Shifting From “Bad Busy” to “Good Busy”
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Shifting From “Bad Busy” to “Good Busy”

Shifting From “Bad Busy” to “Good Busy”

From childhood, our parents, teachers, and other mentors and leaders in our lives constantly instruct us to keep busy or look busy. By the time we reach adulthood, keeping busy might become skewed because it is used more as a mechanism to avoid getting in trouble or looking lazy rather than a tool that helps us work smarter. However, in recovery and business, being busy often takes on a whole other context.

So what does it mean to keep busy and work smarter when not all work is created equal? First, understand that just because you are laboring does not mean that you are prospering; you might impede success. It comes down to how you're working and why you're working on a particular project or task. Let's take a look at some ways you might be exhibiting traits of "bad busy" and how you can make simple shifts to becoming "good busy."


Telling others you are busy might seem like a good thing; however, just “being busy to be busy” promotes no forward progress. Do you find yourself keeping busy only to discover that you have accomplished little to nothing at all? While being buried in busy work is excellent to make the day go by faster, it does not allow you to think about what you are doing. Often, these trivial tasks prevent you from handling the actual tasks you should be handling. For example, do you find that you instead reorganize your closet when you go to file taxes? Busy work used as a form of avoidance does not help you accomplish the priority, nor does it help you in the long term.

Instead, use a critical eye to look at all the tasks you are doing at work and home. You will find that many tasks seem to pile up like boxes in the basement, but like the basement stuff, if you don't need it, throw it out. Becoming more efficient by ensuring that the tasks you're doing contribute to a vital career or recovery objective keeps you more focused on your goals. When you start to focus on efficiency, you begin to work smarter and, in some ways, work less.


Do you live by the motto that if you need something done right, you'll have to do it yourself? While it is great to have a take-charge attitude, sometimes you will encounter challenges that you can't go at alone. Without a willingness to ask others for help, you not only create more work and stress for yourself, but you limit the opportunity to view things from a fresh perspective. Not asking for help can also lead to frustration and, eventually, negative thoughts and behaviors. The more you resist, the more challenging things become.

Instead, reach out for help and look to your network for growth and learning opportunities. Welcome them with open arms and never be afraid to say, "I need help." The people in your life that love and support you will be happy to help you through some of the more difficult challenges. In recovery, having a network provides a space where you can express your concerns and ambitions without judgment—in the career field, showing that you can ask for help and delegate work could land you a leadership role down the road. Remember, a network is like a team, and you can't play every position; you have to let others help you.


While it is great to have a thirst for knowledge and other interests, the problem is when you never see any of your interests through. A form of "bad busy" is getting distracted when something new comes along because you are stuck in another pursuit. However, true success means trying to find a way to get unstuck and overcome the challenge. If you become caught up in a cycle where you cannot fully commit and therefore dabble, it is essential to understand that you can't always get to where you want to be if you are not trying to see things through. Setting clear goals and establishing a plan will help you from being distracted by something new. It will also help you from feeling like you are getting nowhere and always starting over.

Start by setting three main objectives each day that you want to accomplish. Setting fewer tasks will help you from feeling overwhelmed. When you feel overwhelmed, you start to become distracted and succumb to being "bad busy," such as surfing the web for other opportunities or second-guessing your goals. Limiting your daily goals helps you clearly define what you need to work on, and you will become motivated to get them done.

Motivation and productivity in life come down to asking yourself if being busy is productive. “Good busy” endeavors focus on the necessary tasks and operate to help you work smarter. At START UP RECOVERY, we believe that to have a life of harmony takes balance. Part of this process is working on a clear directive that helps you accomplish what you set out to get done while still having time to explore other interests and goals. If you find that your busy time has become sedentary in front of the TV or self-medicating with alcohol or drugs, it is time to seek help. Our professional staff at START UP is accessible 24/7 and is ready to help you with your questions and concerns. Find out more about how you can prioritize your time and reach your greatest potential and reach out to START UP RECOVERY today. Call 310-773-3809.

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