5 Kinds of Busy

5 kinds of Busy. Not all kinds of busy are equal.

There are many kinds of “busy” in modern life. Most of us experience the sensation of being busy at one time or another. Some of us reside in a perpetual state of “busyness,” while for other it tends to be more periodic in nature. What’s odd about being busy is the variety of emotions that accompany it, everything from exhilaration to exhaustion. Clearly, not all kinds of busy are equal.

In order to harness the positive and productive aspects of being busy, it helps to understand the different types of busy we may be facing. Generally speaking, I find that the word “busy” is used to describe five different situations. Each one impacts how we feel, and each has implications for how we can best move forward.

1. Overwhelmed Busy

=> What it looks like:

  • Lots of tasks we need to get done
  • People counting on us
  • Not enough hours in the day, even when we work efficiently
  • Not in control of our own schedule
  • Not sure how to be more productive

=> Common for:

  • Parents of young children
  • People in a new situations (e.g., recent relocation, new job, new baby, etc.)
  • Workers in understaffed companies

=> How it makes us feel:

  • Like we can’t please everyone (or anyone)
  • Worn out
  • Hopeless

=> What to do about it:

  • Bring in backup resources to get things done
  • Seek advice on tools & techniques
  • Delegate what you can
  • Delete optional commitments
  • Break large projects down into small, achievable tasks

2. Over-programmed Busy

=> What it looks like:

  • Lots of things we want to do
  • Full calendar
  • Little/no “white space” in the day (i.e., no margin for error)
  • Constantly rushing from one thing to another

=> Common for:

  • People who can’t say “no”

=> How it makes us feel:

  • Either high on an adrenaline rush or frazzled when things don’t work out

=> What to do about it:

  • Reduce number of optional commitments
  • Schedule downtime to avoid burnout

3. Disorganized Busy

=> What it looks like:

  • Frequently misplacing things
  • Often running late
  • Items stacked, stashed, piled, and otherwise strewn about

=> Common for:

  • People who lack organizational skills

=> How it makes us feel:

  • Out of control
  • Embarrassed and ashamed

=> What to do about it:

  • Bring in help to set up organizing systems
  • Practice organizing disciplines (e.g., daily reset, planning, labeling, etc.)

4. Distracted Busy

=> What it looks like:

  • Lose track of time
  • Spend lots of time scrolling the internet
  • Struggle to stay focused and complete tasks
  • Procrastination

=> Common for:

  • People with ADD, anxiety, TBI
  • People operating in highly unstructured settings (e.g., working from home all day)

=> How it makes us feel:

  • Inferior
  • Unintelligent

=> What to do about it:

  • Seek outside help to clarify the source of the struggle
  • Add structure to your day (e.g., clearly defined task list, Pomodoro method, timers, external accountability)
  • Minimize external intrusions (e.g., turn off alerts, add sound management)

5. Pleasantly Busy

=> What it looks like:

  • Daily list of tasks to accomplished
  • Possess time, skill set, and resources to be productive
  • Have a measure of control over the calendar

=> Common for:

  • People in a long-time job situation
  • People with expertise in their field
  • People with a healthy understanding of time needed to complete tasks
  • People with strong executive functioning skills
  • People with strong support networks

=> How it makes us feel:

  • Productive
  • Satisfied at the end of the day
  • Purposeful

=> What to do about it:

  • Enjoy and keep it up!
  • Offer to help others who are struggling.

* * *

5 kinds of busy.

Admittedly, there may be times when we wish to be busier than we are! Perhaps we have been sidelined by an illness or injury, or maybe we are longing to plug into a community or are searching for a job. Typically, if we are patient and keep seeking, new opportunities will present themselves.

For those who are feeling busy, which of these types of busy resonates with you? Do you relate to more than one?