Becoming Unbusy

May 14, 2019
Woman relaxing on yoga mat


I’m so happy to welcome back to the blog my friend and former work colleague Monica Rottmann for ZTT #17.  I interviewed Monica for the blog back in January 2015.  You can read that interview HERE.  Monica is the owner and Principal of Cultivate Calm Yoga studio at East Brisbane, but she goes by the title of ‘Chief Relaxation Officer’.  You’ll soon understand why! 

If there was ever anyone who truly understands why I left my last workplace, it is Monica. We not only worked for the same organisation but worked in the very same unit, side by side.  I found her to be a very smart, clever, and inspiring person back when we worked together.  I still find her inspiring, but even more so now.  This is because of her courage to bravely live and be her true authentic self.  This is not as easy to do as it sounds!  I hope that like Monica, I can eventually reach a point where I feel that I’m doing the same. 

Enjoy Monica’s post, and be sure to pop over to her website because as well as being able to check out all about her yoga studio, she has some great blog posts over there.  Oh and do check out her Instagram & Facebook too.  You’ll see that she thinks outside the box and her posts (and images/artwork used) are very thought-provoking!  If you live nearby to East Brisbane and want to try yoga, you should so go check out her Cultivate Calm Yoga studio!   

By the way, be sure you don’t miss the FREEBIE surprise that can be found in Monica’s Bio and guess what – the feature photo used today was taken by yours truly (yes me) a few years ago!

If you’re linking up with us for ZTT #015 – welcome and I look forward to reading your post!

Woman relaxing on yoga mat

When people ask me if I’ve been busy I reply with a big fat NO. And I receive a strange look like I’ve said something taboo or offensive.

This is because many people equate being busy with being productive. Or even worse, that being busy means we’re important.

So when I say I’m not busy people assume that I’m unproductive and unimportant, which explains their weird look.

Sure we all have busy days and have important obligations. I’m talking about being crazy busy or too busy to take time out for ourselves. Crazy busy is a symptom of something else, a mask for something deeper.

When we’re feeling anxious, uneasy, or not good enough, we seek a distraction. And being busy is a useful distraction for our uncomfortable feelings. The upside to constant busy-ness is that we don’t have to feel our feelings and we can go about our lives pretending everything is ok. We can also use our busy-ness to create an inflated sense of importance and success.

The downside to all this busy-ness is:

  • Increased stress and anxiety
  • We scatter our energy and achieve less
  • We lack focus and are prone to more mistakes
  • We’re distracted and not present with our loved ones
  • We’re too busy to enjoy life

It can be confronting to remove the busy mask and see ourselves and the life we’ve created. When we’re no longer covering up our insecurities with busy-ness, we’re left with who we really are.

When I stopped hiding behind busy-ness I realised that I’d been living my life on autopilot, pursuing external success and validation while inside I felt numb, empty and that my life lacked meaning. Rather than filling that emptiness with distraction, I got really clear on what was truly important and how I wanted to live my life. When I became clear on what mattered to me, I started living on purpose, consciously choosing how to spend my time and energy and stopped living like a robot on autopilot.

Becoming unbusy was a process of stripping life back to its bare essentials.

“Essentialism involves doing less, but better, so you can make the highest possible contribution. It’s about getting only the right things done. It’s about challenging the core assumption of ‘we can have it all’ and ‘I have to do everything’ and replacing it with the pursuit of ‘the right thing, in the right way, at the right time’. It’s about regaining control of our own choices about where to spend our time and energies instead of giving others implicit permission to choose for us.” ~ Greg McKeown

Here’s how I became unbusy:

  1. Learn to say no

I’m a people pleaser and I used to worry about upsetting or disappointing people, which meant I said yes to things I didn’t want to do. Not only would I resent having to do that activity, I would waste my time and energy on something that didn’t matter to me. Now if it’s not an absolute yes, it’s a no. And I don’t explain myself either as I have learned that no is a complete sentence.

  1. Learn to do nothing

I spend time each day doing nothing. Not reading, not playing on my phone, and not watching TV. Just being present with myself and checking in with how I’m feeling. I used to feel guilty about doing nothing. I thought it was a waste of time and found it hard to justify when I was busy. Now, doing nothing is a non-negotiable for me. It’s how I recharge my batteries and how I can be of service to my community.

  1. I focus on how I want to feel

We only ever want something because of how it makes us feel:

  • The work promotion makes us feel valued and successful.
  • The new car makes us feel independent and mobile and makes a statement
  • The relationship makes us feel loved and supported.
  • The new shoes/bag/outfit makes us feel confident or stylish.

Attaining these ‘things’ are just a means to an end. When I shifted my focus from getting things to the resultant feeling, I was able to define success on my own terms rather than what other’s think of me.

Feeling calm and relaxed are important to me. Feeling independent and having freedom over my time are things I value. Feeling like I make a difference is what drives me. I spend my time and energy on activities that foster these feelings. 

There is an alternative to anxious lifestyle and it starts with a choice to say no to busy-ness. Saying no, doing less and focusing on what really matters in life has actually helped me achieve more and live a life on purpose.


