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Addicted to Busyness

I once asked a boy on a date.  He answered back that he could fit in dinner in a few weeks but he was busy with a class he was taking and volunteer work and paid work… and maybe dinner was too much time.  Maybe he could only squeeze me in for coffee.  I told him that he certainly sounded busy and maybe this wasn’t a good time to start something new.

I thought about that boy last week while I met a friend for coffee, my to-do list burning a hole in my back pocket.  It was a self-congratulatory thought.  I may have a long to-do list, but I still make the time to have coffee with friends and fold the clothes properly.  Good for you, Melissa.

I like being busy.  I like not only having my normal to-do list, but around holidays and travel and particularly busy times, I make a to-do list for my to-do list.  I take a piece of blank white paper and fold it into eighths.  Then I label each square with a date and pull tasks off the larger to-do list and slot them into dates on the blank sheet of paper with utterly ridiculous time constraints.

This is one of those times when I have a to-do list for my to-do list (which always makes Josh and I sing, “he’s got a wig for his wig, he’s got a brain for his heart, he’ll kick you apart, he’ll kick you apart!”).  I love carrying it in my pocket.  I love taking it out and remaking it so it’s neater whenever I have to move tasks around.  I like crossing things out after I do them.  I like going to bed knowing a lot of things were crossed out.

I like feeling overwhelmed by my to-do list.  I think I may be addicted to it.  And like most addictions, I seem to need more and more to get that stressed out high.  I used to be able to reach my breaking point if I had a meeting that was going to take up 8 hours of the day.  Now an 8 hour meeting barely phases me.  I need to tack on baking 117 cookies after said 8 hour meeting and 2 loads of laundry.  And even then, the stressed out high isn’t a given.  Sometimes I feel like I’m always chasing it and never reaching it anymore.  Sometimes I think that I need to get a non-house-trained puppy… that has the potential to get me my stressed out high.

I say that I want a neat Google Reader, except whenever I finally get the unread blog posts down to zero, I start getting antsy, hitting refresh until someone posts something.  I feel like a kid with a lemonade stand on an unbusy street, waiting for someone to walk past.  I feel better when there is a folder or two of unread posts, something to look forward to when I get a moment to sit down and read.  I say that I want a neat email box, except whenever I respond to my final outstanding message and archive it, I start checking email more frequently, impatiently waiting for the next one to come in to give me something to deal with.  I feel better when there are five unanswered emails waiting for a response.

I know a lot of people say this, but it’s actually true for me: I can only be productive when I have an insane deadline, one that does not seem do-able at all.  I need to have too much on my to-do list so that things get done because when my to-do list gets too low, I get so distracted and antsy that I get nothing accomplished.

I say that all I want is a vacation where all I do is relax and read.  It sounds so good from over here, with my long to-do list for my to-do list.  But I know that once I get wherever I’m going where I’m going to plop down and relax, I only feel anxious being non-productive.  In not moving anything forward.  I need to ease into the relaxing thing; take 3 days of so of the trip to feel my heart racing over the idea of wasted time (think of all the things on my to-do list I could do!) until I finally settle down and say, “wow, vacations are great.”  And then I only relax because I realize that if I’m away and nothing is getting accomplished, there will be a long to-do list to tackle when I get home.

Are you addicted to busyness or do you like a slower pace?


1 Tireegal { 02.17.13 at 8:21 am }

Wow!!! I had no idea. Is this something that has got worse over time? It sounds like it. I’m impressed in an odd kind of way. But I am not like this in the least. at work i have a to do list in Outlook, although I am forever moving due dates forward because stuff isn’t done.we have a dry erase board in the kitchen and it has three things written on it: house, ( short sale) , do taxes and find a home for Blackie ( our friendly feral cat). Huge tasks but not broken into anything.
We also have to do lists on Cozi that we mostly ignore.
I think I was always like this, even before having a kiddo. But now, when not at work or taking care of Isobel’s needs, I just feel compelled to plop on the couch and do nothing – except dally with my I phone.
I appreciate the window into your world. Are you still doing yoga? Is that helping at all with the driven busyness?
fwiw, creative deadlines have always made me do my best work, but most of my work is social work management and I wouldn’t call it creative. Sometimes hectic. Now I’m waffling. I wonder if you’re refreshing your browser for your first comment? 🙂

