How Living Abroad Changed My View On “Being Busy”

We’re constantly connected. We use how little space our calendars have as bragging rights and idolize that “we’re just so busy” that girls’ night has to be put off for another two weeks.

Our society glorifies being busy. The hustle. The infamous “I’ll sleep when I’m dead” mentality.

I hate to be the one to break it to you, but always being busy is not sustainable or admirable.

Society has been set up to make us believe that going 100 miles an hour is what’s needed to be successful. More often than not, working until 10pm every day is what leads to burnout, breakdowns, and mental health issues that we justify and normalize.

Luckily, there’s a shift happening. When you see women like Arianna Huffington talking about the importance of sleep or the fact that the global wellness industry is worth 4.2 trillion dollars, we realize that there has to be another way.

While everything looked great on paper, I was working too much between my day job and side business and not taking time for myself. Of course, I justified it, thinking it was normal until something changed.

In my case, it took having a major breakdown while I was living in New York working the “perfect job” right out of college. While everything looked great on paper, I was working too much between my day job and side business and not taking time for myself. Of course, I justified it, thinking it was normal until something changed.

It wasn’t until I had moved to Spain, did I truly unlearn what makes a good life. Here are three mindset shifts you can use to stop glorifying being busy and start truly living the life you were meant to live.

Find inspiration in the slow moments

When was the last time you did nothing and didn’t feel guilty about it?

Stepping back and proactively scheduling time to disconnect leads to personal and professional growth. When we slow down and unplug, we’re able to tap into a creative state of mind, a flow state, that allows for us to find inspiration.

In Spain, you learn how to slow down whether you want to or not. People walk slower, bureaucracy takes longer, stores are closed midday. Once I learned to embrace that, I realized that taking time to just be brings joy that later overflows into the work I do.

Making space for things that bring joy like walking in nature, listening to your favorite podcast, or taking time to eat and actually enjoy it can bring about new ideas and thought processes that you may not have if you’re always thinking about the next email you have to send.

Work smarter, not harder

Most of us believe that we’re supposed to work long days and longer nights until we hit financial freedom and retire early. If you’re a part of the Create and Cultivate collective, odds are you’re a bit more intentional and don’t want that to be your narrative.

Working is a given, but we can change the way we work. Living on the Mediterranean coast, I’ve found that when you’re inspired by your surroundings and all that you do, you learn to be more intentional with the way you work.

Think about a normal day and ask yourself how much time do you actually spend getting quality work done. Most of the time, we don’t need to be behind our computers for 10 hours a day, but we can get it all done in six hours instead.

Enter Parkinson’s law: “work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion.” Try cutting down a couple of hours in the day and be more intentional with what tasks are necessary for growth, and you’ll find that you have more time to make space for what really matters. Tools like Toggl are great for tracking how you actually spend your time in the work day so you can see how much time you really need to get it all done and make space for living as well.

Try cutting down a couple of hours in the day and be more intentional with what tasks are necessary for growth, and you’ll find that you have more time to make space for what really matters.

Schedule weekly “you time” during the week

Some people laugh at Spanish culture for embracing things like the siesta or tomando algo during the middle of the week, but there is a method to the madness.

Spain was just named the healthiest country in the world (while the US camein at #35). Many countries in Europe embrace taking time off, while Americans leave 169 million vacation days on the table each year. It has a lot to do with the mentality of what it means to take “time off” and how that will impact our lives and view of success.

One of the best ways to make sure you’re going a sustainable pace is by not waiting for your 5 days of vacation twice a year to take time for yourself. Scheduling a bit of “you time” during the week allows you to put less emphasis on the weekend and start thinking of each day as an opportunity to work efficiently, live well, and take time for self-care.

Our joy shouldn’t be confined to mimosa brunches on the weekend, but instead to start taking into account that each day has the potential to be well-rounded, spacious, and filled with what truly matters.

Unlearning what we’ve been taught for years can sometimes be difficult, especially when being busy and working hard is so normalized in our culture. While it took me a few years living abroad to truly redesign my life and start living at a sustainable pace, I was able to better understand that the more balanced your life is, the more productive, efficient, and intentional you can become.

Create and Cultivate - Bio Photo Sienna Brown .jpg

Sienna Brown is an entrepreneur and expat thriving on the coast of Spain. Her mission is to teach others how build a life that they love. She’s the founder of Las Morenas de Espana, a platform teaching women of color how to move abroad and thrive. She also leads business development at Sun and Co., one of the leading coliving spaces in Europe. Follow her on Instagram @siempregirando and reach out sienna@siempregirando.com




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