5 Fears That Trap You Inside The Busy Bubble

Are you living your life wrapped up in the bubble of busy?

It’s a state of mind that exists regardless of whether or not you are actually busy. It is a celebrated and unconsciously encouraged way of being. The never satisfied pursuit of more.

We find clues in the way we answer the question: ‘how are things?’

Busy Bubble

I’ve found myself jumping without thinking to my default answer a lot recently: ‘things are really busy at the moment, I have so much on’.

Every time I say it my heart sinks a little because although it is true, it is nothing to be proud of. But for many of us it IS something to be proud of. We wear our busyness like an achievement.

But what if busy-ness was actually a sign that we have got life terribly wrong? A signpost of failure, rather than this idea that if you’re not filled to capacity you’re not doing enough.

The Busy Bubble is the enemy of our relationships, creativity, spontaneity, fun, relaxation, health and wellbeing. It stands between where we are and the place we long to be deep down; doing more of what truly matters to us.

Busy and the perpetual pursuit of more creates stress, anxiety, guilt, fear, and strained relationships with ourselves and the people around us.

For the sake of our mass wellbeing the use of ‘Busy’ as a badge of honour needs to be eradicated. It must become a self-policed social taboo like dropping litter or smoking around children.

It starts when we identify the reasons why we seem to embrace something that is so evidently detrimental to our humanity. In his book, Essentialism, Greg McKeown says we are currently in a ‘More Bubble’.

Why we are constantly trying to find more? It often comes from a place of fear:

1. Fear of Judgement

We have a general underlying acceptance that if you’re not leading a busy life it means you are not doing everything you should be. It doesn’t mean you’ve sorted your life out and identified what matters, getting rid of everything else.

To say that you’re not busy invites people into that space, giving them permission to demand something of that margin you have in your life.

2. Fear of Rejection

We fill our lives up because it’s almost impossible to say ‘no’ without justifying it. We say yes because we can think of no good reason to say no.

‘I’m not busy but no I won’t do that’ is not an option. It sounds rude. It IS rude.

But the truth is we will only find that margin we so desperately need and become ‘not busy’ BY saying ‘no’ to those things we deem as non-essential and strive for a life of ‘less but better’.

3. Fear of the Right Opportunity

When we feel busy we feel like we’re being productive and effective. These things are not all the same. There is an unconscious fear that often bubbles beneath the surface in me, which is a fear of getting the right opportunity.

These opportunities are the ones you know deep down are good, but they are scary. Filling your life with busy gives you a reason to choose mediocre, to carry on going for busy over brave, to ignore, reject, or even completely miss those opportunities because you don’t have the space in your life required for vision and growth.

4. Fear of Missing Out

We have a compulsion to fill life right to the margins. I was at an organisation recently where they were taking on new staff in order to soften the load on existing employees. They were really busy and just needed to give some slack to the people and processes.

As soon as they employed two new members of staff they took on more clients. Rather than achieving the objective of a happier and healthier workforce, it got even busier and everyone became even more stretched. This included the new workers who received inadequate training to-boot.

We must protect ourselves, our time, our resources because the fear of missing out can quickly turn margin into busy. Similar to Parkinson’s Law: “work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion”, work also expands so as to fill and exploit every last drop of the available resources. This may work in the short term but it’s a long game disaster.

5. Fear of Space and Boredom

There is an increasing fear of boredom in our world today. We keep busy so that we don’t get bored. But boredom is not an event or a response to a situation where there is nothing to do. It’s a deeper lying condition.

People who get bored easily are usually people who ARE bored.

Frequent boredom is a sign that you are bored at a deeper level.

Keeping busy, feeling like you’re always doing something is a way to push this to the back of our minds. Maybe we are bored because we are not excited about where life seems to be heading. Are we pursuing the right things? Things that matter to us? Or is the need to stem the flow of boredom a sign that we are unhappy and on the wrong path?

We fear not being busy because it will force us to confront these questions. But grappling with them may well be the best thing you could ever do for yourself.

Over to You

What is busy-ness preventing you from doing that you wish you had time to do right now? Please leave your answer in the comments below.

8 comments
  1. I just spent a week offline and without a phone. I was apprehensive beforehand but managed to really enjoy the time out, away from being ‘busy’. I had vague plans and a few chores to do. I didn’t have the fear of missing out that I thought I would. I did a lot of wonderful nothing and the things I did do I could fully concentrate on and immerse myself in. I really recommend it if you’re like me and feel the busy-ness of messages throughout your day and the obligation to respond ASAP and be available constantly……It’s back to the pc and 105 emails today though! 🙂

    1. Oh yeah I saw you were doing that! Fair play man! Did you just do it at home or were you away somewhere? I bet that was so liberating. Something I really need to do…something I know I would find very hard to take the plunge with. I’m sure once I started I would love it though. I hope that not many of those 105 emails were from me! Good luck with that. Haha.

      1. It was in Lincolnshire, I stayed in a yurt in the grounds of a friends farmhouse. They kept me busy in the kitchen and garden and woodshed! i really recommend it – they rent it out, self catering 🙂

  2. Great article, totally agree. Personally for me it’s the fear of what would happen if I didn’t do something that keeps me busy. And the point for me isn’t what busy-ness is preventing me doing – it would be better if I was doing less just to be doing less, not to take on something else 🙂 I think we need to cultivate a culture that sees “doing” as inherently negative. The less we do the better, for the same level of “achieving” or “contributing” – for lack of a better word. Good things to “achieve” might be not having migraines or nervous breakdowns, as well as other things that might make the world a better place for us and for others. Where can I “contribute” most with the least amount of “doing”? Is that a more helpful perspective?

    1. Agreed Tom! Let’s remove the doing that takes us away from being, which is where our best and most valuable contribution to other people is generally made. A massive amount of food for my thoughts there!

  3. So true! I think it is stopping me from intentionally setting aside time to rest and recharge by myself. While it is recharging spending time with my wife and kids and doing writing, just spending time alone doing NOTHING is such a good exercise. I need to do that more.

    1. Yeah I know that feeling. It’s so hard to get out of that cycle – I always have that nagging feeling that I SHOULD be doing something productive when I’m clearly in need of some time alone doing nothing ‘productive’. It can be very anxiety-inducing!

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