2 Mina { 02.17.13 at 8:23 am }

I am definitely not addicted to busyness. I do it quite well, I can rock a to do list, making it and even doing all the things on it. But I am also one of the best relaxer there are. Do you know the pictures with a sloth vegging on a yacht with a coconut in one hand and a book in the other? I am the model for that picture. I do not like to just sit without anything, I need to have either my mind or my hands doing something, reading or doing puzzles or playing games or knitting, stuff like that. Any activity that does not need being listed on a to do list. 🙂
But when I need to get organized and busy, my main motivation to do it all is that afterwards I can just sit and everything on my ‘nothing’ list. 🙂

3 Kate (Bee In The Bonnet) { 02.17.13 at 9:29 am }

I think that’s what I kind of liked about the IVF cycle. There were plenty of deadlines, and tasks to accomplish, and appointments to keep, and research to do, and constant measurable feedback– follicle counts, medication changes, follicle measurements, number retrieved, number fertilized, number still growing, number ready for transfer, number being frozen, etc. It was like the ultimate to-do list with the ultimate item to be checked off.

I like to make lists, too,but I only tend to do so when I start to feel overwhelmed. I live a fairly small life at home with two young ones, so there’s not much on my list, but still– list-wise, because there’s not quite as much on there at once, I really love my iCal. I fill out dates and pertinent details of upcoming appointments or visits or general deadlines, and I enjoy knowing that they’re on my calendar and I won’t forget them and I get to look forward to them coming up.

And oddly, I don’t delete them when I’m done, which means I can look back and see that on Feb 17, 2010, I turned 21 weeks with the boys. And that I had a neurologist appointment at 8:00 a.m. and an OB appointment with the midwife at the new clinic because I’d fired my former OB the week before.

I don’t know. I love to-do lists because I love projects. I love being in control (though how often I actually am is debatable…), and calendars and to-do lists make me feel secure and happy, that I’m in control, that my “project” is being completed, that progress is being made, that I’m moving forward. Things just don’t feel right in my world when I’m not moving toward a goal. I think that’s part of the reason why I enjoy doing craft-ish stuff (working on a quilt right now and a hat that I’m knitting and I’m in the planning stage of some toys I’m knitting for the boys), and why I have so many uncompleted projects. I need to have stuff waiting in the wings. I almost get sad when a project is finished because I’m no longer on that track moving forward. I love weekly meal planning and grocery shopping for the same reason– it’s a project that’s constantly moving toward completion, week after week after week.

4 Stacey { 02.17.13 at 10:26 am }

I am addicted to busyness as well, and I hate having nothing to do. I also dislike only having things to do that I don’t particularly like doing. I’m currently at the end of a 2-month “vacation” at my in-laws’ house in Italy, and my mother-in-law takes care of all the cooking (which is something I really enjoy), while I just watch the kids all day and clean up after them (I like watching the kids, but I get bored of doing it all day long, and I dislike cleaning up after them if it’s the only thing I have to do all day). I also get bored on vacations when there’s nothing to do, although I enjoyed the last vacation I took in Mexico to an all-inclusive resort, probably because I didn’t have to clean up after my kids all day and it was a lot easier to entertain them at the beach. In any case, I am like you, with to-do lists that have sub-to-do-lists. In fact, I recently started a multi-sheet workbook in excel to plan everything I need to do when I get back to California. It helps me ease the anxiety of having nothing at all to do while I am here in Italy. And I’ve spent a LOT of my free time here browsing organization boards on pinterest.

