Are You Stuck in the Busyness Trap?


I’ve noticed something recently, and I’d be remiss if I didn’t point it out. And by no means am I the first to point out the basic tenet, but I want to take it one step further.

The Busyness Trap.

So many of us are running around saying we don’t have time because we are so busy. The new normal is just to be busy all the time, or, as I would like to discuss in this post, to think we’re insanely busy, at all times.

Do any of the following apply to you?

  • You lament how busy and hectic things are, but you have ample time to check social media and comment on your best friend’s cousin’s sister’s cat’s Facebook post
  • You can ‘never seem to get it all done’ but spend hours of work time planning your upcoming vacation, asking multiple opinions from your co-workers: safari in Africa or ziplining in Uruguay.
  • Your de facto response – like without even thinking about it- to a co-worker who asks how your day is going is, “You know…insane!”
  • The feeling you have day in, day out is one of frenzied whirling dervish-like motion, but you’re not quite sure what was accomplished at the end of it.
  • I don’t know about you, but I can recall times when I’ve done all of those and then some. Granted, there are legit times when I don’t know which way is up because there truly is a lot going on, and I’m sure that goes for many of us, but it’s simply not possible to be that busy all the time- we’d crash and burn- unless you’re my dad, of course, who is kind of like a robot that doesn’t need sleep.

This post is not meant to add to the weird frenzied conversation out there that essentially continues to up the ante on busyness, further stressing peeps out. Nor I am trying to call out people who portend to be busy but really are gleefully and secretly on all day ordering aprons and $278 sweaters.

Instead, it is my firm belief that those of us who think we’re super busy have actually tricked ourselves into ‘knowing’ how busy we are and in our heart of hearts actually think we’re really that harried all the time. Our culture of busyness has lured us into a) the idea that being insanely busy is a good thing and then b) that we who are busy hold a higher status.  So we have created false busyness to fit the mold.

No judgment here. I’m bringing this up so that you have some framework to look within and actually determine how you’re spending your day and week, so that you can make small adjustments to more career happiness.

What’s the cost of false busyness?

  • Lost productivity. You’re not actually getting as much done as you think. Instead, take small, sanctioned, planned breaks to do whatever you want- surf the net, go for a walk, jam out to some tunes or meditate. When Serial came out last fall, I would power walk around the neighborhood and listen to 15 minutes of an episode at a time. Figure out what kind of break works for you.
  • Stress. How much of your stress and anxiety is created by…you? False busyness and the true belief that we’re actually doing our biznass lulls us into a false sense of things flowing and then BAM! You’re so behind, you don’t even know what happened and the last place you look for answers is how you’re adding to the equation. Instead, try small interim deadlines for each project on your plate each day and aim to get to that small goal. Make sure the interim goal is specific, measurable, achievable and results-oriented. In other words, don’t set yourself up for failure.
  • Stagnation. Ever feel like you’re ‘doing so much, but nothing is happening’? To be sure, maybe there are other forces at work that contribute to a lack of movement- like office politics or a change in leadership. But if you can’t point to an external source that can be explained and worked around or worked with, look within. Are projects not moving forward because you’re actually doing less than you think?
  • Dissatisfaction: How much of your current dissatisfaction with your job is because of forces that are actually within your control? I mean, maybe you have no interest in doing what you’re doing, but if it’s something for which you still hold a bit of affinity, take a deeper look. Is your false sense of busyness actually contributing to your lack of happiness? Getting clarity on that will help inform you whether you need to consider a career move.

So, in looking at the above list of the costs of false busyness, what do you think? If you could tweak some of your behaviors and inclinations and consciousness around this and impact even one of these costs, how would you feel? What would be different about your career? Would it be the difference between career satisfaction and wishing 40+ hours away of your life every week? Comments, as always, are welcome below!

About the Author

Jill Ozovek is a certified career coach in New York City. Her practice focuses on helping Millennial and mid-career women find and develop careers that align with their passions. For more info on your own career change and Jill’s Career Change Kitchen course, click here.