Tired. Busy. Broke. Chubby. Lonely. Sound familiar?

Look a bit closer at this five fingered fist of dismay and the truth might throat punch you. Like a tiny hole in the bottom of a large ship, busyness doesn’t seem to effect much in the beginning but over time it will leave you gasping for air. Numbers don’t lie and when it comes to the byproducts of busyness there are some stark ones:

  • Tired because I’m busy. According to the eerily sterile website for the Center For Disease Control (CDC) 1 in 3 adults don’t get enough sleep.
  • Broke because I’m busy. In 2018, the average personal debt exceeded $38,000 — not including mortgage loan balances.
  • Chubby because I’m busy. More than 93.3 Million of American adults are obese and 1 in 3 are prediabetic and probably don’t know it.
  • Lonely because I’m busy. A new Cigna study reported that over half of Americans feel alone making loneliness at an “epidemic level.”
  • Busy because I’m busy.

Frankly, if I wasn’t so busy I would have time to feel sorry for you. 

Is it possible that we are more committed to being busy than healthy? 

Navigating extreme factors that claw at our time is not easy and doing so while feeling isolated is even harder. Yet busyness is actually a story that we tell ourselves. The mantra where there is never enough time for our daily tasks is more of an assumption or excuse than a proven scientific fact. Buying into the busyness lie accelerates the symptoms of distress that rob us of joy.

Defeating these side effects of our perceived lack of time is possible. Escaping the busyness narrative is feasible when the focus of why we live is called into view. Reframing the why of life and building out from there allows for change. Said plainly, simple steps produce solutions to complex problems. Consider these basic tips to put busyness in it’s place once and for all: 

  • Do A Calendar Cleanse

Cleanses are all the rage. Recently I underwent a self imposed “Calendar Cleanse” doing an audit of where my time was really being spent. This meant every item on my calendar and activities got reviewed. Coffees got cancelled, lunches rescheduled, and even well meaning service projects got the boot.

Questions are the key to this cleanse as they help delineate purpose. Not a single item should go on a calendar without having a definite reason. To this point schedule everything into your calendar from personal time with loved ones to mundane tasks to sleep.

Many overcommitted people underestimate the actual time something takes to complete. For example, a thirty minute coffee across town may actually take nearly two hours considering drive time and prep. Beware of these time drains and comb through existing appointments asking:

  • What areas can be improved?
  • What is the purpose of the meeting, can this be a call instead?
  • Is this income generating?
  • Is exercise on the schedule? 

As a side note, working to the point of exhaustion is not impressive. In fact, it seems that society now views humble bragging workaholics as inefficient. Consider the backlash of Elon Musk emailing employees at 1:20 AM or Presidential Tweets going out at 3:00 AM. The culture of working around the clock is shifting as the work-life integration movement gains momentum. By cleansing you calendar you will discover time you did not know you had.

Takeaway: Schedule thirty minutes, uninterrupted to review the events in your calendar for the next two weeks.

  • Go To Sleep

When you are awake for more than 18 hours that drowsiness makes you drive as though your blood alcohol level is .05 (.08 is considered drunk.) Let’s say you “pull an all nighter” and get precisely zero hours of sleep. With your levels shooting to .10 the rodeo ride to work will feel like 5 shots of hard liquor back to back. Good morning sunshine.

Buying into the busyness lie accelerates the symptoms of distress that rob of us of joy. 

Sleep is not optional. Cars, even electric ones, must be refueled and are not able to move without filling up. Our bodies deserve better treatment than our four wheels. When we feel drunk from sleep deprivation our minds do not make the best decisions. Hence saying yes to more things that clog up our calendars, the cycle perpetuating itself.

As it turns out, when our bodies are tired we make decisions in regards to food because we crave sugar to stay awake. In health living coach Erica Ballard’s video Why Game of Thrones Makes You Hungry she details how fatigue influences food decisions. “It is so much harder to say no to high starch food as you are fighting a biological design. You are fighting the body’s natural inclination to consume quick energy when it’s tired.” Iron will is defeated nine times out of ten when it comes to what the body needs.

Takeaway: Being on empty takes you nowhere.

  • Keep Busyness In Perspective

If nutrition is a fight when we are tired then it looks as though exercise may be the only thing we can control. However, how do we move a body that is tired and is self soothing with sugar? As I write this from my home state of Indiana, we sit as the 12th most obese state in America according to “The State of Obesity’s” recent report. We have some of the worst food access, food deserts, and food swamps in the country across central Indiana, “In Indianapolis, the city smack dab in the middle of more than 14 million acres of farmland, 1 in 6 residents report being food insecure” according to the Indy Star

Shear poverty is the greatest thief of time when all of it is spent trying to survive.

Additionally, our gender pay disparity ranks us at 49th out of 50 states making nutritious food a delicacy for the elite. This means that a single mother in Indianapolis must work 3-4 low paying jobs to be able to keep food in the fridge for her children given that she has access to it. Notice it is food in the fridge as opposed to food on the table as many Indy residents do not have dinner tables or affordable housing to call home. 

Marion County has the third highest eviction rate in the state making it increasingly difficult for exhausted Hoosiers to have a place to lay their head at night. For many being busy is a choice as we zoom in our cars from one appointment to the next. Picking up groceries and shuttling kids to dentist appointments is not a chore but a dream for some. Shear poverty is the greatest thief of time when all of it is spent trying to survive.

Consider these facts as a point of perspective the next time you hear yourself telling your busy story. 

The solution to ending the loneliness epidemic is service. There are plenty of places to plug in to make a difference. To be alone is a choice, to be lonely is nonpermanent. What happens when we step outside of our comfort zones to meet the needs of others? By serving and giving of our time we receive the ultimate gift in return: perspective. As Hellen Keller famously rephrased Sa’di, “I cried because I had no shoes until I met a man who had no feet.” By giving we receive more than we expect.

If you have the time to listen to a podcast, post a photo, and finish reading this article you have privilege. Use your privilege to create what you want. The steps are simple to living a life of fulfillment once you refuse to be a slave to an out of control schedule. Busyness is not an excuse to be uncomfortable in your own life.

Need a speaker or event emcee? Email me at [email protected] to schedule a 15 minute call.

Jennifer Magley is a former Professional Athlete, High Performance Coach, NCAA Division I Head Coach, Entrepreneur, Activist, Single Mother, and Author. She has received national media coverage most notably by USA Today, CNN, ESPN, and Thrive Global. Magley is the author of Division I a novel and is an in-demand inspirational speaker

Article originally appeared on www.magleyjennifer.com/blog More information can be found at www.magleyjennifer.com and videos on YouTube.