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10 Lies People Tell Themselves To Rationalize Their Overwhelmed Schedules

10 Lies People Tell Themselves To Rationalize Their Overwhelmed Schedules

How many times have you used the excuse ‘I’m too busy now’ to turn down offers to help a friend in need or to just take time off to enjoy yourself? If you are like me, probably a lot. Yet, there is something wrong if you are so busy that living life to the fullest gets shoved down the agenda. Here are 10 lies that people keep telling themselves to justify their super busy schedules.

1. I must sleep less to get more done

It’s amazing how many people believe this. People using apps such as Fitbit found that if you cut down on sleep and get disturbed rest, your production level goes down. You may be gaining more time but you are not being more productive. These apps are useful because they can give you loads of stats on your smartphone about your fitness, productivity, and the quality of your sleep.

2. I must work longer hours to achieve more

If you increase your working hours, you actually become less efficient! The UN is also concerned about this. Their report shows that millions of people are far too busy to enjoy fuller and happier lives. They are convinced that though they are working really hard, they are not being more efficient.

The Mexican billionaire, Carlos Slim believes that people should work an 11 hour day for 3 days a week until they are 75. This is a radical view but he insists this is the way to go as people can enjoy themselves and actually be more productive until they are older.

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3. I am far too busy to take breaks

You also probably think that once you get in the zone, you will become more focused and get even more done. Well, the bad news is that your brain needs breaks to stay focused.

“From a practical standpoint, our research suggests that, when faced with long tasks (such as studying before a final exam or doing your taxes), it is best to impose brief breaks on yourself. Brief mental breaks will actually help you stay focused on your task!”- Alejandro Lleras, University of Illinois psychology professor.

4. I would never daydream or twiddle my thumbs

The surprising fact is that when we switch off our brains and begin to relax and daydream, some of the trickiest problems are solved. You might actually have experienced this Eureka moment when you are driving or taking a shower. Psychologists call this the ‘diffuse mode’. This is a sort of subconscious processing that goes on in the brain. But you need to be in a relaxed state for it to function best. You certainly can’t avail of it when you are concentrating. Daniel Kahneman has explained all this in his book Thinking Fast and Slow.

5. I just have no time to take a walk or go to the gym

Charles Dickens had a great routine. He would write until 2.p.m and then he would go for a long walk. He would sometimes walk for 30 miles! Yet, he wrote 20 novels and many short stories, all by hand.

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“If I couldn’t walk fast and far, I should just explode and perish.” – Charles Dickens.

If you want to put your brain on steroids, try doing some physical exercise

6. I know more money will solve my problems

If you work harder, you can get a promotion and get a higher salary, right? But working harder might lead to some complications like neglecting your health, family and loved ones. It might also create even more problems in trying to manage your time.

A much better idea would be to sit down and analyze your financial situation. By making a series of cuts, you could end up happier and less stressed out.

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7. If I have a busy schedule, I look more important

Busy as a bee! Yes, but the bees are producing pollen and helping to pollinate the planet. If the truth were known, appearing busy can have many rather sneaky advantages in the workplace. It can hide inefficiency and also reduce the number of interruptions. It also gives the false impression that you are really doing a great job.

Time for a reality check. Time spent on the job is not an indicator of quality, I am afraid. You will be judged on the results and also other efficiency standards.

8. I prefer multitasking because I have no choice

You are so busy that you just have to have three things on the go at the same time. Now, there is nothing wrong with talking on the phone and having a cup of coffee. Driving and texting is a different matter as it could kill you or some innocent bystander!

The problem is that when you start to do more demanding tasks which need your brain to be focused and alert, then you have to forget about multitasking. It simply does not work because you cannot focus fully on several tasks at the same time. Interrupting one task to do another is also a total waste of time. In a New York Times article, researchers reported that test takers who were interrupted and distracted performed 20% worse on tests afterwards.

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The solution is to start prioritizing and also to concentrate on one thing at a time.

9. I don’t have enough time

Time is elastic. You can stretch it either way. You can spin things out, just to look busy; or you can pack a load of things into it. It just depends on how important that task or person is to you. Everybody gets 24 hours in a day. There are no discounts, coupons or special offers.

It all boils down to time management. Using time effectively to complete tasks is what you will be judged on.

10. I can never say no

It is like a tsunami. One of the reasons you are overwhelmed is that you say yes to everybody and everything. It is great for making friends but you may be exploited.

Learning how to say no is going to protect your time credit in the bank. You will be able to safeguard your account from trivia and superficiality. You will become time rich and that is the real mark of success.

Featured photo credit: Giuseppe Savo via flickr.com

More by this author

Robert Locke

Author of Ziger the Tiger Stories, a health enthusiast specializing in relationships, life improvement and mental health.

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Last Updated on July 17, 2019

The Science of Setting Goals (And How It Affects Your Brain)

The Science of Setting Goals (And How It Affects Your Brain)

What happens in our heads when we set goals?

Apparently a lot more than you’d think.

Goal setting isn’t quite so simple as deciding on the things you’d like to accomplish and working towards them.