Monica Rottman, Founder of Cultivate Calm Yoga


Monica is the Chief Relaxation Officer at Cultivate Calm Yoga in East Brisbane. She teaches busy, stressed and anxious people how to relax their body and calm their mind. As a former busy addict and stress merchant, Monica has proven and practical techniques to cultivate calm.


Connect with her here:  WEBSITE  |  FACEBOOK  |  INSTAGRAM



#ztt, #zentiptuesday, #zen, #balance, #mind, #body, #spirit, #tuesday


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  • Reply Denyse Whelan May 14, 2019 at 8:47 am

    I can see why you have done so well post-“work/work/work” Monica as it can be hard making those changes yet they meant more to you than staying in the same mindset.

    It has taken ME a lot longer to become more at ease with ‘doing little or nothing’ for many of the reasons outlines.

    Today, Min, my post is the last in my series of “Two Years Before Cancer” and might not, at first glance, seem like a zen post! However, I know even before having the diagnosis I was already doing more to help myself be mindful and taking in the positive. It is just that a cancer diagnosis knocks the wind out of your sails initially!!

    Take care Min! Denyse x

    • Reply Min May 14, 2019 at 2:28 pm

      Hi Denyse – I agree! It’s not easy to strip back your life and how you’re living it and to reassess what’s important to you and prioritise accordingly. Also it’s not easy to change your mindset about ‘being busy’ or to live authentically as you … as the pressure to adapt yourself to ‘fit in’ or ‘please others’ or ‘avoid judgement’ is human nature. However, the rewards would be so worth the effort. The rewards of course being peace and freedom that only authenticity and balance could bring. 🙂

  • Reply Debbie Harris May 15, 2019 at 8:20 am

    I really enjoyed this post and could so relate to the ‘busyness’ of life and the resultant feelings. I think I need to step back and not distract myself so much, just ‘do nothing’ which is easier said than done these days. Such a good reminder to us, so thanks very much both of you #mlstl

    • Reply Min May 15, 2019 at 5:51 pm

      We need to stop feeling guilty for doing nothing! So glad you’ve enjoyed the post Debbie. xo

  • Reply Leanne | May 15, 2019 at 12:09 pm

    Hi Monica – I’ve come to realize that the world judges our “success” based on our finances – the more money we earn and spend, the more valued we are. Turning our backs on that and choosing to not buy into the hype is so freeing. Becoming unbusy, choosing to step back and not compete, figuring out what’s enough – they’re the things that really matter. It’s lovely that you figured this out at an age where you can reap the benefits for many decades to come. It took me til my 50’s to slow down and breathe, and it’s been another step along the way now that I’ve stopped work – learning to value my time and not sell myself to the highest bidder is sooo liberating!
    Thanks for sharing this with #MLSTL Min and I’ve shared on my SM xx

    • Reply Min May 15, 2019 at 5:55 pm

      It’s taken me a long time to slow down and breathe too Leanne. A lot of the reason was obligations (kids, school fees, mortgage) but also I was stuck on a treadmill and didn’t know how to get off to catch my breath and find a new and better way. It took a not so great thing to happen before I got off that treadmill but turns out it was a good thing afterall as it has now given me the opportunity to breathe and reassess. You’ve now stepped off the treadmill too. Enjoy this time to dig deep and get to know yourself better. It’s amazing what you find out! 🙂 xo

  • Reply Deborah May 15, 2019 at 1:41 pm

    I love this post Min and Monica. It doesn’t seem that long ago that busy-ness was a badge of honour. We not only needed to be busy but to be able to tell and show everyone that we were flat-out and stressed.

    I think that’s slowly changing with concepts of minimalism and mindfulness and people are recognising the importance of being focused (and therefore often more productive).

    I also really like Monica’s reference to busyness being a distraction from feelings and discomfort. We used to rely on the adage ‘keep busy and take your mind off it’ but I know for a fact that NOT feeling your feelings mean they leap out when you least expect it and in very unhealthy ways!

    • Reply Min May 15, 2019 at 5:58 pm

      I’m so glad you enjoyed this post Deb. Yes I too used to think of busy-ness as a badge of honour … till I basically burned out! I do think that people are learning and things are changing now. As you said there’s lots of talk about minimalism and mindfulness. People are realising that in order to best serve others they need to fill their own cup first … and busy-ness is NOT the way to do it! xo

  • Reply Johanna Castro May 15, 2019 at 5:26 pm

    Thank you Monica and Min for an inspiring post. I too have come to realise that busyness is not an achievement but often a burden. Not so long ago when anyone asked how I was, I’d say: “Busy” – as if it was some sort of accolade and needed applause. But now I’ve come to realise that as I’ve got older there’s been a shift, and busy has been replaced with engaged. Am I engaged in what I’m doing, and do I want to be doing it. I think that there is an underlying shift towards minimalism and mindfulness, and that the younger generation is possibly pursuing these ideas more than we did in the 80s. At the moment I’m in England with ageing parents who are not well at all, and I’m being very aware of living in the moment and making every minute count.#MlSTL

