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Be More by Doing Less: Removing the Distraction of Busyness

“It’s not enough to be busy. So are the ants. The question is: What are we busy about?” ~Henry David Thoreau

Growing up I didn’t think much of myself. I grew up poor, and spent much of my childhood alone. My father wasn’t around and my mother worked full-time, so I had to look out for myself from a very young age. This created emotional baggage, which I carried for many years.

Even though things started rocky, I was committed to myself and consciousness at an early age. I always felt like I knew there was something greater out there, but I wasn’t sure what.

Over the years I went to therapy, did courses and programs, and practiced being a better person. But the niggling issues from my childhood stayed with me like a shadow.

One way I coped with my baggage was by being very “busy.” Doing a million things. Distracting myself with a to-do list or activities that gave me a temporary boost, a few moments of joy, only to dissipate at night when I slowed down, lying in my bed wondering “Is this all there is?”

I was a master of disguise, and a master of distraction. And even though I was on a journey of self-awareness I often felt like a little girl again, alone and scared.

My real journey of healing began when a good friend suggested that I slow down. He pointed out that I was using distractions to run away from the loneliness that I was experiencing.

This resonated with me, and I decided to take on his advice.

I stopped activities, stopped traveling, stopped moving, stopped the texts and phone calls (I actually got rid of my phone), and committed to being with myself.

I didn’t know what this was going to take; or even look like, but I knew something had to change.

My real awakening began when I removed all distractions and sat with myself a little bit each day.

During this time of discovery I lived in India, which showed me that in our culture we rush and do all day long, we don’t often take a breather, or a rest.

And I think we do this—I think I did this—because I was running from myself. There were things I didn’t want to look at, issues that kept coming up over and over again, uncomfortable things that were safer to ignore.

Taking time to know myself was the most powerful process I’ve experienced, and being alone was the most authentic thing I’ve done.

My true inner journey began with the un-doing.

What I’m writing to you isn’t complex, it isn’t a whole bunch of stuff, but I think it’s enough.

A Simple Process for Un-Doing:

Spend some time journaling each day, starting by reflecting on the “distractions” in your life.

What activities or habits do you have/do to avoid being with yourself? Do you work way too much, or always help a friend or family member, which leaves you overwhelmed and busy? Do you eat and watch movies to distract yourself? Whatever it is, write it down.

Once you’ve written down your distractions, look deeper into the underlying belief behind these habits.

For example, you find that when you’re upset you eat sweets. Why do you eat sweets? To feel more full. Why do you want to feel fuller? Because I’m afraid of being alone. Why are you afraid of being alone? Because when I’m alone, I’m sad. Why are you sad? And so on…Weed out some of the underlying thoughts or beliefs behind your habits.

Notice.

You don’t have to fix, change, or improve anything. Just notice yourself when you’re engaging in these activities. Do this for one to two weeks. Bring awareness to these areas and journal about them.

After one to two weeks of noticing, if you feel inspired to do less or take action, such as stopping snacking or working fewer hours, go ahead, but it’s not required.

Add to your schedule some alone time each day doing nothing.

Sit on your couch, rest in your bed (without falling asleep), and be in nature. Add 10-30 minutes of alone time each day. If strong emotions come up, be with them; give yourself permission to feel.

The more time I spent by myself, the more I got to know who I was and what I was about. And when I learned about myself, I found I no longer needed to distract myself from the parts of myself that I didn’t like.

Photo by Janicskovsky

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About Ashley Ryan

Ashley Ryan is co-founder of ‘Busy Moms Parenting’ and author of the “Happy Child Guide," whose mission is to help mothers achieve greater home, work, and life balance through self-love and empowerment.

Announcement: Wish you could change your past? Learn to let go and create a life you love with the Tiny Buddha course!
  • Sheila

    Fantastic! I related to this very much (as each Tiny Buddha article has, at minimum, pieces for all of us!). Clearing the unnecessary space to fill it with love & powerful, positive energy, is needed by all. Thank you for this lovely, gentle reminder. Peace & Light!

  • Ashley

    Thanks so much Sheila!

  • nancy

    Thank you for this…

  • Andrea

    Ashley thank you so much for writing this, I can completely relate to everything you said.
    I agree that sometimes we hide behind a curtain of busyness, trying to fill the emptiness with never ending activities. I’m in college right now where it is so easy to get caught up in the hecticness that when I do have some spare time I don’t know what to do with myself. My life centers around school.
    Your article has reminded me that I need to slow down every once in a while and deal with my past.
    Thank you and please continue writing!

  • Ashley

    Your welcome Nancy!

  • Ashley

    Thanks so much Andrea! College is a BUSY time, and when I was in school, I noticed everyone was super busy, especially me…. I remember that age being a time of distraction. It’s great that you have this awareness, keep looking inside…:) thanks for the feedback!

  • Gina

    Great article, love it!!

  • Free2bme

    Ashley – Absolutely AWESOME article! I not only can I relate. I believe there are so many other woman living busy lives that too can benefit from your wisdom!

  • Ashley

    Thank you!!! I so appreciate it.

  • August

    This is the first thing I’ve read in a while that really resonated with me. Thank you for sharing your experience. Growing up an only child, traveling extensively on my own, doing long meditation retreats- I’m definitely someone who has learned the art of being alone and just being with myself. But recently I’ve felt like it’s too much and I find myself using any distraction I can to not have to be with myself. I think it’s a lifelong process, especially in our busy, modern world, to remember to come back to center, to just be with what is, even if it’s just for 10 minutes like you said. Thank you for this very important reminder. I really appreciate it.

  • Kelly Lynn

    Great article LOVED it!!!

  • Ebina

    wow, thank you so much Ashley, this is helpful…

  • Bob

    I too was using distractions to run away from the loneliness that I was experiencing. Man! I have been running from myself all my life without knowing why I was doing so. Thank you for the post Ashley. You are a lifesaver.

  • Colette

    So true, Thanks for sharing this precious gift: to write about your struggle, and long road to learn to be with you, to be with your feelings. To stop and listen to whatever is is your soul is telling you. If have been “a runner” all my life , just like you. But now i’m learning to be with my self, it isn’t scary, but you have to take time to notice that what lives inside you. I gave my self permission to just be…, to just Sit with myself. I realized today
    That it is essential to take time for me….Thanks a lot reminding me!’ Love Peace & Light to you all. Colette

  • busymomashley

    Thanks so much Kelly, much appreciated :) wooohoooo

  • busymomashley

    Great Ebina :)

  • busymomashley

    Hi Bob, I can totally relate, hence the article ;) thanks for the great feedback…

  • Johanna_Galt

    Thanks so much for this Ashley. I’ve known for a while that I employ various methods to avoid feeling uncomfortable feelings, but something about the timing and gentle prodding of your article really resonated with me. I’m pleased to say that today I have significantly cut back on these habits (mainly the internet) and rather than being miserable or self-imploding from loneliness, I actually had a much more pleasant and productive day and felt more alive and in touch with myself. I plan to continue this practice and wanted to give you my gratitude for giving me the kick in the butt that I needed. I appreciate it.

  • busymomashley

    Thanks so much Johanna! Yes! Working online myself I can totally relate to the ‘net’ distraction! Especially Facebook ;) It can be difficult to get going, but what I’ve noticed, after the initial discomfort I feel more ALIVE. Supporting you in your journey, thanks so much for sharing. big hugs!

  • busymomashley

    I love your resonance with this Colette. ‘Stop and listen to whatever your soul is telling you’ magical!