harm our well-being, and limit our capacity.
Busy – A Way of Life
Think of the last time a friend or colleague asked you how you were doing and you replied, “Busy!” Was it today? Yesterday? Last week?
I’m not passing judgment here. You ARE busy.
Unfortunately though, “BUSY-ness” has become a way of life. We’ve internalized the belief that we are inadequate or insignificant if there aren’t a million demands on our time.
I was SUPER guilty of this FOR YEARS. I wore “busy” like a designer handbag. I felt that being busy meant that I was valued professionally, proved I had a robust social life, and demonstrated my commitment to self-improvement. My answer to “How are you?” invariably was, “BUSY.” (Stated with gusto!)
The truth, however, is that I WAS valued professionally; I DID have a robust social life; I WAS committed to self-improvement. I just had this false sense that I needed to be busy in order for those things to be true about my life. (Newsflash – I was wrong.)
The Fear of Free Time
I’m reminded of a blizzard a few years back. I was stranded at my then boyfriend’s place for a couple of days. Thinking I’d be home the next day, I hadn’t brought much with me. I couldn’t do any work. I couldn’t run errands. I couldn’t clean my apartment. All I could do was hang out with this wonderful man and RELAX.
Nothing was going on – offices were closed, transit was paused – and yet, I felt panicked. I had absolutely no idea how to handle the incredible GIFT of a few days with nothing to do.
Taking Back Our Lives
I’ve gotten MUCH better at celebrating my free time in recent years, but I still struggle with the feeling that I should be DOING something when I’m taking time off. To counter my instinct for busy-ness, I literally put free time on my calendar. Giving myself time to recharge is every bit as important as meeting client deadlines or doing my laundry.
I also try to be forthcoming when folks ask me how I am these days. Some days it’s “I’m great, I got eight hours of sleep last night!” Other days it’s, “Today, I’m actually struggling with some crippling self-doubt, but I’m powering through.”
My hope is that, by giving a nuanced and genuine answer, I can help others to think about all the other things they’re feeling in their day – beyond plain old busy.
So, if you’re thinking that you might be guilty of wearing busy like a badge of honor (welcome to the club), here are a few questions to ask yourself that may just help you take control of the chaos:
In what ways are you glorifying busy-ness in your life right now?
How do you currently view free time? Do you regard it differently than time spent on your to-dos?
What could you say “NO” to in your work or life right now? (If you need some tips on how to say no, I’ve got you covered.)
How can you model behaviors that DON’T glorify busy-ness for your friends, family, and colleagues?