    • Reply Min May 15, 2019 at 6:06 pm

      I like that you’ve replaced ‘busy’ with ‘engaged’ Jo! That’s a fabulous word. If you’ve stripped back your life to activities that serve to make you ‘feel’ how you want to, ‘engaged’ is a wonderful word as it implies that you are in fact loving what you’re doing so much that you’re fully engaged in it. I’m thinking of you over there in England – all my very best wishes to you and your parents. xoxo

  • Reply Jennifer Jones May 15, 2019 at 8:31 pm

    This is a really thought provoking post. In my old life if I wasn’t busy I didn’t feel that I was achieving. Also i live a much happier life now without all the busyness and without all the ‘stuff in my life’

    • Reply Min May 16, 2019 at 3:28 pm

      Your old life sounds much like my old life! lol I felt I had to be busy to be worthy. Life is better when there is more space to breathe. 🙂

  • Reply Janet May 15, 2019 at 8:32 pm

    I love this: “Crazy busy is a symptom of something else, a mask for something deeper”. While we all have times when things get busy, even crazy busy, when somebody is ALWAYS crazy busy, you’ve got to ask yourself why … like you said Monica, I think it’s a way of trying to boost their feelings of self-worth. Great post BTW.

    • Reply Min May 16, 2019 at 3:30 pm

      I agree Janet – I think back to my ‘crazy busy’ days and I think that I thought that by being that way I was more important and more worthy and more respected. Crazy when I think about it. So glad you enjoyed the post. 🙂 xo

  • Reply Jan May 15, 2019 at 9:57 pm

    I like the discussion this post has stimulated. I’d never thought about how being busy was always worn as a badge of honour and think being engaged and living with purpose is a big improvement.

    • Reply Min May 16, 2019 at 3:31 pm

      I agree Jan … that being engaged and living with purpose is a huge improvement (and far better for us!) than being crazy busy for the sake of the approval of others!

  • Reply Theresa Muth May 16, 2019 at 1:41 am

    Oops! Forgot to say I posted this to my Facebook page! #MLSTL

    • Reply Min May 16, 2019 at 3:26 pm

      I think your first comment has gone missing Theresa. It’s not in the spam folder (I checked). Thanks for sharing this post! 🙂

  • Reply Pat May 16, 2019 at 6:05 am

    I love this! (Visiting from #MLSTL). Even now, some of my retired friends still claim the “I’m so busy” badge. I do think it’s because it’s a cultural sign productivity and meaning. I’m not usually busy. I leave time in everyday to “stop and smell the roses” – have a chat with someone, watch the sunset, quietly read some blogs. I’m intrigued with your point #3. I will start to identify the feelings I want and see if there are other activities to foster them.

    • Reply Min May 16, 2019 at 3:35 pm

      So glad to hear you make time to ‘stop and smell the roses’ each day Pat and very glad to hear you’ve enjoyed Monica’s post!

  • Reply Joanne Tracey May 16, 2019 at 8:16 am

    I needed to read this today – really needed to read it….so thanks for posting it!

    • Reply Min May 16, 2019 at 3:26 pm

      So glad the timing was right! 😉 xo

  • Reply Sue from Sizzling Towards 60 & Beyond May 16, 2019 at 2:35 pm

    Hi Min & Monica it is so easy to say we are busy but you are right, we get caught up in ‘busy-ness’ but no necessarily being productive. Some people actually wear a being busy as a badge of honour but I do think society is now changing and we realise that quality and not quantity is important. We need to be kind to ourselves and give ourselves time out, schedule in our diaries and enjoy it. I’m visiting #ZTT and also thank you Min for sharing Monica’s thoughts with us at #MLSTL. xx

    • Reply Min May 16, 2019 at 3:49 pm

      Hi Sue – I agree that society is starting to change … at least from what I see from where I sit now (no longer in that corporate world). I see a lot more focus on mindfulness and meditation and being present and minimalism and self care and taking time out and so on … which is just fabulous! 🙂 xo

  • Reply Christina Daggett May 16, 2019 at 6:17 pm

    I have the same philosophy that you do but never could I have used such brilliant words to describe it. I’m interested in reading more, and will be visiting your blog. Thanks for hosting this post, Min. I’ll be sharing to FB.

    • Reply Min May 17, 2019 at 8:12 am

      I agree Christina – she’s a good writer and a great thinker (smart). I’m sure you’ll find some interesting reading over on the Cultivate Calm Yoga page (in the blog section).

  • Reply Christie Hawkes May 16, 2019 at 9:43 pm

    Hello Min and Monica! Min, thank you for the introduction. I love Zen Tips Tuesday, and this post was no exception. I’ve been working on making myself less busy and enjoying my quiet time. I haven’t quite shaken the need to “put on a busy front” when people ask me what I’ve been doing, though. I’m going to practice that “No” response, as I think it will also help me reshape my frame of mind. Thank you for linking up to #MLSTL which is where I found this post. I will share on social media and then I’m headed over to Monica’s blog. Have a lovely, un-busy day.

    • Reply Min May 17, 2019 at 8:13 am

      What a lovely comment – thank you Christie! All the very best to you with your transition to being ‘un-busy’! 🙂

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