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We Need To Give 'I'm Too Busy' A Rest

Sleep should be at the top of our to-do list.

09/10/2016 4:11 PM AEDT | Updated 16/10/2016 6:11 AM AEDT
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While we think we are gaining control of our lives with our endless to-do lists, the opposite is actually occurring.

Saying "I'm so busy" in the future will not be a badge of honour. But what are we going to say instead?

We are all trapped. Trapped in this always-on, 24/7 lifestyle. We are busy with family, school and work commitments. Not to mention our social-media jobs of constant tweeting, snapchatting and endless posting on Instagram and Facebook. We are just a busy, busy nation.

We no longer have time to waste listening to voicemails, we forget phone calls, we communicate via text. Actually, forget typing words into a text... just send emojis. In a busy world, emojis are the language of our time. Today, proclaiming out loud that you are "so busy" does not make you important. Quite the opposite... it might also mean you are avoiding the big questions in life.

Being busy means that we become largely unavailable to external connections that deliver meaning and discovery in life. To be busy is to view the world through the lens of the never-ending to do list dictated by the shackles of the calendar. It hampers the ability to view the world from an outrospective lens. It is difficult to think about the welfare of a neighbour you haven't seen for six months when you cannot even stop at work to have lunch. We are slaves to other people's demands; the needs of the boss, the clients, and the kids all weigh down on us, stealing every drop of that precious resource: time.

The speed of life is increasing and everything is getting faster, so technically we are only going to get busier. We need to stop. Something needs to give.

If we race around the hamster wheel of life at this continued breakneck pace, we risk falling victim to adrenal fatigue. The adrenalin glands produce the hormone cortisol, which allows the fight-or-flight response that has traditionally been reserved for emergency situations.

From the cavemen to urban citizens, the flow of adrenalin has been critical to human survival. Cortisol is the hormone that allowed many New Yorkers to literally run for their lives on 9/11. Today we abuse the adrenal glands, constantly calling upon them to get through our busy weeks. James Wilson, the chiropractor who coined the term adrenal fatigue in 1998, argues that the schedules and associated stress of life means the adrenal glands stop working efficiently. Extreme fatigue sets in; it's hard to get out of bed, it's impossible to cope with the smallest amount of stress and a sense of overwhelm takes over.

While the advances in technology and its demands play a large role in keeping us busy, technology will ultimately provide release from the hamster wheel. Technology will save us time so we can focus on the more important things in life such as family, community and things that bring us joy.

And yes, it's okay to feel joy, remove guilt and do things that you like. In her new book Not Guilty, Nicolette Rubinsztein provides practical ways to actually enjoy raising a family and working. We are coming out of this stoic time in which the busier you are and the less sleep you get, the more heroic and successful you must be. In truth, a person who can get eight hours shut eye a night might be the most successful of all.

Media mogul Arianna Huffington believes sleep is the answer to our hectic lives. A head injury caused by passing out from sleep deprivation changed her life and inspired her book The Sleep Revolution: Transform Your Life, One Night At A Time. She argues that our basic human right to sleep is being violated by our always-on life. So while we think we are gaining control of our lives by being busy with our endless to-do lists, the opposite is actually occurring.

Huffington believes we can only restore control of our lives by renewing our relationship with sleep. Big business has woken up to this: in the US, insurance giant Aetna pays employees for every night they get more than seven hours of sleep. Uber, Google and Zappos have dedicated nap pods for their employees to get some shut eye. These companies understand that being always busy is debilitating mentally, physically and spiritually, and it is killing creativity.

As a country, we are steering away from mining and agriculture sectors as we creep towards innovation to deliver our nation's future success. We need to stop being so busy and start being creative and innovative.

The time has come to power off life and put it into sleep mode -- our personal and national health depends on it. Next time someone asks how you are, instead of saying "I'm so busy", smile and say "well rested, thanks."

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