Is the Lure of Busyness Keeping You From Loving Life?


Published in SixtyandMe on April 14, 2024

Have you ever ended the day having not done something you had told yourself you wanted to because you were “too busy?” This is part 2 of a three-article series about common ways we hold ourselves back from living the life we truly desire. The first article discussed how easy it is to find ways to talk ourselves out of making life changes that will move us toward fulfillment. Now, we will explore the role of “busyness” in keeping us stuck when we truly desire something different.

Why We Think “Busy” Is Important

If there is any fear of change associated with the adjustments you want to make in your life, being busy is a natural response that alleviates the fear. Often, this busyness response can distract you from moving toward what you want. It is our version of the often-repeated tale of authors cleaning out closets instead of working on their book.

In fact, being busy is something that is revered in our culture in the United States and other parts of the world. Here are some of the reasons for that.

The Laziness Factor

First, being viewed as “lazy” is not desirable in some cultures. Have you ever called yourself “lazy” when you decided to not do something to its full potential? Maybe you only walked two miles instead of four. Maybe you didn’t get the lawn mowed or weeding done. Sometimes it is okay to not do it all, all the time.

What if you did just what feels in flow to you, some of which might look “lazy” to others, but feels good to you? I have a very hard time napping because I’m not getting things done. I have learned that allowing myself space and time to rest helps me live more fully in the hours ahead.

Busy = Important?

Next, we tend to believe that busyness defines our personal value. A person who is exceedingly busy must be doing important things that make a difference, right? The reality is that sometimes the most important things get done when we are calm, focused and allow ourselves to be in flow.

In retirement, we are sometimes faced with the feeling that we aren’t important anymore, so busyness may ease that feeling. So, to address this kind of busyness, begin with developing your sense of value just by being who you are. You are part of the fabric of life that wants you to show up by being yourself. That is perfect and enough.

The Busyness of Productivity

Finally, we think being busy is the same as being productive. This is like thinking multi-tasking is more efficient than focusing on one task at a time. It is not. In retirement, we are not just filling time; we are “full-filling” our life. Often, the most productive people are the ones who “go slow to go fast.” The trick is to allow yourself the time to stay open and deliberate in your activities. The idea is to focus your actions on your fulfillment, rather than being productive.

A life of busyness carries with it a steep price.

The Price We Pay


For people who work full-time, one of the consequences of busyness is burnout and just being tired of it all. Is there an equivalent to this in retirement? I have not felt this; I am curious if you, as a retired person, have experienced feeling burnout. I’d love to hear your assessment of why it happened and how you handled it. My sense is that it may be related to the feeling of being “stuck.”

Ignoring Real Goals

We don’t connect with what we really desire. Busyness can become the goal. At a time in our lives when we have the freedom to live out our dreams, we don’t. In the end, we perpetuate two of the most common regrets of people when they look back on their lives – wishing they had lived their dreams and had taken more risks.

Relationships Suffer

Our relationships with friends and family are less rich than they could be. This includes connection with yourself. We can be too busy to be fully present for others and ourselves. Again, this contributes to the regrets we may have at the end of life. These include being more loving and understanding with the people we love, being a better partner and/or parent, and pausing to simply enjoy life through deciding for fun and being happy.

The consequences of busyness strike me counter to the rich and fulfilling life we now have the opportunity to create. Do you agree? Of course, there is a difference between busyness to fill time and being busy fulfilling yourself.

How to be “Unbusy”

In a business setting, a coach might suggest that you streamline your calendar to emphasize your goals, so you achieve them. That is not what we are doing now in our 60s, 70s and beyond.

Beyond 60, We Have Different Priorities

Rather than setting a goal, we want to live aligned with what matters to us. Usually, what matters includes relationships, health, and an overall sense of aliveness or vitality. So, the first step is to become quiet and spend time becoming more aware of what matters to you. Amazingly, when we quiet from busyness, we might find we actually love being right where we are. Or you may notice that you would like more friend time or to feel healthier.

What Works for Me

I will share what works for me. I meditate for 30 minutes each morning. Thoughts are allowed and even welcomed in my meditation, or not if I can become that quiet. Somehow, afterwards I know what is important for me in the day ahead. Sometimes it is writing, sometimes calling a friend or relative, sometimes it is making time to be in nature. Simply begin by asking yourself, “What is important to me today?” and allow your answer to become clear. There is no right answer!

Other Examples

Rather than being driven by a calendar schedule or list, one approach is to mentally block out chunks of time for what matters. Examples include a weekly exercise routine or plan some time in each week to visit with friends or make a date with yourself.

I just had a discussion with a friend this morning where she explained that she is gifting herself Sundays just for her, enjoying herself and her life. She acts in alignment with what she wants; she does not fall into the busyness trap due to providing spaciousness around each activity she schedules.

In example, she divides the day into morning, afternoon, and evening. Then she makes sure she plans activities for no more than two of the three segments in the day. For me, I love the freedom to know what I want for the day and then just move in that direction through flow. What works for you?

When coaching women committed to creating a more fulfilling life, one common activity is to focus some time each day on one thing that will move them in the direction they want. Simply ask yourself what that activity is each morning (after meditation?). Simple steps count! If you want more social connection, reach out and call or message a friend.

The bottom line is to be conscious about the alignment between your time and thoughts with what it is you truly want for yourself as you live your life.

As Alan Cohen said, “Busyness is not a reason for not getting other things done. It is an excuse for not claiming your true priorities.”

Let’s Have a Conversation:

How do you stay in alignment with what matters to you? Are you able to stay out of the busyness trap? Perhaps you are in it! I’d love to hear your story.


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