I would self-describe myself as a chronic ‘rusher’ and multi-tasker.  It’s how I get things done so effectively and efficiently and thrive. I also hate being late to anything.  But, after years of recognizing certain trends and cycles, I’ve realized it’s time to identify and break some of these patterns and share what I’ve observed with others — so if you recognize any of these patterns in yourself, or a loved one or colleague, you can identify the pattern and make a change earlier than I did.  

It was 2014 and I was expecting my second child in a month and we were moving to a new apartment.  Living in New York City, life is a constant hustle-bustle…it’s in the air.  On a morning commute into work, while making my way down the subway stairs on 42nd Street and 3rd Avenue, I was checking my blackberry attempting to read and respond to an ‘important’ message about a big project when I ended up on my back at the bottom of the subway stairs after missing a few steps.  My foot and body braced my fall (baby fine!) and I sat there on the dirty subway steps turning away help from concerned strangers.  After a few minutes with my foot throbbing in pain, but determined to get to work, I took a few more steps.  I started to feel faint and decided this was not a good idea and somehow crawled / walked up the steps back to the street, got a cab, and headed home.  When the orthopedist told me later that day that my foot was fractured and he had to put a cast on my leg, I was in total shock and disbelief. Not only was this not in the plan, this was absolutely not going to work – it was not an option; I was just too busy with important things to do and places to go.  I was overruled and within 24 hours I was sitting in an apartment full of boxes with a broken foot in a cast unable to return to work before the baby would be born. I felt helpless.  

I began to recognize a recurring theme of similar type of incidents.  Since that initial fall, I’ve had at least four more foot fractures or sprains.  Once on the street rushing to make a train at Penn Station, I took a misstep and ended up limping down the middle of 7th Avenue to get home.  Another time, while on vacation, I was on the phone and walked out of the hotel room to get something and missed the small step down (that was the end of that vacation!).  And most recently in the past year, I was rushing to get out the door to a hair appointment on time, and while transferring a call from a video zoom to my cell phone and carrying too many things, mis-stepped on the two huge steps in my garage and ended up on by back on the garage floor, cell phone under the car.  Determined to not miss the appointment, I put some ice on my foot and got in the car. Each of these incidents, outside of being a huge annoyance and inconvenience, impacted not just me but my family.  I couldn’t help unpack our new apartment after we moved, I couldn’t enjoy the rest of the vacation or help drive the kids to where they needed to go.  And of course, every time I have a sprain or fracture, it means enduring months of physical therapy and rest to recover and get back to rigorous exercise and running.  What I have realized is that this is a trend for me. My body knows when it needs to send me a signal to slow down.  Unfortunately, I don’t always heed the warning signs and signals and before I know it I’m shut down completely in the form of yet another injury to a fragile foot which literally renders me out of commission for an extended period of time.  But it’s more than that, it’s a sign that I need to be better able to identify these triggers earlier to avoid such a shut down.  I’ve been operating like this for the past 20+ years of my working life. 

I should know better. I have the arsenal in my toolbox to recognize these early warning signs of stress and burnout but I usually don’t listen to them. 

I met Arianna seven years ago when Thrive was in it’s infancy.  In my role as Head of Global Wellness for JPMorgan Chase & Co., one of the components of our Wellness mission is to educate our employees about how to make proactive changes to promote a healthy lifestyle. I’m proud that JPMorgan Chase & Co. was one of the founding corporate sponsors of Thrive.  We recognized that total well-being is more than focusing on eating healthy or exercising, it’s about holistic health, and concepts like reducing chronic stress and burnout that are key to preventative self-care.   Arianna and I became fast friends.  Her wake up call was ending up face down in a glass table from chronic fatigue and she has since dedicated her life’s work to educating us about the dangers of chronic stress and burnout and how to take small steps to avoid them.  I shared the subway story with her. I also shared with her how I was diagnosed with a rare neurological autoimmune disorder in 2015 and became paralyzed for a period of weeks from the waist down and my journey through recovery and inpatient rehabilitation.  That moment should have been the biggest wake up call of all – how lucky I am to be able to move, put one foot in front of the other, be able to walk and run and do what I love again.  I should know better.  But, as is always the case, life’s demands thrusted me back into my cycle of ‘hustle and bustle’ – two young children, a demanding job, the list goes on.  Multitasking and rushing are in my blood – I’m good at them – they help me get to where I need to go and get done as much as I do efficiently. But clearly, it’s not without consequence. 

If I could watch a replay video clip of myself before each of the sprains / fracture incidents here is what I would see – someone who was rushing around, doing too many things at one time, and not getting enough sleep and recovery.  Carrying too much, talking on the phone while moving quickly or just plain rushing.  Falls and accidents will always happen, but are less likely to happen if you take it slow especially in places like going up and down stairs, on city streets and in places where you don’t know the surroundings.  You could have drawn a comic strip about the time I fell going out of the garage, – it was literally bound to happen. Moments earlier I was rushing back inside for things I had forgotten, didn’t leave enough time, was still trying to get back on the zoom call I was cutting out early for.  I didn’t even slow down to miss the appointment to assess a sprained or broken foot, I just kept going – I guess I was desperate for that haircut during COVID?? Even after being diagnosed with a chronic illness that literally incapacitated me for a period of time, I am still running around on a regular basis.

