleague or a loved one, how present you are - are you paying close attention to this person? Are you really listening with your fullest attention? (And by listening for the little silences between the sentences, you will automatically BE more in the moment. Try it out and see for yourself.)

When you shake hands with someone or give a loved one a hug, again, are you really present? Are you focused on the experience? Are you there? Notice how these gestures feel on your hands and arms. Stop your incessant thinking long enough to feel these sensations and you'll spend more time in the being dimension while you are simultaneously doing things too.

The second way to increase Being is to spend time alone - meditate, walk, sit quietly in nature, ride your bike. Many people have difficulty being alone, doing nothing. Lose the ear buds. Practice being present within yourself. By creating this space, you'll be able to

  • Reflect -- making time to evaluate and assess your choices and decisions and,
  • Revitalize your energy and ability to focus,
all of which increases productivity.


Who will you BE today? Remember: you are not a human doing and not a human thinking. You are a human being. Focus on enjoying the journey and you'll be much more likely to get to your destination.

James Porter
James Porter