"Being too busy, which can seem necessary and unavoidable, can become a habit so entrenched that it leads you to postpone or cut short what really matters to you, making you a slave to a lifestyle you don’t like but can’t escape."

- CrazyBusy, page 5

Consider a typical greeting.  It used to go something like this: “How are you?”  “Fine.”   Now it is often “How are you?”  “Busy” or “CrazyBusy”.

Edward M. Hallowell, M.D., treats people with Attention Deficit Disorders (ADD).   In the 1990s he noticed an increase in the number of people wondering if they had ADD.  Most didn’t.  However, Hallowell believes that the speed, technology, and activity of modern life has created culturally induced ADD.

CrazyBusy describes the situation and impact in detail.  It also offers solutions and tools to managing your life.

What if you love being busy?  Hallowell acknowledges that if you’re busy doing what you love or doing what matters most to you, being busy is bliss.   CrazyBusy will resonate most with those who relate to the subtitle:  Overstretched, overbooked, and about to snap!

The Big Idea

The Big Idea: The biggest takeaway from the book

Better technology = more work

"Labor-saving devices thus create more labor.   By shortening the time and energy it takes to do any one thing, these devices free up time and energy to do more things."
- CrazyBusy, page 61

Let’s start by looking at the situation.  We have tools and technology that make it faster and easier to do things.  So we do more things!   Have you joined Facebook?  If so you’re probably now staying in touch with more people.  But are these relationships truly satisfying?

Written communication used to be sent by mail.    A letter would take a week.  Now, if you don’t reply to an email right away, you might get another email asking “Did you get my email?”

We receive messages on LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, email, voicemail and text.     When a question comes up in conversation and we don’t know the answer, we’ll whip out our iPhones and Google it.   If we’re bored for a moment, we’ll grab a tablet and start reading, surfing, or playing.

This technology allows us to get more work done.  According to research by Juliet Schor published in 1991, the average American was working an additional 160 hours per year than in 1960. That’s an extra month of forty-hour work weeks.

What’s the impact of all this connectedness and busyness?   One impact is “culturally induced ADD”.  Could you be suffering from this?   Symptoms of true ADD include:

  • Tendency always to feel in a rush; impatient
  • Tendency to have many projects going at once, trouble with follow-through
  • Tendency to want to cut to the chase or get to the bottom line immediately
  • Trouble getting organized
  • A feeling of being overwhelmed by daily life

If you relate to any or all of these symptoms, it doesn’t mean you have ADD.  You may simply be CrazyBusy.

Stop and think for a moment about the impact being too busy has on you and those around you.  For you personally, you may feel stressed and tired.  For your family, there’s less time together enjoying true human connection.  For your community, there’s less focus on contribution because everyone is too busy with their individual lives and problems.

Being too busy saps energy, stifles creativity, and creates alienation.

So, why do we keep so busy?   

  • We overcommit
  • Being busy is a status symbol
  • We can avoid everything that is difficult that we don’t want to do
  • Everyone else is busy
  • We are afraid that we will not keep up our standard of living unless we are SuperBusy

Recognizing the impact and comparing that to the reasons for keeping busy, something doesn’t add up.  It doesn’t seem worthwhile to be distracted and pulled away from what matters most, just because being busy is easy or looks normal.

Insight #1

An actionable way to implement the Big Idea into your life

Decide what matters most

"In the rush of today’s world, you need a plan to make sure you stay genuinely connected with living humans you know and like."
- CrazyBusy, page 39

First, we must decide what’s most important to us.  Next, we have to schedule it.   Only then will the important activity take place, such as time with our children, spouse, or best friend.

Many couples have recognized the benefit of having a “date night”.  If we assume time with our significant other will “just happen” in between all of the other activities we’ve committed to, we may miss out.  This can result in feelings of disconnection and ultimately, dissatisfaction in the relationship.

Scheduling time with loved ones is an example of the solution that Hallowell proposes.   Key tips to managing your busy life include:

1. Figure out what matters most to you.
2. Create a system to manage your time. Organize just enough and make the system based on your own preferences.
3. Deliberately pay attention to how you invest your time.
4. Identify and control sources of distraction.
5. Delegate what you’re bad at.
6. Slow down, stop and think.
7. Play.

Insight #2

An actionable way to implement the Big Idea into your life

So long, (screen) suckers!

"A modern addiction, screen-sucking is like smoking cigarettes: Once you’re hooked, it is extremely hard to quit."
- CrazyBusy, page 164

What is screen-sucking?  Screen-sucking is a word Hallowell invented to describe wasting time engaging with any screen, including computer, television, computer game, iPhone.   This idea is also hilariously described in this article by the Onion: Report: 90% Of Waking Hours Spent Staring At Glowing Rectangles.

Do we really need a new word for this?  Surely many of us can relate to the phenomenon without a specific name.

However, once the word “screensucking” was in my head, I started to notice how often I was doing it.    In my office, I’m often sitting looking at my screen, even during lunch when I’m not working.   On the streetcar, I’ll alleviate boredom by playing Angry Birds.  In the living room, I’m often checking my smartphone for new messages, whether or not I’m expecting important communication.

Of course, the first part of solving the problem is realizing there is a problem.  Why is it a problem to waste time on screens?  Personally, I’ve noticed that when I have time away from screens, some of my best thinking and most creative ideas happen.  To create that space, I need more breaks from screens.

A few ideas to break the screen habit:

  • Move the screen to another room
  • Put a timer next to the screen – set a time at which you’ll stop using the screen
  • If most of your work happens on a screen, make a habit of taking “screen breaks”.


CrazyBusy will help you to identify if being busy is getting in the way of doing what matters most to you.  You’ll discover areas where you allow yourself to get distracted or overloaded.  Realizing the impact that this has on you may be all you need to make important changes in your life.  And, if you need ideas about how to get it all under control, CrazyBusy provides that too.

What matters to you?  And what strategies do you use to make sure you spend time on what matters most?

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Susan Gregory

ABOUT Susan Gregory

I am fascinated by what motivates people, how we communicate with each other and we can perform at our best. As a corporate trainer, I love to learn and share techniques to help people to build skills in communicating effectively, managing work and priorities, and thinking creatively...
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