If you stopped and asked any accountant how they’re doing, the typical answer would be something like, “It’s crazy busy right now,” “I’m just so busy,” or “You know it’s busy season, right?”  I’m going to bet you probably say something along those lines when someone asks how you’re doing as if throwing the word busy into your reply tells them everything they need to know.

I recently coached a client and suggested she keep a tally of how often she said the word “busy” in a day.  She returned to our coaching session the next week and said she was shocked at how often her knee-jerk reaction was to describe her work, herself, and life as “busy.”

As an accountant, it makes sense – we are told to gear up for things like busy season and hear a lot about surviving busy season.  The word busy is an integral part of our vocabulary and is often how we compare ourselves to others in the accounting profession, wearing busy as a badge of honor.

We also tend to have an all-or-nothing mentality when it comes to being busy.  We tend to see ourselves as either busy or lazy; as either busy or not so busy, always using busy as a measuring stick.

The funny thing is that we also have a love/hate relationship with the idea of being busy.  We don’t want to be so busy, but we also don’t like to not be considered busy because we believe others will think we’re not valuable or working hard enough.  

If we’re being honest with ourselves, as a profession, we’re kind of addicted to busyness.  If you disagree, see if any of these apply:

* You’re always multitasking

* You feel exhausted and overwhelmed

* You have to schedule things out weeks in advance

* You have a hard time focusing and enjoying the moment, especially when not at work

* You have a difficult time taking time off

* You often feel out of balance

* You often feel guilty

* You fill your calendar with things you don’t want to do

To be honest, It’s not our fault that we constantly describe ourselves as busy because the fact is we operate under tight deadlines with many deliverables at work.  We have a lot we are responsible for producing in any given week, but especially during certain times of the year, like tax season.

Plus, let’s not forget the fact that you are also a working mom with a household to run, children to raise, and lives to manage.  You are totally justified for feeling busy, and I’m not trying to take that away from you, but I also want to help you to put down the busy badge, just for a little bit.

Don’t worry; you can always take it back.  But just for now, be open to the idea of not being so busy, and let me help you see the possibilities.  

This week I’m going to discuss why we wear busy as a badge of honor and what to do when you’re stuck feeling busy. 



Why we wear busy as a badge of honor


Where do we get the idea that to be effective, we need to be busy?  For most accountants, that’s a hazard of the trade because the belief is if we’re not busy, we’re not producing.

But it’s not just an issue in the accounting profession.  In a Psychology Today article, the author suggests that humans are miserable if they are not busy. 

He explains that we also cannot be busy for the sake of being busy; we need a reason.  So the question then is, what’s our reason?   Would we be unhappy if we weren’t forcing ourselves to be busy all the time?  Is our happiness tied to pushing ourselves and constantly proving ourselves?

The author goes on to say, “It seems plausible that the happiness people get from being busy can potentially blind them from examining the intricate web of consequences, both good and bad, that emerge out of their actions.”  In other words, we know we should be spending time with our family while we can or that we should slow down, but the need for us to stay busy forces us to ignore the very people we are trying to make happy, including ourselves.

As working moms, we want to provide financially for our families, we want to raise our children to be healthy and happy, and we want loving relationships in our lives, yet our need to be busy keeps us from the very things we want.  Or it makes it more challenging than we’d like.

The truth is that if you are ignoring the important people and things around you because you feel like you must be doing something all the time, you’re probably wearing busy as a badge of honor.  But it’s also not your fault.

The accounting profession is a fast-paced, productivity-centric, deadline-driven profession.  From the time we enter the world of accounting, we are swept into a rapid current with other accountants, trying to stop ourselves from drowning or hitting an obstacle on the journey down the strong river.

We are also rewarded in so many ways for being busy – in our compensation, career advancement, and the respect of others, to name a few.  Plus, we reward ourselves and look for that outside validation from others, in and out of our profession.

Think about the last time you told someone you were a busy accountant – they probably raised an eyebrow and gave a little nod in recognition of how hard you must work.  Or they may have commented on how tough it must be, giving you a sense of pride.

Whether you recognize it or not, we all wear busy as a badge of honor in one way or another.  The issue is when we don’t acknowledge that it’s becoming a problem.

As a time management coach for accountants, I am a big proponent of getting more done in less time but not wearing busy as a badge of honor in the process.  Here’s the key – I get more done in less time to focus my brain and train it to be productive so that I’m NOT so busy.

The truth is that the more you believe the number of hours you work equals your value, the more you will look for ways to be busy to fill those hours.  Maybe you’ve even noticed that yourself – where you don’t have as much to do, so you scramble to find things to keep you busy.

The interesting thing is that our brain rewards us with hits of dopamine as we get tasks done, so it’s no wonder we’re constantly chasing busyness.  The issue is that when we’re operating from busyness versus accomplishment, that feel-good dopamine hit is short-lived.

So what can we do when we find ourselves wearing busy as a badge of honor?


What to do when you’re stuck feeling busy


I started going to a new chiropractor this year, and she told me that her best friend is a CPA who is so busy and miserable that her husband is considering a divorce.  Each week she asked me how I could be so relaxed, especially during tax season, and I explained that I had taken the busy badge of honor off years ago.

