Balancing Busyness and Stillness

Last week I had an epiphany. For one single day on the weekend, I didn’t plan anything. It was very uncomfortable for me since my default is to decide to do something elaborate, invite everyone I know, then spend the day prepping and fielding text messages. Instead, I didn’t text anyone. I decided to do some low-key gardening, Adelaide harvested a bunch of potatoes, and Ryan baked me a belated birthday cake. Later while Adelaide was napping I decided to do some knitting outside, and my friend joined me when she came by to collect some veggies. We impromptu ordered Shawarma from the new place in town for dinner and her husband joined us.

We ended up having the most lovely day without all the stress and pressure I usually have of planning a lovely day. And I realized, had I planned a whole day like I usually do, none of this magic would have happened. It turns out I don’t have to plan to have a magical day, it can just happen.

Despite my intention to experiment with more days like this, I fell into my regular pattern again this weekend. It was still lovely, but contrasting it to the impromptu magical day it was very different.

I see this happen in business, too. Many business owners I work with are working at full tilt with their clients, working in their business instead of on it, so they don’t step back and look at the bigger picture. Even when they’re working on their business, it can be from a big to-do list with a frantic energy. They don’t rest, or take time for planning, and they rarely look at how they’re feeling about the whole thing.

Today I want to explore the conflicting feelings I have around this, and maybe see if you experience them, too. I wonder how much of this is how I’m wired, versus what society tells me I should value, versus my own self-doubts. And I’m curious about experimenting with a different way of being.

When are memories made and when are you the happiest?

I came into writing this thinking that they were different. We think of big trips, or special occasions and other novel moments as being the times when the fondest memories are made, but they also often come (at least for me) with the stress of planning and making sure everything goes smoothly. I’ve certainly been seeking out those times for myself and for my family and I’m willing to put in the effort to make them happen. But when I think back to my childhood, I also have peaceful memories of reading late into the night or in a hammock, painting on the deck at the family cottage, and writing letters to my Great Aunt Els. The big camping trip we did out East this summer was really missing the peaceful moments in between the planned moments, so I need to keep that in mind for future trips.

How could this apply in your business? What are your fondest work memories and when are you happiest/most peaceful/satisfied/etc.? How do you want to look back on your time working? What do you notice about your best memories throughout your whole life?

Novelty and Overstimulation vs. Familiarity and Calm

Have you had periods in your business where you were just learning non-stop? A conference, a new course, launching a new product, a big influx of new clients. This can be invigorating and can build great momentum. It can also leave you feeling overwhelmed, overstimulated, and like it’s hard to catch up.

On the other hand, there’s the sense of stillness that comes when you have systems in place, your clients arrive with ease, and you have a predictable schedule. This rhythm can feel familiar and calm, but it can also feel boring and stagnant. You might feel antsy or like you’re not doing enough.

Where on this spectrum do you want to be? Where do you find yourself the most often? What would a nice balance of the two look like? How could you notice and adjust if you find yourself in one extreme too often?

FOMO and YOLO

(Fear Of Missing Out and You Only Live Once)

Scarcity and urgency are so pervasive in our world now that it’s easy to feel like they’re normal. An event is happening that you just can’t miss, a course is being offered for the last time by the founding instructor before other people will teach it, you really don’t want to miss out on the “back to school rush”. In my day-to-day life it’s especially prevalent because summer is relatively short in Canada so every nice day I want to be at the beach or camping or having ice cream in the Village.

These all prey on our sense of time and perpetuate the story we tell ourselves that we never have enough time. In reality, it’s just a choice about how we spend our attention, because you can’t manage time.

If you’ve ever played a resource management board game (this is one of my favourites), it’s especially prevalent. There are never enough rounds of play and never enough resources to do everything you want to do, so you have to choose and that’s what makes it so interesting.

What if we had JOMO (Joy Of Missing Out) instead? What if the constraints we have on our time actually make it better? If you start paying attention to where scarcity and urgency are showing up in your life, what do you notice?

Self-Doubt and Busyness

It’s likely self-doubt is also playing a role in your experience of busyness and stillness. You may remember me writing about the 4 ways your self-doubt could be showing up, and that two of them show up as over-functioning, and two show up as under-functioning. Perhaps this could also be an interesting way to filter your experience. In my case, I often initiate social events because I’m afraid if I don’t, I won’t get invited to do things with others. This causes me to over-function and stay in busyness. At exactly the same time I also freeze because there are so many options to choose from I get overwhelmed by the possibilities.

This brings us right back to experiments, because ultimately the way to bring forth your healthy self and calm your Protector is by collecting data and experimenting. When I didn’t plan my weekend and I still got to have social time with friends, that was new data for my Protector to see that the old story might not be true.

Your self-doubt might not be showing up the same way as mine. It probably isn’t. It could be really helpful to take the time to see what old stories are in there impacting your balance of busyness and stillness.

Where is your self-doubt running the show? What new data would you like to collect?

Where to go from here

As with many things, the first step is to notice ways this is showing up for you. If you’re happy with it, then great! If not, I’ve italicised some reflection questions to get you started. Most of my prompts are also good jumping off points for experiments if you choose to explore that. Consider what this looks like for your business, but also in other areas of your life. Do you feel like you have this in better balance some places more than others?

There is no perfect answer (I have to keep reminding myself), and different phases of your life will likely have a different balance. Can you treat yourself with compassion as you navigate this? I know I still have a long way to go.

If you’d like to read more from me like this directly in your inbox, you can head here to subscribe to my weekly field notes.

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Stephanie Wasylyk

Stephanie Wasylyk

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Business coaching and thought partnership for established business owners who want more profit and efficiency with integrity. www.stephaniewasylyk.com