5 m. { 02.17.13 at 11:35 am }

Oh, the to do list for the to do list, refolding and rewriting to make it neater….get out of my pockets, Mel! You’re scaring me. I do this too.

I can’t function without my lists, and in general, I need to have something to do, until I have too much to do, and then I make things worse by adding on to those lists (yes, yes, I know I need to do our taxes, but why do I add it to a list of things that is already un-doable this weekend?)

In general, I’m addicted to busy, until I crack, and cry, and end up zoning out and playing about an hour of solitaire on “the most expensive solitaire machine ever made” according to my husband. Aka, the iPad. I wouldn’t mind finding a middle ground.

6 Sara { 02.17.13 at 11:47 am }

I like to be busy and I also like to do lists. I really like your to do list for your to do list. I have different lists, I am a high school teacher so I keep a daily to do list at school. Mostly reminders of when to set up labs, copy, meetings, drills, and when students are coming in for tutoring. Lately I can not leave work until everything is crossed off for the day even items that I could move to another day. This makes for some long days. I am also trying to get ahead in anticipation of our next IVF cycle.

I also have a personal to do list that I keep on my phone, I like crossing items off that list but it is not like my work list, items can stay for awhile before I get them done.

I agree with Kate, during our IVF cycles I liked checking off the shots, pills, and appointments. It was the one thing that gave me a sense of control during the cycle. At least my organizational skills helped during a very stressful time.

7 GeekChic { 02.17.13 at 12:19 pm }

Addicted to busyness used to describe me – back in high school and early undergrad. I too had lists for lists. I look back on that time with a certain amount of wonder – I honestly don’t recognize that person now, even though I know it was me. It exhausts me just thinking about that time to be honest.

My first cancer diagnosis was what changed things. I’m completely different now. I can sit for hours with nothing to do – just thinking. While I have to-do lists for work, I enjoy them when things are all done. My email inbox is empty at the end of each week.

While I can work in a state of busyness for short periods of time (the job demands such on occasion) it frankly exhausts me when its over. I’m definitely not a multi-tasker anymore.

My boss once asked me if I preferred the way I am now. I answered that I didn’t prefer either way. They were just different and the way I am now is what works for me now at my current stage of life. Maybe I’ll go back to being addicted to busyness at some point in the future.

8 Ana { 02.17.13 at 1:17 pm }

Lists for my lists, yup, I’ve got them. But I have noticed that with time I’ve stopped living for the high. I don’t like the stress of putting something off until the last minute and I tend to get overwhelmed with too much to do. I’ve started paring things down so that I can have some breaks to simply be with my husband, my kids, my self. I long for a to-do-free vacation, though it just DOES NOT happen with small kids who are automatic busy-makers. I guess I’ve kicked my addiction, though the temptation still sometimes lurks.

9 talesofacautiousoptimist { 02.17.13 at 4:50 pm }

I wouldn’t say I’m addicted to “busyness”, I prefer to say I’m addicted to “productivity”…that is what give me the high…accomplishing a task! To do lists are my way of tracking my progress. There is an amazing high each time I cross something off the list. In grad school I used to be a bit more crazy with the lists, but now I have the more under control and categorized…work, home, long-term goals, and then usually one for whatever special project I am working on. I always look forward to vacations where I can “relax and do nothing”, but that usually lasts only a day or two before I get the itch to be productive and start cleaning the house from top to bottom or tackling the closets or planning out a new project.

In terms of IVF, I feel that my addition to organization is what got me through all the cycles. I often felt a comfort that I had this “skill set” (if you want to call it that) to bring the overwhelming confusion of all the tests, appointments, meds, etc. into order. I would often wonder how someone who is not a naturally organized person could survive.

