Ever have that feeling of never being on top of things?
You know, that always tired state that never seems to leave you. Work feels like a race in which you’re only just keeping up, and if you dare to look ahead you see there’s a marathon in front of you that, if you want to stand any chance of completing, you’re going to have to run at a sprint.
The thing is that you’re normally a good performer. You get results. And till now you’ve enjoyed being in the cut and thrust of everything that goes on around you in business. This heaviness your feeling makes no sense.
So you go along with it all, running on empty, putting the hours in, fuelling yourself with coffee, telling yourself you can survive on the few hours of sleep you’re getting.
You think, this is just how it is. Everyone feels this way, don’t they?
But has it ever struck you that the fatigue you’re feeling isn’t something to battle, but something to listen to?
Here are 10 signs that it’s time to step back and reassess.
10 signs your busyness is heading in the wrong direction
The other thing that’s useful to be aware of is that it’s not always easy to spot or indeed to acknowledge to yourself when you’ve gone beyond the kind of stress that makes you thrive. There’s controversy about the scientific correctness of the boiling frog story. But whether it’s myth or reality, the metaphor of the frog who will jump away from a pot of boiling water, but stay in a pot of tepid water and not notice when the heat rises, is bang on for how stress affects us.
So how do know if it’s time to take action? Well, here are some tell-tale signs.
- You’re spending more and more time at or on work. Whether you work from an office or from home, the hours you’re putting in are increasing. And, let’s face it, you never were the nine to five type anyway.
- You’re spending more and more time thinking about work. Even when you’re supposed to be eating with your partner or family, or hanging out at the cinema with a mate, you find your mind locked into work problems or challenges. Maybe you’re straying onto your smartphone too much at these times too.
- You’ve dropped some of your social interests in order to make progress on work projects. The after work beer with the friend on a Wednesday. The regular Thursday night date night you promised your other half. The fitness goals you set yourself in January. Whatever, they’ve been relegated in favor of the things on your To Do list.
- You’re having problems dropping off to sleep. Your mind stays active after you put the lights off and pull the duvet over your head. Maybe your heart feels like it’s beating just a little too fast and you can hear it pulsing in your ears.
- And, speaking of heart rate, you’re noticing that your heart is beating just a little too fast, in general, these days.
- You wake up tired and need caffeine or other stimulants to help you jump-start and get through your day.
- You’re reaching for more snacks, and carb-based fast foods than you know deep down is strictly right for you.
- You’re gaining weight – even if you have kept your gym habit going. Which is hellishly frustrating right?
- You’re becoming less tolerant of pretty much anything. The queues for coffee drive you crazy – why can’t these baristas put a little speed into things?
- Most worrying of all, you’re feeling less and less capable of producing the kind of great performances you used to put in. Which in turn is making you feel way less confident about yourself.
Why you should give a shit about busyness
It’s part of today’s way of life to always be doing something. Whether that’s landing a major deal, delivering a great workshop, or catching up on Facebook, we’re tuned into something for much of the time. Often more than one thing at a time, and often at times, like the early hours of the morning, when we really ought to be sleeping.
But while it might be super cool to be and look busy, it’s not cool to silently make yourself ill. Did you know that left untamed, the pressure you put on yourself can lead to conditions like depression, high blood pressure, stroke, diabetes and heart attack? And according to The American Institute of Stress, even in the short term, stress can weaken your immune system and make you feel way less good about yourself.
Of course, stress is a wily creature. Each of us has a golden mean where a certain amount of it enables us to feel alive, invigorated, and engaged in a productive way. Too little and we find our energy and mental sharpness don’t quite rise to the occasion; too much and, as much as we may push against it, we slow down and our performance isn’t as slick as we’d like.
But the tipping point for you and for me are almost certainly very different.
Take back your own power
One of the big consequences I see time and again of getting to a point of being over-busy is that stress starts running your life.
You start out with ambition and clarity and resolution. In other words, you are running your show. The direction for your life and work comes from you.
But when stress takes over, things flip.
Without you even realizing it, you start to give over to other people’s demands. Your inbox takes high priority, engaging with your social media stream something you can’t miss. Your calendar gets populated by other people wanting your presence.
But it doesn’t have to be that way.
And, the first step is to see that you have power and to take it back. You get one shot at this life.
Sure, you want to be successful. But do you want that at any cost? And is the way you’re going about things right now sustainable for you in the long term?
Taming the overwhelm monster
The whole busyness thing is something I’ve been seeing more and more of in my work recently. I’m going to be sharing in some coming posts more about how you as a high performer can manage things more to optimize stress more for yourself and claim back your wellbeing.
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