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05/21/2014 07:14 am ET Updated Jul 21, 2014

10 Ways to Ban Busy (And Still Get Stuff Done!)

There's another B-word that people are talking about banning. This time it's not "bossy," but "busy." I admit, I use that word a lot.

When my husband and I get home from work and ask each other how our days were, our answers are inevitably, "Busy!" Do we have to be so busy? Do we have to always tell everyone we're so busy?

Why Ban Busy?
Shawn Fink of "The Abundant Mama" writes, "The problem with our obsession with 'busyness' is that we are afraid of failing. We're terrified we're going to miss out on something -- or worse, our children will miss out on something." We spend so much time hurrying, we miss the very moments we're hurrying up for!

Agapi Stassinopoulos writes in this article on The Huffington Post that when we tell people we're busy, we're essentially telling them "I'm talking to you, but I'm really not here." Reading that line made me cringe, thinking of all the times I have told my children, "Mommy's busy right now."

Stassinopoulos describes her wake-up moment when her doctor said she tells her patients to stop using the word busy, for "It only makes you feel more overwhelmed and not in charge of your time."

Our words matter. How we describe our days and our lives impacts our perception of them. When we are "busy," we are hurried and often preoccupied and stressed out. "Busy" almost always implies engagement in activities that are not of our choosing -- it's business (busyness), not pleasure.

We tend to glorify "busyness" in our culture, as Arianna Huffington writes in her new book, Thrive (which you should totally read, when you're not busy). We brag about how little sleep we get and how many hours we work.

Carl Honore, author of In Praise of Slowness, describes his wake-up call to change his pattern of busyness: He actually contemplated buying a book called One-Minute Bedtime Stories, which condensed classic tales for kids in order to speed up bedtime so parents could get back to their busy lives!

Clearly, we've become a little obsessed with busy. But when I first read about getting rid of busy, I thought, I kind of like being busy sometimes. And I still have things that need to get done! How do we ban busy, and still work and engage in the activities of our lives?

For starters, we can slow down, do less, and sleep more. And we can change how we engage with the world.

How to ban busy (and still get stuff done!)

1. Stop Multitasking.
Multitasking is a computing term. We are not computers. We cannot multitask. We will get more done, and feel less overwhelmed, by focusing on one task at a time.

2. Eat a Frog.

2014-05-16-Eatfrog.jpg

Putting off unpleasant tasks makes us feel more stressed. When we do the most undesirable task first thing in the morning, we can feel productive and approach the day with a greater sense of ease -- and feel less busy.

3. Repeat: "Self-Care Is Not Selfish."
Yes, you have a lot to do and a lot of people counting on you. But you need to take care of yourself, whether it's time to read a book, go to yoga, or take a nap. Even God took a day to rest.

4. Get More Sleep.
Try just a half hour more per night. In Thrive, Huffington encourages us all to get more sleep, for "our creativity, ingenuity, confidence, leadership, and decision making all can be enhanced simply by getting enough sleep."

5. Leave Work at Work.
Obviously this can depend on where, and if, we work, but I strongly believe it's important to have a clear delineation between work and home. Several years ago, I decided I was done bringing work home -- the piles of essays at home made me resentful of my job and took time away from my family. It takes a few more days to get assignments back to my students, but I am a better teacher, mother and human being because of it.

6. It's Okay to Say "No."
We don't have to do all the things we are asked to do. It's okay to say no when we don't have the time, energy, or passion to complete an extra task the way it needs to be done. As they say, "If it's not a hell, yes! -- it's a no."

7. Limit Your Time on Social Media.
While I am as guilty as the next person of getting sucked into the social media vortex, it's no substitute for old-fashioned social engagement. Set a timer when you check your accounts. When it goes off, you're done. Then check-out the amazing new social media platform my colleague just told me about: Outside! There are real people there! And you can talk to them and look at nature and stuff. (Believe it or not, I fell for this one at first. "What!? I've never heard of Outside!" Doh!)

8. Speaking of Outside... Go for a Walk!
Not only is this good for our health, but there's a reason we go for walks to "clear our minds." When I'm stuck in my writing, it usually only takes a short walk for ideas to come to me. And you can also see people and talk to them and look at nature and stuff.

9. Practice Mindfulness.
Cultivating our mindful awareness of the present moment nourishes gratitude and contentment. It enhances our concentration and emotional regulation, which can ultimately boost our productivity. Check out this list of ways to bring mindfulness to your days.

10. Daydream.
Though it's the opposite of mindfulness, daydreaming has its benefits, too, including the cultivation of creativity, compassion, and self-awareness.

We can work without being busy. And just think of how powerful our engagement with the world will be when we are mindful, healthy, focused, and present.

This post originally appeared on Sarah's blog Left Brain Buddha.

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons, user Charlesjsharp

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