10 persnickety { 02.17.13 at 5:22 pm }

wow. I have a tiny (on the top piece of a post it pad) list of to do tasks for my workday, plus a mental tally of longer range tasks for home and work (this means it is short as otherwise things get forgotten). That said if there is a home task in the future that must be done, or a work one, I tell either my husband or my co-worker- who do make lists and tables and things. So I use their organisational busyness addiction to help me.
But I designed one of my main work tools to alow me to put in tasks (for myself and others) so that I didn’t have to continually monitor this.
I know that I don’t manage to do lists well, I don’t enjoy being rushed with busyness (though I don’t like doing nothing) so I do endevour to make the best of others skill in this area.
And on the IVF thing- I told my husband all of the requirements around timing and drugs and dosages and he set up all of the calendar requirements. And yet the only pregnancies (unsuccessful) we have ever acheived came in the months that we weren’t keeping track or calculating anything- even my ovaries don’t like being organised and kept on a timetable!

11 Esperanza { 02.17.13 at 6:06 pm }

Wow, I recognize a lot of myself in these words. I, too, am much more productive when I have too much to do and too little time to do it. I also chase that high of getting it all done.

But lately I’ve been pulling back. When we got our DOR and MFI diagnoses I actually stopped copy-editing at the local magazine because I knew I needed more time for myself. And I’m finding myself in these lulls and I’m forcing myself to endure them, and now, I’m actually kind of enjoying them. For th first time in my life I’m cooking and LIKING it and I think that is because I’m not spending all that time cooking thinking of other, more important, things I should be doing. I’ve really slowed down and I’m really starting to love it. I feel healthier, calmer, more at peace. It’s an unfamiliar place for me to be, but I’m getting the hang of it. 😉

12 Justine { 02.17.13 at 8:46 pm }

I *love* being busy. And yes, addicted. I get that. I don’t like sitting still, I feel antsy when my inbox is empty … even on vacation, I can’t just sit by the pool. I need an itinerary. And you’d better believe I plan it and replan it, much to my husband’s chagrin.

But on the other hand, I feel a little stressed when the busy isn’t completely self-imposed. If the evening meetings on my calendar start to take up three, four days of the week, leaving me with no time to say good night to my kids, when that wasn’t my intention. And I get stressed when I forget how to prioritize, when I feel like I have four things that really ought to be done at the same time and don’t know where to start. Mostly this happens late at night, when my brain isn’t functioning at its highest capacity anyway. 😉

13 a { 02.17.13 at 9:46 pm }

I am whatever the opposite of this is – addicted to lethargy? Excellent at relaxing? I get things accomplished, but I can’t be busy all the time. I get exceptionally angry when I spend too much time working. In my 20s and 30s, I spent a lot of time working overtime. 6 days a week. Now, if I have to work 5 whole days a week, I get very irritable (I have a 4 day workweek, so 5 days means at least 45 hours of working, probably more.) At home, I like to get stuff done in the morning and by 5:00, I’m done.

I work well under pressure. But I prefer when I can arrange my own priorities within a more relaxed deadline.

14 Mali { 02.17.13 at 11:04 pm }

I think the addiction is to the adrenaline rush that comes with dashing around, stressing about getting things done in time, meeting deadlines, getting the kids to appointments at the right time, etc etc. I can understand that – I felt it when I was travelling internationally a lot for work, under pressure for deadlines, etc.

I am certainly not addicted to this any more. I also think that for some people (I’m not saying this is the case for you) busyness is an escape in itself, when they don’t have to deal with relationships (I’ve seen this with certain friends and relatives) or themselves. It can be very hard for some people to stop, relax, and just be – being happy being themselves, not their high-powered roles, taking time to think, to face what they don’t like about themselves as well as realising what they do like. At least, I know that was me during a particular time in my life. And I know too that in many ways I’m much happier now.

