Janet, a 40-something-year-old lawyer, came up to me after I gave the keynote at a conference recently. “I’m SO sick of being busy,” she said. “But, when it get’s right down to it, I’m terrified of not being busy.”
Lots of us can relate.
A friend and I conducted an informal experiment.. We asked 10 random people, “How are you?” 10 out of 10 answered with “Busy,” or a derivative, “Crazy busy,” or “You know, the usual. Sooooo busy.”
Busy becomes our worth-o-meter.
Our fear brain feeds us thoughts like:
“The busier I am, the better I am.”
“If I’m not busy, I’m not doing enough.”
“I need to be busy, or people will think I’m lazy.”
“Being busy makes me count.”
Despite the convincing tone of our inner critic, these connections between our busyness and our worth are a big fat pack of lies.
Some of the busiest people I know are contributing very little to the good of themselves, their families, their communities, or the world. They’ve become so obsessed with being busy, they’ve lost touch with any sense of meaning behind their existence.
They’ve forgotten their “why.”
Scott Dannemiller, in a recent article in the Huffington Post, says busyness is a sickness we bring on ourselves, “Like voluntarily licking the door handle of a preschool bathroom or having a sweaty picnic in the ball pit at Chuck E. Cheese’s.”
I love that.
He says we “awfulize” the tasks of our life in order to justify our existence.
As Brooke Castillo says, “‘Busy’ is the generalized excuse we use for not going after our dreams.”
Here’s the big news. Being busy is a choice.
You may be thinking, “You’re so flipping wrong, Jill!!!” That’s okay, I can hack it. Take a deep breath and play along for just a minute.
The only thing we really have to do every day is breathe.
Everything else is a choice.
Again, I totally understand that most of us forget, or at least our fear-brains conveniently forget, but our level of busyness is also a choice.
Tim Kreider writes, “Busyness serves as a kind of existential reassurance, a hedge against emptiness; obviously your life cannot possibly be silly or trivial or meaningless if you are so busy, completely booked, in demand every hour of the day.”
My friend Brigid Schulte, who wrote the awesome New York Times bestseller Overwhelmed: How to Work, Love, and Play When No One Has the Time says being busy makes people feel productive, “Admitting you take time for yourself is tantamount to a show of weakness. The thought of leisure time makes you guilty.”
Ready for something different?
I’m not suggesting you stop doing everything and lay around eating bonbons all day.
This all boils down to two questions: What’s it all for? Why are you doing it all?
I love this oft-used quote from billionaire Malcolm Forbes, “By the time we’ve made it, we’ve had it.” It reminds us that doing for the sake of doing burns us out. It can separate us from our true selves in the name of achievement.
Ways to keep yourself from getting sucked into a busy addiction.
1) Ask yourself: Does this nourish me, or deplete me?
2) Believe that you are equally worthy whether you are busy or still.
3) Recognize that you deserve time for rest, time to reboot, and time to do what you love.
A New Relationship
Bottom line, it’s time to divorce yourself from your dysfunctional relationship with busy. Instead, begin to foster a new connection to the things you love.
Be “on to yourself” when you are busying your life away. Be conscious of the reasons behind your busyness. Notice if you are using your busyness as a worth-o-meter. Be intentional and create time for things that nourish your soul.
Next, try the ultimate test: Dare to be the least busy person you know. Your competitors in the “who can be the busiest” contest may not approve of your blatant calm, clarity, and contentment.
But, I have a hunch you’ll still feel like a winner.
Excerpts from this piece came directly from Chapter 8 of my book There’s Not Enough Time… and Other Lies We Tell Ourselves.