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5 ways to banish 'busy' from your life

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Sick of rushing around, feeling like you never get enough done? We get it. And there’s more than one reason why saying goodbye to that too-busy feeling is good for you.

The need to be busy

It’s official: being busy can be addictive. According to behavioural scientists, part of the problem is something called “idleness aversion”, a natural compulsion that means we find it hard to give ourselves permission to do nothing. Subconsciously, it physically drives us to find things to do, to stay busy . 

But while being busy can deliver some benefits to our mental wellbeing, when it occurs in big, never-ending doses, busy tends to work against rather than for you, affecting everything from your ability to get things done  to the quality of your sleep and your stress levels, and even bumping up the risk of experiencing a wide variety of health problems . 

While it’s impossible – and unnecessary – to clear your schedule in order to gain a sense of control and calm, you can banish that too-busy feeling, using 5 expert-approved strategies.

1. Write to-do lists

Research confirms that when your schedule is busy, your yet-to-be-completed tasks can be a distraction, but one fix is to simply write them down. It’s a tactic that will make you more effective and productive . 

It can even help you sleep better, too, if you write a to-do list for tomorrow just before you jump into bed. Rather than being a source of worry, researchers say it helps offload those thoughts so you can sleep easier

2. Prioritise your tasks

With your to-do list done, the next step, according to the British Medical Journal, is to go through your to-do list and rank its tasks in the order you should tackle them based on things like urgency or importance. 

With that done, work your way through the list, trying not to become distracted by non-urgent tasks that crop up. 

3. Automate and delegate

If there are people who can help you with certain things on your to-do list or take some tasks off your plate entirely, lean on them. 

Likewise, take advantage of systems and services that let you automate things like paying bills and streamline others, such as grocery shopping.

4. Quit multitasking

You might think it’ll help you get things done more quickly, but the opposite is true for most of us. In fact, one study found that just 2.5 per cent of people can multitask effectively . 

For the rest of us, multitasking by either trying to do two things at once or continuously switching between one task and another, makes you less productive

You’ll make more mistakes and take longer to complete things , which will do nothing to solve your “too busy” feeling. Instead, commit to doing one thing at a time, every time. 

5. Reframe busy

According to American research, when we feel overwhelmed by our to-do lists, sometimes it’s less about being genuinely pressed for time and more about our perception of how much time we’ve got to get everything done. 

The good news - the scientists behind that finding have discovered a technique that can help. When you start to feel too busy, stop and take a few deep breaths. Research proves it can help you feel like you’re not as short on time as you first thought .

Even the way you talk about busy matters. Experts suggest avoiding using phrases like “I’m too busy” because even though it might be true, it’s unhelpful self-talk that will make you feel even busier. 

Instead, as well as using the breathing technique, saying things like, “I’m coping well, all things considered” will serve you better . 

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