So, how are you? If you answered “busy” to that question, you’re not alone. In fact, busyness has become such a badge of honour in recent times that it’s the premise of a new book, Overwhelmed: Work, Love and Play When No One Has the Time by US journalist Brigid Schulte. Schulte argues that our perception of how busy we are is contaminating the way we experience time. If you feel like you’re too busy, then you are.
Unfortunately, all this busyness may, in fact, be undermining everything from your productivity to your health. A recent study in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics found that when you eat slowly, you consume fewer calories over the course of a meal.
And if you think that multitasking is working for you, think again. Scientists at the Institut National de la Santé et de la Recherche Médicale (INSERM) in Paris discovered that if you attempt more than one task at a time, the section of your brain that helps you focus on a goal splits in half. When the scientists asked a group of participants to perform multiple tasks, they made more errors and were more forgetful than if they stuck to a single task.
The message then: slow down and you’ll effectively do twice as much. Here’s how.
Meditate While many people think that meditation is for people with too much time on their hands, it’s actually for anyone who wants to feel as though they have more time. Successful meditation is about mindfulness, or focusing your attention on the present moment to help still your mind. If you don’t know where to start, a free Australian-based web and app program like smilingmind.com.au may help.
Relax Stress can affect your health, even when you don’t realise it. Headaches, insomnia, fatigue, muscle tension, anxiety, overeating, depression… all of these and more can be symptoms of stress. What’s worse, stress that’s left unchecked can lead to high blood pressure, heart disease, obesity and type 2 diabetes. If you’re feeling stressed, look at stress management strategies such as exercise, meditation, yoga, tai chi and relaxation techniques. Relaxation MindTraining Lite is an app (available on iTunes) that can guide you through a 12-minute relaxation exercise.
Make time to exercise When you’re busy, one of the first things to go is often your exercise time, but there are benefits to both your heart and your head when you find time to squeeze in a workout. It’s well documented that exercise reduces levels of adrenaline and cortisol, your body’s stress hormones, and stimulates the production of endorphins, your body’s natural painkillers and mood elevators.
Slow food is good food When you’re busy, you tend to take shortcuts, and that can often mean eating fast, unhealthy food. Slow Food is a global movement aimed at getting you to take the time to enjoy an unhurried life and simple pleasures, starting at your table. The group works to encourage food biodiversity and raise awareness at a grassroots level of some of the issues affecting your food supply. Some of the ways you can contribute include committing to shop and eat local where possible, growing your own food where you can, learning simple cooking techniques so you can eschew processed foods, and sitting down at the table to eat and chat.
Learn to say no Spending time doing things that you don’t want to is one way to feel both frustrated and busy. In 1991, when Warren Buffett first met Bill Gates, Buffett was flicking through his near-empty diary and said, “You’ve gotta to keep control of your time and you can’t unless you say no. You can’t let people set your agenda in life.”
If you find it hard to say no – whether it be to more work or a weekend barbecue you really don’t want to attend – try these tips:
1. People have a right to ask, and you have a right to refuse.
2. When you say ‘yes’ to one thing, you are saying ‘no’ to something else – something you may want to be doing (even if it’s sleeping). Make choices that work for you.
3. Be polite, straightforward and keep it simple. Remember, it’s better to be truthful now than resentful and bitter later.