Something has changed.
When people ask me how I am, I usually respond with ‘good.’ Sometimes ‘great.’ Lately, however, when I ask people how they are, I don’t hear ‘good,’ or ‘great,’ or even ‘fine.’ The answer always seems to be ‘busy.’
And it’s not really a complaint. It’s almost bragging as if being busy is an indication of status and importance. And while it may sound like a complaint, I get the distinct impression that people think being busy is better – even if it hurts their actual productivity.
In previous times, the absence of work was a status symbol for the leisure class. But no one aims to be Thurston Howell the Third these days, sipping martinis and doing little other than overseeing his investments. Today, it appears that if you are truly successful – you are working around the clock. In the 80’s the acquisition of things added to a person’s status. Today, folks may find conspicuous consumption off-putting. That Hermes Birkin bag or Ferrari might annoy others but it’s much more acceptable to be busy. In America, it’s understood that if we just work harder, the dream can be ours.
Amazingly, even if you aren’t THAT busy, you can still turn your leisure into labor. You can work on yourself by working out. People augment Pilates with indoor cycling, kickboxing and swimming, 5K runs with the training and preparation for them, Yoga with water aerobics.
Technology makes it very easy to be even busier. You can measure everything you do – sleeping, walking and exercising – with a Fitbit. You can track how many connections do you have on LinkedIn, how many followers on Twitter and Instagram, and how many friends and ‘likes’ on Facebook. Your entire life can become measured by output and results. The time you spend on these platforms generate something for the platforms – but nothing of tangible value for you.
Is being busy making you (or those around you) unhappy?
I’ve got some ideas:
Explore what BUSY says about you. Are you using activity to avoid things in your life, dodge people, and escape certain situations? Take 10 minutes to send a gift or card to someone you’ve been thinking about.
Examine what BUSY means to you. Does it mean you are tired, overwhelmed, super stressed, or perhaps more important that someone else? If you tell others you are busy, do you mean that you don’t have time for them, want them to see you as important, responsible or have more important things to do?
Plan breaks. Plan a 5-minute call to someone you miss and want to talk with. Catch up with a sibling during your commute. Can you find 10 minutes to send someone a card or flowers to let them know you’ve been thinking about them?
Review and assess how you are spending your time periodically. Set an alarm that goes off every 3 hours and ask yourself “Is what I am doing right now enriching my life? Is it adding to my relationships?” Occasional regular alarms help us assess if are too caught up in things to be aware of how much time we not spending on the people who are supposed to be priorities in our lives.
Replenish your heart and mind. What feeds your soul so you don’t become depleted? What things do you do to nurture yourself? Do you get energized from spending time with people, reading, spending time in nature, or watching sports?
Today, we put a high value on being busy. It’s something to pursue and admire in others. But perhaps the busier we are, the more we disconnect from others and from ourselves as well. It may be that all this being busy is a cover for something else that we prefer not to pay attention to.
Ask yourself what you want your life to look like. Conspicuous production may not be the way to obtain it.