I know it can be hard to wrap your brain around the idea of not being so busy, especially regarding accounting work.  But like I just shared, that dopamine hit feels good for a quick second, and then you’re off chasing more dopamine.  

You must begin by recognizing that being busy only gives you small dopamine hits, and when they wear off, you’re looking for the next hit.  Just like an addict needs their drug of choice to feel good but then suffers the consequences later, we use our drug of choice, busyness, to feel good but then suffer the consequences mentally, physically, and relationally.

The truth is that busyness can become the addition to checking things off our to-do list so we can feel better.  It’s looking for more things to add to that to-do list so that we can get that dopamine hit. 

Unfortunately, we create a tunnel vision for ourselves.  When you’re in the tunnel vision of being busy, you’re not thinking about the big picture or coming up with more effective ways of doing things.

Harvard once did a study that showed that when we are in a tunnel vision busy state, we actually lose 13 IQ points.  So basically, being busy is making us dumber.

As the author of my new book titled, “The Smarter Accountant,” I believe accountants need to understand their brains better, and the fact that we can lose 13 IQ points when we’re just focused on being busy is a big deal.  I don’t know about you, but I want to keep my IQ points!

So how can you stop being so busy, even during busy season?  How is everything going to get done if you’re not busy?  

While better time management is always critical, my first suggestion is to be okay with being bored.  The issue during busy season or busier times of the year at work isn’t the extra amount of work you have; it’s the fact that you apply that tunnel vision of busyness to every other area as well.

When you’re in busy mode at work, you’re more likely to carry that busy mode home and vice versa.  You become like a giant train that picks up momentum and can’t just stop on a dime which is why you have to get good at being bored; you have to improve your tolerance for boredom.

As a time management coach, I recommend that my clients plan their waking hours, but not always with things to do.  My recommendation – plan white space on your calendar and let yourself do nothing at least once a day.

When I say do nothing, I mean nothing; no phone, technology, or activity.  For example, that means not checking email while you’re online at Starbucks and allowing your brain to be bored so that you can stop the train’s momentum.

Remember, your lower brain is looking for those hits of dopamine that will eventually burn you out.  Allowing yourself to be bored gives your body a chance to release all the dopamine in your bloodstream and return to a neutral setpoint.

My second suggestion is to learn how to focus and prioritize.  That tunnel vision your brain likes can be put to much better use when you learn how to prioritize and choose on purpose what to focus on.

As I’ve shared on the podcast before, your lower primitive brain is like a Toddler that wants to run around from one thing to another without direction, just looking for those dopamine hits.  It’s like your 3-year-old running around the house, opening every drawer and cabinet, looking for candy.

Thankfully, the higher, executive functioning part of your brain can slow the Toddler’s roll and take stock of the situation. It can rationally and effectively decide the most important things to get done and then focus on the task at hand without giving into shiny object syndrome.

If you learn how to turn on the switch of the executive functioning part of your brain more often, you’ll be amazed at how much more you get done, making it easier to stop being so busy, even during busy season.  It’s my secret weapon during tax season, and it’s something that I love teaching my coaching clients.

I recently had a coaching client tell me that she’d never been able to get so much done in less time and not be burned out in the process.  By learning how to manage her brain, she was able to get control of the Toddler and stop being so busy, even during busy season.

My third suggestion is to learn to get comfortable with being uncomfortable.  What I mean by that is to learn to be okay with the uncomfortable feeling you’ll have when you’re not busy.

Remember, your brain is looking for that dopamine hit it gets when you’re busy, so it will be a struggle when you decrease the dopamine it’s become dependent on.  Whether you realize it or not, your brain is addicted to it, so you need to detox your brain.

Since we’re all so used to being so busy and constantly being in motion, physically and mentally, you have to learn the skill of not being busy.  That means not surfing your phone to be busy, not checking emails to keep busy, or filling up your time with things to do just for the sake of staying busy.

Believe me, I need to apply this to myself as well.  The reason I wanted to do this episode is that I realized how intolerant I’ve become with doing nothing.

For example, as a passenger in my husband’s car, I’m checking my phone, or online at the grocery store, I’m checking my phone, and when there’s a commercial break on a show we’re watching, I’m checking my phone.  My brain is looking for that dopamine hit as much as yours, but now that I’m shining a light on what I’m noticing, I can decide to allow myself to get comfortable with being uncomfortable.

The truth is that we all need to get comfortable letting our brain just observe the world around us and allow white space in our calendar with nothing planned.  It’s also important to point out that our children are watching and learning from us about how to be in the world, so if we don’t want them to burn out, we need to set a better example.

Begin to show them the benefits of not being so busy by being an example.  It might be uncomfortable at first, but that’s okay.  As you detox your brain from busyness, you’ll reap the benefits in more ways than you can imagine.  




Whether you recognize it or not, we all wear busy as a badge of honor in one way or another.  The issue is when we don’t acknowledge that it’s becoming a problem.


Harvard once did a study that showed that when we are in a tunnel vision busy state, we actually lose 13 IQ points.  So basically, being busy is making us dumber.