In partnership with Thrive, we have been running campaigns for our employees for the past six years on topics ranging from the importance of sleep, unplugging from technology, the dangers of multi-tasking, reducing burnout and stress, and how gratitude and wonder can help us achieve our well-being goals.  I know firsthand that multi-tasking is bad for my brain because we have run campaigns on this.  So why have I not been listening?  Have I been so busy getting the word out to others to not heed the warnings myself?  What a dilemma.  Here’s the reality, at least for me.  Life is fast paced and that’s ok.  Life requires rushing at times and multi-tasking. But it can’t be ALL the time. It can’t become chronic and part of how you always operate.  But, in order to stop that from happening, you have to become aware of your personal signs and symptoms and make small changes.  Otherwise, the rushing becomes constant – ‘hurry up, you are going to miss the school bus.’….’we have to hurry or we are going to be late for soccer’…’I have to rush to make my train’…you may not realize it, but you even drive faster rushing to get from place to place.  The cycle continues. And the last thing I want to do is raise two little ‘rushers’ or have my kids think back on how I was always rushing to get them from place to place to get where we needed to be.   An award for ‘Most Professional Rusher’ is not an accolade to which I wish to aspire!

There were times during the past two years during the pandemic where rushing wasn’t an option.  Being home with more limited activities for the kids, not commuting and not having as many social plans had its benefits and should also be a wakeup call.  The times I want to remember are the lazy walks and bike rides around the block as a respite in between the frenetic state of the pandemic.  Those times don’t have to be forsaken- they can be woven into our daily hustle and bustle that seems to have resumed so quickly post pandemic.

So here are some tips I put together to share with you – if are anything like me – and recognize any of these qualities in yourself:

  • Know your own personal triggers and signs that things may soon go off the rails. For me these include: regular accelerated heart rate, not getting enough sleep on a regular basis, driving too fast, anxiety about a long to do list; when you see these triggers manifesting – make a conscious effort to recognize them for what they are 
  • Identify and prioritize important events that you absolutely cannot be late for (an important meeting, an appointment, an event) and leave extra time so you don’t have to rush
  • Figure out where you can be late and if you might be late, communicate that so you have a  buffer…”I will be at your game, if you don’t see me right at the start, don’t worry I’ll be coming’…’I’ll pick you up at practice, you know I will be there but if you don’t see me right away, don’t panic as I may need to find a parking spot and it can take some time’…’I may be running a few minutes late for the meeting, please start without me or I’ll ping you when I’m ready to start’…
  • Be understanding to others who may be running late – life is as messy for them as it is for you
  • Ask for help. Trying to be superwoman or superman isn’t constantly attainable and sets us up for failure
  • Identify at least two trusted people (one at home and one at work or in your professional circle), tell them what your triggers and ask them to alert you if they recognize you exhibiting these behaviors.  And then when they do raise the red flag, don’t ignore them or roll your eyes – think about what they are witnessing and take it as a first line of defense warning sign before you dismiss them completely
  • Listen to your body. If it’s telling you to get rest, don’t go run 5 miles. You can do that tomorrow in a more enjoyable way with less chance of injury and some rest  
  • If you have children, explain to them that sometimes we do have to rush to make the school bus or not be late for practice, but we can avoid that by creating extra time before and planning to avoid that stress
  • Try to pick times during the day for ‘single-tasking’.  It’s impossible not to multi-task but the data and science shows that we are more productive and successful when we focus on one task at a time  
  • If you are going to multi-task, recognize it and take action. For example, if you are working on a presentation during a meeting, make sure to check the changes after the meeting when you are focusing only on that material vs. doing two things at one time when possible
  • Take time to be in the moment.  I usually make calls while I’m driving or walking but I really don’t like doing this and it’s also dangerous.  If you have to do it, recognize when you are and take precautions, drive a little more carefully, walk a little slower and be aware of your surroundings.  Sit down and call a friend or your family while doing nothing – you will find that you will really absorb more of the conversation and be more present than if you are driving, washing dishes or shopping in Costco.
  • Be a good role model.  Talk about your weaknesses and vulnerabilities with your team, friends, and family
  • Take a good look at your personal and professional calendar and commitments and declutter where possible – you just literally cannot say yes to everything as much as you may want to
  • Get organized and have a system for commitments and schedules so you know where you need to be and when and bake in time so you don’t have to rush
  • If you work in the HR or the Wellness space, educate your employees about total well-being and the science behind sleep, unplugging from technology, the risks of multi-tasking and burnout
  • Give yourself a break and be empathetic to others  

I love every part of my life but time is going by way too fast.  The last thing I want to do is rush through these precious times.  Every day, create your own moments of what I call the ‘un-rush.’  Multi-tasking and rushing are part of life and always will be, but we have to keep them in check before they take over and cause real harm – to ourselves and others.  Take small Microsteps to make changes vs. trying to change your entire life at one time.  When you feel yourself totally overwhelmed, stop all the 17 things you are doing and take 5 deep breaths or go for a 5-minute walk.   Small steps can make a difference.

But good luck to us all because as a write this, and as you read this, it’s very likely we are both late for something…and / or multi-tasking…and this is (probably!?) ok.


  • Lilly Wyttenbach is a Managing Director at JPMorgan Chase & Co. and the Head of Global Wellness.