The Hidden Cost of Busyness: The Path of More is Not Sustainable

Our busyness is costing us the future we’re working so hard for.

How can that be? If you do the work it’s supposed to pay off, and we’re out here working our butts off. That payoff must be right around the corner by now.

But take a second and consider – when was the last time you checked whether all that busyness was aligned with your business? Much less your goals, your dreams, and your life?

The key question isn’t “Did I do enough?” but rather, “Did I focus on what’s most important?”

How often do you feel like there’s never enough? There’s never enough time… money… support… sleep… etc. If you’re pushing yourself to move faster and work harder to find where “enough” is hiding, I’ve got a radical suggestion for you.

Hit pause. Do less.

In today’s busy, over-caffeinated, multitasking world, it’s a rogue idea to buck the trend of more, bigger, faster, in favor of the whitespace during our day to make room for less, but better.

And yet, “less, but better” might be exactly the solution you didn’t know you’re looking for.

My client Barbara came to me a few years ago because, while she was successful, she was also stressed out, burnt out, and maxed out, and she didn’t know how to change it.

Her days consisted of back-to-back meetings, lunch at her computer, and barely time for a bathroom break

There was certainly no time for thinking about the future or the past to reflect on what’s working, what’s not, and what needs to change.

She kept doing what she had always done, getting the results she’d always had, and she was not content with either.

Barbara’s not alone, of course. A 2020 Gallup study revealed that 28% of workers feel burnt out very often, or worse, always. And that number has been trending upwards in recent years.

When doing more is no longer a feasible solution, you have to consider the upside of doing less. 

When Barbara hit pause she realized she never said “NO,” even when “YES” wasn’t adding to her life or her business.

It also became clear that there was one service she offered that was a true trifecta: it kept her the busiest, was the least profitable, and it was the least enjoyable for her.

She decided to take that offering off the table.

Adding more to your plate does not always add more to your life. In fact, it often creates the opposite.

3 Reasons to Unhook from a life of busyness:


Busyness Cost #1: Decreased Creativity

Our busyness diminishes our ability to think creatively.

We see everyone around us putting in long hours, working weekends, bragging about how busy they are. It can make us uncomfortable to not follow the herd. So we keep doing the same, hesitant to blaze our own authentic trail.

The good news is, although social pressure is real, its hold on us may be more tenuous than it seems. Psychologist Solomon Asch found in his experiments that when just one person in a small group goes against the majority’s choice, it can reduce conformity by up to 80 percent.

How can you reclaim your individuality and make the unique choices that serve your business and yourself best?

Buck the busyness and make some whitespace time to think.

If taking a “break” is still too uncomfortable, try what LinkedIn CEO Jeff Weiner does: he schedules thinking time throughout his day. (After all, if your calendar is still booked, you must still be busy!)

Scheduling time to think will help us understand if we want to conform or decide/create our own path. Taking time to think about our choices helps us to create the future we want, instead of what’s expected.

And when you have time to think, you have time to prioritize.


Busyness Cost #2: Self-Doubt

We all want to feel like we’re intentionally choosing our life instead of continually reacting to it.

So many of the people I speak with say they want more balance but they just aren’t sure how to achieve it…and they don’t feel like they have the ”luxury” to slow down and figure it out.

Can you relate?

No amount of hustle and grind feels like enough.

Soon enough, this morphs into a feeling that we’re not enough.

As a result, we can become consumed by creating “enough” and quickly lose our perspective of who we are.

We pack our calendars so full it’s physically (and emotionally) impossible to accomplish all we have on our to-do list.

So we start to lose belief in ourselves that we have what it takes to live the life we want, be the person we want to be, and experience relationships that nurture us rather than drain us.

Where are you living in a belief that you have to work harder, longer, faster, and better to achieve more of what you want?

Is it working for you?

Do you want something different?

You have permission to pause and figure out exactly what that is.

It’s too easy to get stuck in the gap between where we are and where we want to go, instead of looking at how far we’ve come and letting that feed our confidence.

High achievers are particularly prone to being in the gap.

Let’s change that.


Busyness Cost #3: Anxiety

Pausing can reveal anxieties. Pausing is not easy.

Simple, but not easy, and this can trip us up.

When we’re driving ourselves this hard it’s easier to ignore the underlying anxiety many high achievers grapple with.

Anxiety is so often about control. “Doing” means you’ve taken action and even if that action isn’t moving you toward your goals it could be quelling that anxiety. Temporarily.

Pausing feels like doing nothing, particularly to the anxious. It leaves room for the anxiety to start talking (or shouting) and running the show. “DO SOMETHING!”

When you subscribe to busyness you’re treating the symptom of anxiety, not the cause. Your busyness alone isn’t moving you forward. It gives you the illusion of movement, but you might just be spinning your wheels.

And when you’ve finally added so much busyness to your agenda that you can never keep up? You’ve added fuel to the anxiety fire – those tasks left unfinished and those emails unanswered must be the magic bullet, the path out of “never enough.” If you could just get to everything on the list…

The solution isn’t in finishing the list. If anxiety is going to take hold whether you “do everything” or “do nothing” the answer must be in the “do some things.”

And the question is, which things?

That’s exactly the question Barbara needed to ask herself.

We talked about how she often struggled with her energy and staying healthy, especially during the busiest times in her business. We’re talking back problems, headaches, exhaustion, unhealthy relationships, and more.

When we stepped back and looked at when she was the most healthy (physically, emotionally, and financially) she saw that it was when she was honoring the space on her calendar for self-care. Things like ladies’ night with her friends, a bubble bath, getting out in nature, getting 8-hours of sleep, yoga, and lunch – away from her desk with the computer turned off.

Her productivity, profitability, and ability to be present with the ones she loves were all dependent on her carving out time to focus on what mattered most.

But she thought she didn’t have time to slow down and identify what that was.

This is a recurring theme in some shape or form with all of my clients. They are successful, but there’s a cost. One that is not sustainable over time.

The one habit that helped Barbara to say “NO” more so she could build a business that sustains the life she wants to live, not consume it?

The habit of creating space in her day to think before launching into action.

She prioritized creating white space throughout her day to improve her creativity, efficiency, self-confidence, and relationships.

Ready to create a sustainable approach to success that inspires instead of exhausts?

Gift yourself the space to build sustainability into your life.

Pro Tip:

Set an alarm (a silent alarm) every few hours to remind yourself to look up and breathe, and proceed with intention.

Less can be the new more if we allow it.

Isn’t it time to adopt a less but better mindset?