According to the research of psychologists, neurologists, and other scientists, setting a goal invests ourselves into the target as if we’d already accomplished it. That is, by setting something as a goal, however small or large, however near or far in the future, a part of our brain believes that desired outcome is an essential part of who we are – setting up the conditions that drive us to work towards the goals to fulfill the brain’s self-image.

Apparently, the brain cannot distinguish between things we want and things we have. Neurologically, then, our brains treat the failure to achieve our goal the same way as it treats the loss of a valued possession. And up until the moment, the goal is achieved, we have failed to achieve it, setting up a constant tension that the brain seeks to resolve.

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Ideally, this tension is resolved by driving us towards accomplishment. In many cases, though, the brain simply responds to the loss, causing us to feel fear, anxiety, even anguish, depending on the value of the as-yet-unattained goal.

Love, Loss, Dopamine, and Our Dreams

The brains functions are carried out by a stew of chemicals called neurotransmitters. You’ve probably heard of serotonin, which plays a key role in our emotional life – most of the effective anti-depressant medications on the market are serotonin reuptake inhibitors, meaning they regulate serotonin levels in the brain leading to more stable moods.

Somewhat less well-known is another neurotransmitter, dopamine. Among other things, dopamine acts as a motivator, creating a sensation of pleasure when the brain is stimulated by achievement. Dopamine is also involved in maintaining attention – some forms of ADHD are linked to irregular responses to dopamine.[1]

So dopamine plays a key role in keeping us focused on our goals and motivating us to attain them, rewarding our attention and achievement by elevating our mood. That is, we feel good when we work towards our goals.

Dopamine is related to wanting – to desire. The attainment of the object of our desire releases dopamine into our brains and we feel good. Conversely, the frustration of our desires starves us of dopamine, causing anxiety and fear.

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One of the greatest desires is romantic love – the long-lasting, “till death do us part” kind. It’s no surprise, then, that romantic love is sustained, at least in part, through the constant flow of dopamine released in the presence – real or imagined – of our true love. Loss of romantic love cuts off that supply of dopamine, which is why it feels like you’re dying – your brain responds by triggering all sorts of anxiety-related responses.

Herein lies obsession, as we go to ever-increasing lengths in search of that dopamine reward. Stalking specialists warn against any kind of contact with a stalker, positive or negative, because any response at all triggers that reward mechanism. If you let the phone ring 50 times and finally pick up on the 51st ring to tell your stalker off, your stalker gets his or her reward, and learns that all s/he has to do is wait for the phone to ring 51 times.

Romantic love isn’t the only kind of desire that can create this kind of dopamine addiction, though – as Captain Ahab (from Moby Dick) knew well, any suitably important goal can become an obsession once the mind has established ownership.

The Neurology of Ownership

Ownership turns out to be about a lot more than just legal rights. When we own something, we invest a part of ourselves into it – it becomes an extension of ourselves.

In a famous experiment at Cornell University, researchers gave students school logo coffee mugs, and then offered to trade them chocolate bars for the mugs. Very few were willing to make the trade, no matter how much they professed to like chocolate. Big deal, right? Maybe they just really liked those mugs![2]

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But when they reversed the experiment, handing out chocolate and then offering to trade mugs for the candy, they found that now, few students were all that interested in the mugs. Apparently the key thing about the mugs or the chocolate wasn’t whether students valued whatever they had in their possession, but simply that they had it in their possession.

This phenomenon is called the “endowment effect”. In a nutshell, the endowment effect occurs when we take ownership of an object (or idea, or person); in becoming “ours” it becomes integrated with our sense of identity, making us reluctant to part with it (losing it is seen as a loss, which triggers that dopamine shut-off I discussed above).

Interestingly, researchers have found that the endowment effect doesn’t require actual ownership or even possession to come into play. In fact, it’s enough to have a reasonable expectation of future possession for us to start thinking of something as a part of us – as jilted lovers, gambling losers, and 7-year olds denied a toy at the store have all experienced.

The Upshot for Goal-Setters

So what does all this mean for would-be achievers?

On one hand, it’s a warning against setting unreasonable goals. The bigger the potential for positive growth a goal has, the more anxiety and stress your brain is going to create around it’s non-achievement.

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It also suggests that the common wisdom to limit your goals to a small number of reasonable, attainable objectives is good advice. The more goals you have, the more ends your brain thinks it “owns” and therefore the more grief and fear the absence of those ends is going to cause you.

On a more positive note, the fact that the brain rewards our attentiveness by releasing dopamine means that our brain is working with us to direct us to achievement. Paying attention to your goals feels good, encouraging us to spend more time doing it. This may be why outcome visualization — a favorite technique of self-help gurus involving imagining yourself having completed your objectives — has such a poor track record in clinical studies. It effectively tricks our brain into rewarding us for achieving our goals even though we haven’t done it yet!

But ultimately, our brain wants us to achieve our goals, so that it’s a sense of who we are that can be fulfilled. And that’s pretty good news!

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Featured photo credit: Alexa Williams via unsplash.com

Reference

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