6 Ways Being Busy Can Ruin Your Life
It's time for a pep talk about being busy.It's been a long time coming, and we both know why:This obsession with being "busy" is out of control.I get it: we're brought up to believe that being busy is virtuous. If we're not busy, we're lazy, and that's bad. Playing is for children, not grown-ups. Now, it's time to fill our days with serious business.So we do what we can to busy ourselves, and we hope that this will be enough. We try it for a while, but we don't feel enough.So, still believing the story that busy-ness is good, we busy ourselves with even more things in the hope that one day we'll reach a "busy-ness critical mass" and will magically feel fulfilled, accepted, loved, and at peace with our place in the world.We wait, and wait, but that day doesn't come. And, in the meantime, we're missing out on so much good stuff in life. The tiny, seemingly insignificant moments that we end up carrying with us for years, the beauty of connection, the thrill of freedom.We sacrifice what really counts to perpetuate this myth, when the truth is:
Our level of busy-ness has nothing to do with our level of worthiness.
Here's why it's time to stop the glorification of busy:
1. Busy does not equal productive
If I had a pound for every time I'd spent a day being "busy" and had very little to show for it at the end... let's just say I'd never have to be busy again ;)We all know this principle deep down, so I'll keep this section short: busy and productive are two entirely separate things.We're brought up with confusing and entangled notions about what these two terms mean (more on this later), but the fact is that busy is about how much you're working, while productive is about how smart you're working.
2. Busy is all about time-span, while fulfilment is all about service
Whether you're conscious of it or not, we're all striving to feel fulfilled. When it comes to fulfilment, however, being busy is the last thing you want to be focusing on.Fulfilment comes from service and making a difference. It's about providing value and making the world a little bit better. Our society functions on the law of reciprocity. If you expect a lot from the world and aren't doing anything to add value back into the world (despite being "busy"), then it makes sense that you're not going to feel worthy.Instead, focus on the stuff that is going to have maximum impact and maximum benefit for minimum output. And if you find yourself falling back into old ways of working? Remember that just because something is convention doesn't mean it's right.
3. It encourages you to seek external validation over self-trust
Give me a sec to put on my amateur psychology hat before I hypothesise: this is a total throwback to the conditioning we received in school.We're used to being praised for putting our heads down and working on pointless crap like algebra or building a wigwam replica out toilet roll holders and string. And, if we finish out particular piece of PC before the rest of the class, we're either given more PC to do, or we have to sit in silence. Basically, the school experience sets us up for a lifetime of working hard, rather than a lifetime of working smart.As adults, most of us are unconsciously waiting for someone to come and tap us on the shoulder and say "You know, I've noticed that you work really hard. Here's a gold star and an A for effort".In reality, being busy as adults gets you nothing: no gold star, no genuine acceptance, just more opportunities to be busy (it also gets you stress, strife, relationship problems, time away from your kids, vacation time spent recovering from burnout, and that feeling of never quite being able to keep up with the crowd, but I'm assuming those are not things you actually want.)
4. The wrong kind of busy stifles our play
Switching my amateur psychology hat for my woo-woo hat, we all have an inner child. And guess what? That child needs play.When we spend all our time being "busy", we lose an outlet for our creativity, we get caught up in our ego, and we act as though being busy is the sum total of what our lives are about.Really, it's just one part of our lives. And when we pour all our time and energy into that one part and neglect the others, we're shutting off vital parts of ourselves, we're neglecting key needs, and we're setting ourselves up for a life of half-baked misery.
5. It can mislead you into thinking that you're a better person
I am the first one to admit that I have had the thought: "I've been pretty bad about staying in touch with X and returning their calls recently, but it's OK because I've been busy."No! Not OK. As Maya Angelou said, “I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” And how are the people around you going to feel if you're busy all the time?Being busy doesn't make you a better person. You know what does?Being a better person.- Gaining self-knowledge and awareness.- Reading number 2 in this list and taking action on it- Shifting your focus from what you need to do to who you want to become- Being there for the people you care about... and so many more things that have absolutely no relationship to "busy"
6. Being busy doesn't make you happy
TRUST ME, I have been down this road more times than I care to admit. Here's a chance to learn from my mistakes.You probably know the script:When I succeed with this next goal, then I'll be happy. When I finish this project, then I can relax. When I reach that target, then I can take my foot off the gas.It's ye olde "When I have ______, then I'll be happy" formula.The problem with this formula is that happiness is a process rather than a destination we reach when we've done a certain amount in our lives. Happiness is a combination of living our values, having meaning and purpose, surrounding ourselves with people who share or support our values and purpose, and so much more.It's something we create each and every day, and that can start right now.But for that, you need time and space to think, to get creative, to explore possibilities. You need to let go of "busy", turn your focus inwards, and experience what it's like to be you—lumps, bumps, and all.
When we glorify busy, we rob ourselves of the chance to be happy.
Further reading: Cultivating mindfulness and curiosity in daily life & how to free yourself from the grip of overwhelm and reclaim your lifePhoto Credit: eflon via Compfight cc