Too busy to be busy
The world got busy.
Between work, and relationships, and the kids, and sport, and study (and Netflix, all the ‘flix) and any number of other things that seemingly fill up our lives 24/7, for many of us life feels busy enough to burst.
How often have you woken up Monday morning, trying to get your head around another week that’s about to explode in front of you in all it’s busy-ness, and had that little voice in the back of your mind forlornly asking “Are we there (ie Friday, 5pm) yet?”
Or for less conventional workers like me who don’t really dig the Monday-Friday/9-5 thing because #digitalnomad that feeling of the work week actually never ending and having no boundaries because you have to work when it’s there...and find work when it’s not!
Making our contemporary busy lives even more fraught is the connection between being busy and being successful (Note: Some rockstar employers are seeing beyond this fallacy and to them I say #respect). How many more articles are we going to read about Mr/Ms Super Successful Tech/Biz Wiz who only sleeps 4 hours a night so they can maximize the working day and be super successful because of it (and spends part of that time telling us on some media platform or another…)
This IS NOT to knock hard work. NOT AT ALL. Hard work is nourishing and fulfilling and rewarding and leads (at least some of the time!) to reward. Hard work is always worth the effort and lack of sleep and energy when it drives us to success.
BUT...hard work and being busy does not always compute.
Sure, there is a correlation, and sometimes the two go hand in hand, but let’s not fool ourselves that being busy is the key to success or being super rich or super happy or just super.
And there is science behind it.
The Science of Busy
A range of studies have been undertaken that point towards being too busy leads to LOWER productivity
Yes. As Confucius would say if he was alive today and running a billion dollar online empire (here’s looking at you Jack Ma), “Filling a day with one million things does not a productive person make.”
Because it leads to you ending up to your neck in the “S” word when you’re too busy.
No, not shit, OK that too sometimes...
As this 2018 Forbes article points out, when people are busy, stress levels rise and productivity GOES DOWN.
And, guess what is adding to all this busy in our lives?
Yup, you guessed it, our devices.
Those addictive ubiquitous digital devices we have with us 24/7 and use for everything from checking the time to booking a flight to swiping left or right.
Those same devices that, it can’t be denied, ABSOLUTELY make our lives easier in so many ways at the same time give us even more of an excuse to be busy.
To stay plugged into life and work.
To mean we are always on call, or at the very least in a position of being able to check work emails, add a new item to a “to-do-list”, fill a calendar with another appointment, Google for something to do in that 26.3-minute slot we have on Sunday afternoon in three week’s time.
OK, you got me: I AM over stating the problem a little, but sadly not by much because it’s hard to deny that our devices have become an excuse for us to be busy and to SHOW people how busy we are…
Time to unbusy your life
What does this all mean?
Simply, it’s time to “Marie Kondo” the hell out of your busy life, or at least a little.
In the same way Kondo has encouraged us to declutter our lives, it’s time to ‘un-busy’ your life.
This may sound impossible and I’m not saying it’s an easy task.
Neither am I suggesting that large chunks of the busy bits of your life aren’t important or need doing.
BUT...if you don’t have time to take a breather from the busy-ness of life, just as when you hold your breath and restrict the oxygen flow to your brain, your life will fall over.
Ok wise guy, I hear you say, how are we meant to do this?
I don’t have all the answers, but I will offer three tips to, if not removing the busy from your life, at least finding a little space to breathe.
Picky, Selfish and Device Free
Keeping a to-do-list is beyond super useful, whether it’s a digital version or a good old-fashioned paper diary. BUT even more important is prioritising this list so you can get the most important things done and shuffle lesser tasks to a later time or date. No, this is NOT you being slack and avoiding getting things done - it is you being effective and efficient and using your very smart brain to assess and judge how best to spend your time.
Care more about yourself than others
What?? You’re saying I need to be selfish??! Well, kind of but not in the way it sounds. While we humans often use the achievements of others to be inspired by and mark our own path to success, we too often forget that we should also look to ourselves. Set your own goals, mark your own path forward, be proud of what you can do given your own circumstances. In other words, STOP WORRYING that you’re not good enough because of how much better everyone else seems - or at least wants everyone to think they are with their Insta selfies at the gym doing 867000 reps at 4am in the morning or their Facebook posts of yet another fabulous holiday overseas or the next-in-line of LinkedIn posts boasting about their latest promotion. March to the beat of your own drum. It’s a good beat. And it’s yours. Own it.
Step Away from the Device...
You just knew I was going to get to this one right because it’s self evident. Without wanting to sound too Orwellian or Black Mirror (if you haven’t seen it, add it to the ‘Flix list!), our digital devices are now our fifth limb. We seemingly cannot exist without them. But guess what?
Yes. You. Can.
I’m not saying give them up. As if. But digital devices have made it too easy to busy.
So, take a time-out from your devices.
Start off reasonable and make it just an hour a week (no, not while you’re asleep you cheeky thing) where you either turn off your device/s altogether or flip to flight mode so ain’t nothing gonna come through.
No alerts or notifications or calls or likes.
An hour to get unplugged from your device.
An hour to breathe.
An hour to be NOT BUSY.
Life is busy, none of us can probably actually escape this entirely or should necessarily want to!
But being brave and unplugging from the busy means that maybe you’ll find busy isn’t all it’s cracked up to be...