The sorry business of busyness
I was having coffee with a friend of mine today and we were both bemoaning how busy and permanently exhausted we are. Sound familiar?
Busyness has become an epidemic and it seems to be infecting pretty much everyone. We complain about it to our close friends and family, we worry that we don’t spend enough time with our children and we neglect our partners.
And yet…and yet…in public, we wear our busyness like a badge of honour, as if it’s something to be proud of.
“No, I haven’t had chance to read that book you lent me yet I’ve just been too busy.”
“Sorry, I can’t meet you for a drink on Friday night, I’ve got too much on, you know how it is.”
Why do we have these double standards? What is it about being busy that we deem to be a desirable state of affairs when talking about our lives to other people, yet we complain about it when we’re with our nearest and dearest?
Could it be that being busy is confirmation that our company is required, our attention is needed and our actions are imperative in order for some project or other not to fail? Is it that the busier we are the more validated we feel? Do we perhaps think that we would be lacking somehow if we were to publicly admit that actually, we’ve got a bit of an easy week this week and that we’re planning on sitting quietly on our own for an hour or so every evening just thinking our thoughts to ourselves?
How would we be perceived? As lazy? As self-indulgent? As selfish?
Is this the real reason why so many of us feel burnt out and permanently exhausted, because society is dictating that we are not as valuable a person if we, heaven forbid, take some time just for ourselves?
How did this all go wrong? What happened to the idea of leisure being a sign of wealth and importance? When did the pendulum swing back towards importance being a direct related to how busy we are?
I think there needs to be a massive sea-change.
I think being busy should be a conscious choice for short and finite periods of time, not a permanent way of being. I think factoring in some me-time regularly should be seen as an essential part of your social status, not frowned upon. In fact, I would go as far as to say that if you constantly describe yourself as too busy that you should be seen as bordering on a pariah.
Our society’s combined stress levels are through the roof. When was the last time you asked someone how they are and they replied, “Oh I’m really relaxed and chilled out right now”, rather than, “Oh man, I’m SO stressed”?
Busyness and stress are intimate bedfellows. It’s a toxic relationship that impacts all who come into contact with it.
Social media is partly to blame – we are under pressure to have something interesting to say and report at all times. Sitting quietly on your own thinking your thoughts roughly translates in social media terms as a) you’re boring b) you don’t have any friends and c) you lead an uninteresting life. Yes, you may very well have a better quality of life but it would appear that quantity rules.
Being busy smacks of obligation. There is the distinct wistful whiff of “I’d rather be doing something else, but I can’t because there are too many other things I have to do”. We drown in to-do lists and our diaries are jam packed.
What’s worse, this epidemic is spreading to our children. Their days are filled with activities, play dates and the like, and any unstructured time is filled with TV, tablets or computer games.
Children have no idea how to be bored any more.
Being bored used to mean that you had to use your imagination to entertain yourself. You might go outside and make up a game to play with your friends. You might decide to get creative with a pen and paper. You might find a few random bits and pieces around the house and see what you could make out of them. You might get out the big box of Lego and just start building, not with any particular design in mind to start with and certainly not following any prescribed instructions, just to see what the shape you created provoked.
Ideas are born out of boredom not busyness.
How on earth are we supposed to find out what really matters to us, what makes us tick, if we never stop long enough to consider the question, let alone listen to the answer. We’re constantly running around like headless chickens. We fire fight, go through the motions, deal with whatever is thrown at us. Go to bed, get up in the morning and do it all over again. Day after day after exhausting day.
Well I for one don’t care for busyness for the sake of it. I don’t care if my life appears less full because I choose to make it so.
I intend to choose Me over busyness more often and relish the quiet times.
Who’s with me?