You know how the conversation goes – you are rushing from the last thing to the next thing and on the way you bump into a friend or colleague and they say ‘How are you?’. And you respond ‘Busy!’ And they respond with surprise, ‘I’m Busy too!’ And then you both discuss the general busyness of everyone you know.

Busy, it appears, has acquired significant social status.

But don’t be fooled. Busy is not a badge of honour. It’s an insidious, time-sucking disease, and it’s time to call Busy for what it really is: a boiling frog.

Essentially, so the story goes, if you put a frog into a pot of boiling water it will instantly jump out because it detects immediate danger. However if you place the frog in cold water and slowly raise the temperature the frog won’t perceive the danger and it will slowly cook.

The boiling frog is a useful metaphor for our inability to react to threats which slowly sneak up on us. In this case, an overwhelming sense of Busy. It’s not like you can pinpoint in your diary the day that Busy suddenly happened to you, is it? Oh, yes, I remember, 5 May 2012, that was the day I got Busy!

And yet, like the frog, your brain is slowly cooking.

You are taking on more and more, rushing from one thing to the next, and your work and life have become a juggling act. Wake up, check emails, dash to work, check emails, first meeting, second meeting, check emails, admin, phone calls, third meeting, fourth meeting, return phone calls, check emails, fifth meeting, make calls from the car, dash home to see the kids before bed, wave to your partner as you fall into bed, check emails … and get up and do it all again.

You have so many balls in the air that it’s only a matter of time before you start dropping a few. And are there really any balls you can afford to drop? Probably not. As a result, you work longer hours to ensure you fit it all in. That in turn means significant compromises in other areas of your life: family, friends, exercise, personal interests and sleep all come off second best.

This busy lifestyle is taking its toll. Take for example, our constant accessibility via portable devices and the incessant 24 hour bombardment of digital information. Our non stop lifestyles mean we are continually informed, absolutely all knowing and forever available. And that’s not good. In the year 2000, Microsoft surveyed 2,000 people and found our average attention span was 12 seconds, falling to just 8 second by 2015.

Are you still with me?

Scottish researchers have coined a new disease to describe this inattentiveness – Busy Lifestyle Syndrome. Ahhh, BUSY.

The good news is that Busy is a lifestyle choice: you can continue to live this way or you can take control of your time and reject the Busy. The next time someone asks how you are, say you are great. Say you are awesome. Say you are winning. Say you are super productive. I don’t care what you say – just don’t say Busy.

The water is boiling and it’s time to jump out of the pot.

Time Stylers founder Kate Christie is a time management expert, international speaker and bestselling author. Her second book, SMART Time Management for Doctors has been published in 2017. Connect with Kate to have her speak at your next event or to help you and your team improve your productivity.


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