Self-Quiz: How To Tell If You Are “Too Busy”?

Self-Quiz: How To Tell If You Are "Too Busy"?

Be honest here – when someone last asked, “How are you?” – weren’t you even slightly tempted to answer “Busy!” These days it seems as if the lament of not having enough time has become a national refrain. Everywhere, people find themselves constantly in a rush, over-booked and over-scheduled with little time off.

Time is the great equalizer. Everybody gets the same amount: 24 hours in a day, 60 minutes in an hour. We can’t save time or accumulate or rearrange it. And it can’t be replaced. Though it may not always seem so, how we fill our time and how we spend it is our choice.

racing to get things doneWhat’s my #1 problem with the busy phenomenon and why do I think it’s most harmful? Because being so busy all the time does not force us to make the difficult decisions we need to make. When we are racing around all the time trying to get 27.6 things done each day, we aren’t making a definitive stand for what is a true priority in our lives. It takes real live time, focus, and effort to make meaningful progress on the things that matter most to us. If we don’t reserve that focused time – we don’t get those big wins and inspiring results.

Ok, this is your reckoning quiz: get a piece of paper, or your fingers, and give yourself one point for any “yes” to the questions below in order to discover if you too, have been swallowed up in the “too-busy” cycle:


  1. I constantly find myself doing “urgent” things and trying to catch up.
  2. I allow myself to commit to business or personal obligations when I don’t know how much time or energy they’ll require.
  3. I find myself running from when I get up in the morning until I go to bed at night. I’m always tired and never feel like I accomplished enough.
  4. I seldom schedule a day off for myself and when I do, I tend to fill it with activities.
  5. I don’t make time for “self-care” activities: physical exercise, nurturing or “pampering” myself, cultural stimulation, spiritual well-being, learning something new, playing, or simply doing nothing.
  6. I seldom have time to do the things I really love.
  7. My work and project areas are cluttered with “I’ll look at this later” stacks and “to-do” piles.
  8. I often miscalculate how long certain activities will take.
  9. I often miss deadlines or work long hours to meet a deadline.
  10. I frequently respond to interruptions such as phone calls, faxes, email, beepers and pagers, and allow them to take me off track.
  11. I try to keep things in my head rather than making lists. If I do make a daily “to-do” list, it’s never-ending and impossible to complete in a day. Or I actually have multiple to-do lists, calendars, and often use any available post-it.
  12. I find myself constantly wishing I had more time or projecting an imaginary future when I have more time, making comments such as “as soon as…” or “next year…”
  13. I spend time running errands and rushing because I didn’t plan well enough.
  14. I spend time doing things I could pay someone else to do because it would either take too much time to train them or I worry I don’t have enough money (or both!)
  15. I often do things because I “should,” or continue to do things that no longer fit who I am.
  16. Other people complain that my schedule doesn’t allow enough time for them.

Scoring Results:

10-16 points: I’m amazed you actually took the time to read this blog! C’mon, I don’t have to tell you you’re too busy: you already know that! What you need to think about is, “Why?” How come you let the busy be more important than the present – and what is happening right now – as well as your well-being?

My recommendation:
Believe me, in the search for the zero-inbox and the future completely checked off to-do list, you are sacrificing your current happiness. Please pay attention and make sure that fun and playful non-work time become your most urgent to-do right now! If you need help with that – drop me a line – I can help!

5-10 points: You are pretty busy and you know it! You haven’t yet gone over the line into complete burn-out but some days you probably feel like you are edging pretty close to it. I know you are ambitious and you have obligations; you are dedicated to succeeding on a number of different fronts. You feel like there is very little wiggle room to maintain your business if stop doing all you are doing now, plus you are devoted to your loved ones.

My recommendation:
Create a weekly “work-free” and “obligation-free” zone in your calendar (e.g, one weeknight, one week-end day, etc). If you’re one of those few lucky enough to be committed to at least one regular time-out, set aside time for another. This should be a time that is firmly calendared and observed and involves you getting away from your computer and any unnecessary devices. It’s truly optimal if you can use this time to get outside and into nature. If you’re thinking that this is a luxury and not a requirement: then you are underestimating the benefits that happy CEOs bring to successful businesses.

0-5 points: Congratulations! You have some of the trademark stress markers in our culture but you seem for the most part to have kept them at bay. I salute you since it takes effort and careful planning on your part to keep from getting pulled into the busy tide that sweeps away most entrepreneurs in it’s path.

My recommendation:
Create a “busy valve” in your schedule. This is monthly reserved and unscheduled time that you hold in case your busy-meter tips towards full. You can use this time to recalibrate yourself and figure out what you need to do to return to your basic centered state.

Ok! Please comment below and let me know your score below and whether you think my recommendations are on target for you. 

Jo Ilfeld, PhD

An executive leadership coach, Jo helps C-suite leaders, executives, and high-potential managers develop the flexibility, skill, and frame of mind to meet the challenges of the next five, ten, twenty years…. and beyond. She works with individuals, teams and organizations on four core areas of leadership development. Check out Jo's bio page for more information.

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