These days every second person seems to be ‘busy’. People feeling as though they have too much to do, and not enough time to do it. “I’m busy”, “so busy”, “too busy” or “busy, busy”. Everyone is just so…busy.
Subjectively speaking, some peoples ‘busy’ is working a 16-hour day whereas another persons ‘busy’ is watching Netflix for about the same amount of time. But whatever we choose to fill our time with, it seems that too many of us wear the ‘too busy’ badge proudly. Whilst we may feel as though we have no time anymore, we probably have more time on our hands that our ancestors. We press a button or two to get most things done now and then fill our time up watching screens to fill up the eerie void that is left.
Having said that, I’m pretty busy. Like most people I know, I juggle a lot of different components of my life: a career, running a household, cooking, reading, parenting duties, regular exercise as well as socialising with family and friends. Sleeping needs to happen in there too somewhere. After that, there isn’t much time left in an average week.
There are times when I was busier than I am now. In those years I had to be for reasons beyond this article. But after that I think it was because I kind of got used to being busy. It felt that apart from being with my kids, that every minute of my waking hours needed to be some sort of work-related activity. It felt weird not being busy, productive or trying to achieve something. But one day I purposefully decided to not be busy and allocated time not to be. Just like that. Fast forward some years and now I'm better off not living on the ‘too busy’ hamster wheel. In fact, allocating time to not 'be busy' has actually increased my productivity and achievement. With the added bonus of enjoying life a whole lot more. Go figure.
Many of us desire to be busy, and in fact it’s good for us in lots of ways. When we are busy we have purpose, which has shown to contribute to happiness and belonging. Many people who aren’t busy enough often feel lost, so having something to get up for is important. But you don’t need hundreds of things to get up for, just a select few. Even a certain amount of stress can be helpful and motivating.
But you don’t need to be under pressure every day. So how do we know if we’re just too busy? Well perhaps if we’re feeling like we can’t wind down after a succession of long days then perhaps we are. If ‘stopping’ elicits an uncomfortable feeling and a sense of guilt then perhaps we are. If we have difficulty falling asleep or wake up tired every morning that may be a sure sign. Or perhaps we can’t think clearly or keep biting the heads of the people around us.
If we can sit and evaluate our life right now as ‘too busy” and are constantly feeling overwhelmed and depleted, perhaps being less busy might be something to work on. As much as we like to think we are great at multi-tasking, most of us are not. In the long term, none of us can do life well if we're constantly ‘busy’ all the time. Our brains need a break. Our body needs need to recharge.
So prioritise some space in your day. Maybe it’s the 20 minutes before you usually get up. Maybe it’s the 30 minutes you spend scrolling around on social media. Maybe it’s the 40 minutes you worked overtime, but didn’t really have to. Maybe it’s in replace of the hour of the mindless reality show you watched (that annoyed you at the same time). The time is there somewhere, you just have to find it, and toss out what was there before. See space in your day as a valuable chance to collaborate, stop, and sit in silence. Resist the urge to fill it with something. Get busy getting less busy. You might find the world slows down with you.