Antoni Shkraba

How To Know If You Suffer From Toxic Busyness (And How To Stop)

It’s 5 a.m. and my sunrise simulator alarm clock starts to glow brighter as I slowly transition into wakefulness.

Within minutes, my body starts to tighten and my mind begins to rhyme off the things I need to accomplish, who I need to call, what content I need to produce, what email I need to reply to, which workout day I’m on.

My heart rate starts to quicken. I feel a buzzing starting to inhabit my body.

A pulsing, an urgency, a hurriedness.

My movements start to enlarge and expand in perfect synchronicity to each sip of coffee I sip.

I LOVE that feeling of ACTION. I absolutely LOVE IT.

Oh sure, if you were a fly on the wall in my house, you wouldn’t think I loved any of it. Rushing my kids, barking orders, chop, chop, chop people! The feeling doesn’t match the reality.

With my kids lovingly kicked to the curb, I’m back at my desk—scrolling, clicking, and opening multiple tabs on my computer.

THIS IS ME. I’m going to crush it.

I’m a high achiever, and before you roll your eyes, hear me out. This isn’t a humble brag, although it would have been six years ago. I came out of my mother’s womb with the hustle gene.

I only wish I had the steadfast patience of an ant. They will carry a leaf hundreds of miles to reach their ant farm community. Ants are masters of patience.

I, for one, am not known as being incredibly patient.

I know that my “busyness addiction” is nothing to brag about. I love the feeling. I detest the result. Like an addict.

I still fall prey to overwork and toxic busyness. Many of you who have followed my writing also know that I have paid the price before in my executive life.

I have made significant gains. I understand that busyness is a precursor to the unfoldment of burnout, and yet, head knowledge avails us nothing.

I’m a coach. I say this to my clients all the time.

In my corporate life, this is how I rolled… all the way to the emergency ward.

Now that I’m an entrepreneur, I’m noticing that I’ve started to SLIP. Like an addict. While “busyness” is much more socially acceptable and doesn’t necessarily have a stigma attached, it is no less harmful. So why do we do keep doing it?

Because we like it. Because we are addicted to it. Because it’s a habit.

It’s a destructive habit driven by the ego.

A study done by HBR revealed that the busy person is perceived as high status. I saw this all the time in my executive career. We are impressed by busyness. Ask anyone what they did on the weekend, and sure enough, someone will answer, “Oh, I was so busy” as they rhyme off a list of accomplishments and social engagements.

I’m not judging. I did it too. For whatever reason, we are compelled to prove our worth. Often referred to as the humble brag.  

References to “crazy schedules” have dramatically increased since the 1960s. Moreover, celebrities and executives alike publicly complain about “having no life” or “being in desperate need for a vacation”.

However, we also know the effects of busyness addiction. It’s not a secret given the burnout epidemic among women.

In addiction terms, a slip is defined as “break in abstinence” or “a back-sliding” such as taking the first drink. In compulsive overeating, a slip occurs when you binge.

How did it happen? How did we get here? We promise to never do it again.

It was just this one time.

I Love the feeling. I Detest the result.

Just like smoking a cigarette at a party. We love that first drag and we hate the guilt and remorse that follow.

In Busyness Addiction, a slip shows up more subtly, yet it still wields its mighty sword.

Here are some of the ways in which I know that I’m on a slippery slope to addiction. You may have other examples. If so, add to the list. It’s time to call ourselves out.

1. My morning routine starts to falter. I tell myself that I will work out later, meditate later, journal later.

2. I don’t look up from my computer when my child comes into the office.

3. I hear myself saying, “I just need to do one more thing”

4. I start to dance with scarcity mindset. If I don’t create this module, or meet that client or make that sales call, I will fail.

5. I leave my iPhone in my bedroom after 9 p.m.

6. I check my socials before 8 a.m

7. I eat on the run, at my desk, as crumbs fall into the crevices of my keyboard

8. I don’t drink enough water and/or skip meals

9. I don’t take the time needed to focus ON my business and instead busy myself working IN my business (there is a huge difference)

10. I think about work 24/7, leaving little time for my most important relationships. You know the expression, “two ships passing each other by in the night”.

Like a kid being told to finish their plate, I recoil from being told what to do. I get it.

As I’ve said before, I exult in being busy.

I love the high of accomplishment, achievement, and goal-getting. However, if I’m not careful, the positive outcomes of having achieved a goal can be quickly overshadowed by the trance of busyness.

So, what can we do? Good news! With a sharp eye on your danger signals and an unwavering commitment to living a transcendent life, you can rise above this sneaky imposter.

As an Executive Coach to senior women in leadership, here are a few suggestions:

1. Reflect on why you are “so busy”. What exactly is keeping you working so much? Periods of intense activity are natural, however prolonged high pressure is not. Know the difference.

2. Ask yourself, “what’s the payoff for being busy?” What exactly are you getting in return for this burst of busyness? Pay attention to the answer. Is it life-affirming or life-draining? Practice Wise Discernment.

3. What are you possibly avoiding by being busy? This can be a hard question to answer, especially if you are prone to anxiety. Busyness masks anxiety and an easy escape from hard truths. Or, what I like to call, “The Reckoning”.

As with so many things, avoiding toxic busyness is learning how to undo thought patterns and automatic reflexes. The first law of learning is repetition. Deepen your understanding of what it means to lead with wholeness and then get busy repeating new behaviors. Have trouble doing that on your own? Hire a coach or get an accountability partner.

Don’t let busyness become a full-fledged addiction. Acknowledge the slips and get right back up. You aren’t alone.

You only have one precious life. Take ownership of it.

“In Quietness are all things answered and is every problem solved.” (A Course in Miracles)