Earlier today I was talking to a friend about our national obsession with busyness. We wear it like a badge of honor thinking the busier we are the more successful and popular we seem. It’s everywhere.
When I was sick over this past year it was bad enough that I didn’t feel well physically, I also felt great guilt and even shame that I wasn’t working, I was barely able to even do something as simple as scooping cat litter. Rather than allowing myself the time I needed to heal, I was constantly worried that I was falling behind in progressing in my work, wasn’t keeping my home as clean as I was used to, and more than once referred to myself as a “burden.” None of this went over well with my boyfriend/housemate who hated me calling myself as a burden.
Now that I’m feeling well, (knock on wood) I have been feeling the pressure both financially and psychologically to get back up to speed, and it’s been hard. I am a writer. Not exactly a sure bet of an occupation, and one that requires one is constantly pitching, emailing, blogging, networking. When you’re not working you’re not earning. And feeling guilty if you’re not doing at least one, if not all of those things seven days a week.
Whether you’re self-employed or work for a company or business of some sort, the pressure is still there. When we run into people while doing errands or at an event we feel important when we can say, “On boy, I’m just SO busy!” It implies you’re doing it right. If you’re not flat-out busy you’re a slacker, lazy...you might even think it means you’re failing. But you’re not. We aren’t thinking if I’m not busy I’m not doing enough, I suspect what’s really at play is I am not enough. I know that’s what goes through my head.
As a writer I need time. Time to think, plot and let ideas bubble to the surface. I might look like I’m not doing anything, but I’m thinking, which is something we all need time and space to do.
Being busy doesn’t necessarily mean you’re being more productive. As a matter of fact it’s often the opposite as you stressfully glide back and forth, not giving any one task your full attention.
I’ve decided to really work at feeling guilty if I’m not working 12 hours a day seven days a week. If I learned anything from my big sick it’s that what you earn or what you produce isn’t what’s most important. We all want to be successful and well thought of, but more and more I’m seeing that success isn’t just about output, it’s about input as well.
Five things you can start doing to get off the busyness treadmill:
Make time every day to just be. No phone, no computer, no TV. Start slow, it might be a shock to your system to not be distracted. Have a cup of tea, maybe your morning coffee, and just listen to your surroundings. Deep breaths, you’ll be okay. Try for at least 15 minutes.
Let something go. A party you really don’t want to go to, the book club you’re just not loving... let something, or more than one thing go.
Engage others to join you and give each other permission to not be busy.
Shut that annoying voice in your head off. Stop being the worst boss to yourself ever. It won’t happen overnight, but with practice you can learn to stop being so critical of yourself.
Have some fun! What do you love to do but never make time for? Do that! And do it more often!
I truly believe we are here to be happy. We all want to do well, be respected and care for those we love. You can do that, and you should care about those thing, but you can still accomplish what you need to along with some much-needed time outs as well.
*Truth be told I got sleepy while writing this and took a ten-minute nap. Take that busyness guilt!