Illustration by: Edgar U. Vega
Busy does not make things happen. Busy happens to you. Don’t wear the busy badge.
How are you? You probably have a million things going on, but you somehow found the time to read this article. Good for you. I wish I had that kind of time.
How am I, you ask?
just really busy.
When did busy become an indicator of temperament? Busy has become the definition of what we do on a daily basis. The phrase “I’m busy” is about projecting an egotistical narrative while rotting on the inside from stress. We have appointments, schedules, and deadlines to meet, and believe our our worth is measured by activity.
There was time where having time to do anything was a status symbol. In his book The Theory of the Leisure Class, Thorstein Veblen, the 19th century economist described leisure as the ultimate symbol of wealth. However, in the 21st century, the word “busy” evokes great power and overuse of #humblebrag.
We live in a time of “knowledge work” that knows no boundaries on the time of day or physical space. Our desire to be over-scheduled bleeds into our leisure time in an effort to feel productive. Going to the bathroom turns into time to write an email to your boss. Playing soccer outside with your kids turns into time to pull those weeds invading your flower bed. From learning to paint to playing a game of tag, there is a need to put the task on a list and check it off at the end of the day.
There might be a reason for all this busyness. A 2016 study from the University of Texas at Dallas found that having a busy schedule later in life is correlated with increased brain function from improved cognitive reserve, the brain’s ability to improvise, and episodic memory, the memory of autobiographical events and experiences. But does being busy boost the brain or might people with better brain function be more likely to keep themselves busy? Well, we don’t know, but it’s safe to say that being busy, from learning new things to making difficult decisions, is correlated with higher brain power. That being said, you can experience life without stuffing every minute with a “to-do.” Your schedule is about creating a lifestyle that drives engagement and inspiration, not stress.
When busyness drives chronic stress it can be detrimental to your health. Chronic stress can put you at risk for anxiety, depression, digestive problems, and even weight gain. There is nothing wrong with fulfilling your responsibilities, but there must be a balance.
You do not “have to” make 24 vegan, gluten-free cupcakes for your child’s class. Cleaning out your closet because Marie Kondō said so is not more important than the English paper you have due tomorrow. There is a huge difference between “have to” and “want to.” Being “busy” is a choice, so be sure to own your choices.
Get out of bed. Check. Brush teeth. Check. Is this what our to-do lists have become? Mediocrity to fill in the blank space on your Google calendar? Your to-do list does not account for priority or time. Use the to do list as a way to make better plans to address the important things in your life rather than a task list.
Our busyness is a product of perceived lack of time and misplaced priorities. It is where we allow excuses for easily solved problems labeled “busy” to escape our daily routine. A reality check is that everyone has the same amount of time, and what they do with it is what creates a lasting impact in their life and the lives of others. In fact, Americans have more free time today than previous generations.
Remove the Word “Busy” from Your Vocabulary
Don’t answer “How are you?” with the word “busy” ever again. Remove it from your vocabulary. There are hundreds of words to describe how you are feeling, so put a real emotion behind it even if it is negative. Even better, communicate what you are doing, who you are spending time with, and how it makes you feel.
This principle says that 20 percent of your life produces 80 percent of your results. For some, it will be time reading books to your kids. For others, it is that sweat session with your trainer. Focus your energy on activities that give you the best results for what you want in your life.
This goes back to “have to” and “want to.” If you don’t want to clean your house, hire a maid once a month for a deep clean. If you don’t like grocery shopping, get your groceries delivered by one of the delivery services. Even hiring your neighbor’s kid to mow your lawn can free up your day in unexpected ways. You do not have to do everything, but you can choose to do anything.
Understanding your “why” behind the things you do is critical to how you shape your life. The activities you include in your daily schedule should amount to your “why.” If something doesn’t fit into your “why,” say “no”. It can be hard at first, but saying “no” means you can say “yes” to the important things.