Why does being busy give you a bad feeling?


January 13, 2021

You planned to create some order in the chaos by creating a todo and action list. You have a clear overview of actions and to-do’s, but still, you feel busy and overwhelmed. You expected the list would bring you structure and ease of mind. It is bringing you the opposite. Why is that? In this article, I explain why this is. I am using some concepts from the book Getting things done by David Allen.

Creating a to-do list

The majority of people think that having too much to do is the reason they experience this feeling. You feel discomfort, business, always like you are in a rush, a cognitive overload. However, this cognitive overload comes from a different place. The fact is that you are failing the commitment you made with yourself by means of the action you created.

How would you feel if you had an appointment with a friend and he or she would not show up? No message, nothing.

This example is a resemblance to what is happening in your mind. Let me explain.

What is the solution to this cognitive overload?

To continue with the previous example. What would you expect from your friend if he or she is not able to make it? Indeed! You would like a call or a message upfront, prior to the deadline with a new proposal.


This concept is called a re-negotiation. Re-negotiation is something you need to do when you are reviewing the overdue actions on your action list. The actions are important to you, but you know already you will not be able to complete them anytime soon. So you reschedule or mark it as someday, removing the deadline.

Your mind will accept this and can move on. Ignoring the action, on the other hand, is not something that your mind accepts. It will stay in your head continuing to ask your attention, using bandwidth.

Complete the action

Another more common concept you can use is to complete the action. The action or to-do is important to you. You add a new deadline that you can commit to. This is something that your mind accepts as well.

Kill the action

If it is not something that brings you added value, kill the action. Your mind will accept that. But make sure you acknowledge this with yourself and remove the action from your list.


When you want to clear up headspace, the very first thing you need to do is make sure all of your actions are identified. That means anything you are involved in, small and big. Your mind doesn’t care, every action has the same importance to it.

Go through all of them and consider: Kill, renegotiate, or complete to clear up even more headspace and prevent cognitive overload.

If you are serious about the concept in this article and think it might benefit you. I advise you to read Getting Things Done by David Allen. It will go into detail on where to start and also provides an explanation of the science behind it.

Michael Awad

I'm fascinated by the power of a strong mindset. I combine this with being a web developer, which keeps me motivated. But how, you may ask? That's what I share on this website. For more information about me personally, check out the about me page: About Me

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