Everyone is busy, it’s a way of life. But one thing we all fail at in such a momentous way is not being busy. I read a great article by Tyler Ward ‘Busy Isn’t Respectable Anymore’. The article explains that we wear busy like a badge of honour. When someone asks how we are, we answer ‘ so busy!’, like we’re proud of it. How did we come to this?
And there’s a little bit of disdain reserved just for those who have managed to carve out a bit of spare time: ‘well it’s fine for her, all her children are at school’ or ‘they don’t have kids – say no more!’ Sound familiar? What this disdain actually says is ‘My life is so damned full, I am so important, you on the other hand are not as in demand as me! Thank you very much.’
Why do we think concessions should be made for busy people? Why is it an excuse to not be present, to not put in the effort to things we claim are important to us, because we are busy? Busyness doesn’t cut it for me anymore. The term has been overused and has lost its meaning.
Tyler Ward proposes some interesting ways to look at your busy life, I’ve built on those to help you make the choice not to be:
- Busyness can be a sign of not being able to manage your time very well – it’s the classic case of the person who’s always in at work early and last to leave, feeling hard done by because they spend more time at the office than anyone else in the team. But really, this person is checking their email every ten minutes, popping out for a coffee break or cigarette break, stopping by to chat to a colleague – in short, not using their time very well. Ask yourself how you are using your time. Being busy is not the same as being productive, remind yourself of this.
- Being busy can be a sign of negative self-worth. The reasoning behind this one is that being busy can make you feel important, that you’re contributing something. The truth is, you don’t have to be insanely busy to make a worthwhile contribution. Setting boundaries around your contribution to society does not de-value it, in fact it increases it’s value as it is an acknowledgement that you value yourself enough to make space for what is really important to you.
- Busyness can actually impair your performance and compromise your mental capacity. As much as we’d all like to believe the contrary, the brain and the body need down time to repair and regenerate cells. Making space in your life and your mind allows your brain to function at its optimum – when there’s too much crammed in to your grey matter, things start feeling a little squashed, which in turn alters your perspective and your perceptions. Give your brain the space it needs in order to sharpen your focus.
- Being busy is an addiction, just like drugs or alcohol, that is used to distract us from the important things in life. We got busy slowly. Like an addiction, it crept up on us. Then suddenly, we’re all SO busy and SO addicted to being busy. Can you say NO to being busy? Or are you addicted. I’ll admit it, the thought of not being busy actually makes me a little bit uncomfortable, almost like it’s unfathomable. Sort of like the proposition, to an alcoholic, of never drinking again. Unfathomable.
The way of our modern world means we need to make a purposeful choice to stop and to re-engage on a personal level. It’s all interconnected with mindfulness and the slow movement, and according to Ariana Huffington, in Thrive, it is a new metric for measuring success. This new metric consists of four pillars: well-being, wisdom, wonder, and giving. It sits alongside the other two traditional metrics of success; money and power.
These concepts are not new, nor are they ground-breaking in any way. But if they do take hold, and become a new metric for measuring success, the world we all inhabit will be a much grander place to be. Simple, accessible concepts resonate with me.
The magic of this metric lies in the very possibility that if you achieve this new metric of well-being, wisdom, wonder and giving, the other two metrics, I think, will diminish in value.
Being so busy that you neglect your friends or family, or your art, or your fitness, or whatever it is that makes you truly contented, will be a thing of the past. I like this idea more than I dislike the discomfort of not being busy.
What about you? Are you a slave to being busy?