15 jjiraffe { 02.17.13 at 11:10 pm }

Heh! This is pretty much the opposite of me. I hate to-do
lists and feeling like I have too much to do makes me want to puke from stress. I usually have too much to do, and I usually get it all done but writing to do lists makes me feel trapped and limited: not free to do something spontaneous and/or fun. I don’t like reminding myself how truly tedious my life is. I also will never wear a watch for the same reason: I don’t want to be reminded all the time where I have to be. It makes life seem shorter. That being said, I thrive when there is one single deadline looming: a fundraiser, a goal, a project, a launch. I just feel trapped when there are many multiple multitasking deadlines each day.

16 md { 02.18.13 at 12:03 am }

wow. just wow. as someone who is currently just about floating in the seas of five-month-twins madness, with her head every now and then going under, i cannot imagine so much productivity. if i can manage to wash my hair twice a week, i am happy. sigh. how do you manage??

17 Chickenpig { 02.18.13 at 7:43 am }

I like having something to do. But, I don’t like a lot of little projects and busy to do lists. I prefer a Big project that contains smaller projects. I may have a lot of little things on my to do list in the garden, but I don’t want to do them, I want to plan the whole thing, rip out plants and plant new ones, cut down the light blocking trees and build a trellis. The little things like checking emails, weeding, or doing laundry get to be like little annoying gnats flying around my head.

18 Heather { 02.18.13 at 8:34 am }

I am the opposite of you, I have lists in my head. That’s it. Even then they aren’t concrete ‘MUST DO’ items. The important stuff gets done, the other stuff can usually wait. Have I missed soemthing or forgotten something. Absolutely. The things I have missed though? Not a huge deal.
I would probably get more done if I kept a real tally, a real list going, but I just don’t take them seriously. My husband on the other hand? List Maker. It’s so much fun packing for a trip. I take out the suitcase and start throwing stuff in, him? Carefully takes out his list of things to pack. Who usually forgets something? Me. Who has it? Him. It works.

19 Denver Laura { 02.18.13 at 10:16 am }

When I was “back East,” I had lists of lists. I had work lists, shopping lists (categorized by location in the store), personal lists, items I wanted to buy but justified it if I postponed it a few months, goals, to-dos, even a project list for house renovations. Since moving out West, I have been more laid back. I work hard, but I go home at 4:30 to spend time with family. If I don’t make a list, it’s ok. If I make a list but forget to take it to the store, it’s ok. I’m used to my “more relaxed” lifestyle so I’d be hard pressed to move back East where everybody is a bit more stressed.

20 Tiara { 02.18.13 at 3:20 pm }

When I’m busy I lament about not having enough time & when I’m not busy I whine about not having anything to do. I am a list maker too tho, lists about everything!!

21 Ellen K. { 02.18.13 at 3:57 pm }

I used to think I was very organized, but Pinterest and organization blogs have shown me otherwise! : ) I’m efficient in some ways, like making a shopping list based on the store layout (and only shopping at one grocery store so as to save time), and I’m good at “provisioning.” I know the daily bank balance and keep track of household expenses. I like keeping a daily diary (never digital). I enjoy filling out the new wall calendar every January 1st, and I always remember birthdays. But I’ve learned to only put a few things on my daily to-do list. I work best under pressure. I also tend to underestimate how much time something will take and habitually turned in semi-finished projects in subjects that didn’t interest me. I dislike long-term projects — things like wedding planning and writing my university honors thesis drove me to an extreme.

22 Sara { 02.18.13 at 6:36 pm }

I’m the opposite. I love feeling relaxed (it seems so luxurious!) and I’m pretty much never bored. Yet somehow, I find myself very busy nonetheless. I wish there was a way to take it down a notch, but when I try, important things slip through the tracks. Sigh.

23 Lori Lavender Luz { 02.18.13 at 9:10 pm }

I recently knocked off one of the big big big things on my ToDo list, and it’s become possible that I might be able to clear it completely.

Which is both exhilarating and terrifying at the same time.

So yes, I am addicted to busyness. Or at least to not having nothing to do.

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