Thoughtful Words

Workload Paralysis


The blueprint for our lives today often looks like this:

  1. Start your day thinking about all the tasks you need to accomplish in the 14-16 hours ahead of you.
  2. Fill your day with attempting to cross everything off your to-do list, while feeling inadequate, because there’s too much to do and not enough time.
  3. End your day feeling overwhelmed and full of anxiety over all that you did not get accomplished today because you were so busy doing everything else.
  4. Repeat daily.

I often have this thought:  I am overwhelmingly busy, but let me take on just one more thing because the more I do, the better I’ll appear. Being busy tends to be a badge of honor.  You’re “killing it” if you’re always busy.

Society tends to glorify having an overflowing workload. It is not glamorous to run around on a daily basis full of anxiety and angst, with a fake smile on your face while attempting to tackle a to-do list that is 3 miles long.  At the end of the day, when we tuck our energy-depleted selves into bed, our minds are still going… thinking about tomorrow’s to-do list, fretting over the items on today’s to-do list that did not get crossed off, and feeling a sense of failure because of not getting those things done. Busy is not all that it’s cracked up to be.

I regularly have to re-evaluate my busy-ness to ensure that I’m not wasting my time in an effort to appear like I’m doing it all, for the sake of receiving the so-called “compliment” of… “Wow, you’re so busy, how do you do it all?”  This should absolutely not be a compliment we strive for.  In fact, the busier I am, the less work I actually get done. So, if I appear to be “doing it all”, I assure you that I am not.

Some days, I find myself so overwhelmed with the day ahead of me, that I just don’t get anything done at all. I start to think about my to-do list all at once, my mind starts spinning, and I get paralyzed by the amount of work in front of me. In an attempt to not think about all the things I need to do, I distract myself – Facebook, Instagram, Blogs, YouTube – which snowballs into not getting anything done. Before I know it, hours have gone by and I have not done a damn thing.

In analyzing this perceived laziness, I have realized that it’s not real laziness at all… it’s actually full on anxiety due to an overwhelming workload.

In an attempt to combat workload paralysis, I have re-evaluated my to-do lists by prioritizing what actually needs to be done. I don’t even entertain the idea of adding frivolous things to my list for the sole purpose of appearing “busy”. You wouldn’t believe how much shorter my lists are. I have also made sure to include down time each and every morning, for myself – I wake up an hour before the kids, sit in silence, cozy up with a blanket and my coffee, and write. I refuse to waste my time on anything that just makes me appear busy. Knowing my tasks ahead of me are serving a true purpose makes it easier to not get sucked in to the vicious workload paralysis cycle.

I spend less time ensuring the house is spotless and more time listening to my kids. I spend less time being the homework cop and more time encouraging my kids to work independently and teaching them to take responsibility for forgotten assignments. I spend less time surfing the web and more time writing. I spend less time primping myself and more time studying for important exams.

In this re-evaluation, I have summoned up a sort of anti-busy life. While I am certainly busy and I do have my overwhelmingly chaotic days, for the most part I feel fluid, focused, and less anxiety-ridden, making me not feel so busy. I actually get more done and I’m focused on each task at hand because my mind isn’t filled with thoughts about my never-ending to-do list.

By only doing what’s important to me, saying no to everything else, and always including time for myself, I have been able to pursue and accomplish things that truly matter to me.


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