On Being Busy
Several months ago, I made a conscious decision to drop the word busy from my vocabulary after reading a post titled, The Disease of Being Busy by Omid Safi. While my schedule has not changed as a result, I will tell you my life and my perception of life have improved. My days are now full, not busy.
I am committed to lists and have a very structured approach to my day that works for me. I use a very specific notebook with nice, thick paper for my lists and I have a wonderful planner that I also use. In addition to these paper luxuries, I also keep certain recurring activities on my iPhone which then syncs with my iPad and MacBook as well. While the technology is quite efficient and easy to manage, I find the writing of lists and physical act of checking them off or rewriting them on a subsequent list very satisfying and this hybrid approach works for me. That is the trick. Find the approach that works for you and stick to it. I stray from my topic ever so briefly, because the topic of how we plan our days certainly impacts how we approach our time and how we perceive its passing.
Why does it seem we are a society that thinks somehow busy people are better, more accomplished and just generally more important? Ironic actually. Have a good look at the busiest person you know. Is he or she really, truly productive? Are they truly living their lives and relishing their days and moments? Is it possible these busy bees are actually poor time managers who thrive on their hamster wheels and have convinced themselves that busy is better? Think about your own patterns of behavior and your own relationship with busyness.
I know for me that the path from busy to full is a personal evolution and a work in progress. While I dropped the word and acknowledged that “busy” can be a state of mind, I still harbor fear of idleness. I fear the anti-busy. I have a difficult time with true 100% downtime. This of course prevents one from living in the present moment. It’s all connected. I keep waiting for life and home to attain this self-defined organized state of utopia and promise myself that THEN I will allow myself time to dabble in the luxury of idleness. Here I can insert a favorite life mantra: The trouble is you think you have time… Hey, awareness is the first step.
In my hunt for other people who feel as I do about this busy badge of honor we all seem to be wearing these days, I stumbled upon a post on The Muse titled 4 Ways to Break Free From Being Too Busy. This excerpt struck a sad, but true chord:
“…because busyness has become a status symbol—a sign that you are in demand and thus important—it’s easy to default to the word “busy” to describe your life. When we tell people that we are busy,in many cases what we’re trying to say is, “The activities that consume my day are important. I feel overwhelmed because I am busy, but my busyness is mandatory because I’m contributing so much to the world.” When we feel busy, we feel like we’re winning at life—like we’re doing something right and maximizing our productivity”.
In my current state of awareness, I should mention that I have become the “busy” police. I am hyper-aware of the use of the word and its context. I am starting to feel like many “busy” people are just not managing their time well. You know the common social exchange of "Hi, how are you?" "Good, how are you?", where you are really filling the air, because rarely does the asker want to know and rarely does the teller say anything revealing or mirroring the truth. Well, in some ways the new equivalent exchange is: "Hi, how are you?" and the common response is: "Sooo busy." Today, I find myself wanting to say, "Doing what? What are you so busy doing and is that really good a thing?".
Select a recent day and review it. Look through your date book or calendar. If it is a day of back to back meetings with barely a break for lunch, try saying: “Wow, that was a full day”. If you went from school drop-off, to yoga, to the market, to the vet, to the kitchen, to the laundry room and back to school. Wow, that sounds like a full day to me. A glass can be full, a heart can be full, a bag can be full. Full feels better to say and to visualize. It has a quality that is inherently more positive than busy. If you are busy, you can likely miss the little things, which we all know can be big things. A full day wants to fit that bedtime story in. I think a full day usually does.
It's not enough to be busy. So are the ants. The question is: What are you busy about? Henry David Thoreau.