are you too busy to read this?

beware-of-the-barrenness (1)

Are you too busy to take the 5 minutes it will take to read this blog post? If so, you aren’t alone. And I will add that if you are too busy to read about busyness, you might be in a place you might not want to be. The reality is that busyness does not help our health, our mindset or our relationships-all essential components of happiness. Author Sarah Napthali writes about the effects of busyness on parenting, “Busyness undermines our capacity for acts of love by robbing us of time to listen to others, notice how they’re feeling and help them.”

Is busy really the new fine? In his thought-provoking video Enough Time, Jeff Shinabarger reveals how the word busy has substituted the word fine. It’s even gotten to the point where people are upping one another (or themselves) by saying, “Oh, I’m busier than ever.” Or “My, things are just insane right now!” Emails, text and phone messages begin with “I’m sorry it’s taken me so long, I have been so busy.” or “I hate to bother you, I know how busy you are.” And, if someone responds to you with “I’m busy…and you?” nearly always the perpetuating response will be “Yep, me too”.

Busyness is a strange phenomenon. We love it. We hate it. We brag about it. We apologize for it. We get overwhelmed by it yet are continually seeking more. We are offended by what busyness does to us.  It keeps us from friends and families, stealing from our priorities. Yet we are so grateful to it, basking in the fact that it validates us…as if the fact that we are busy somehow proves our significance. We convince ourselves that we have become busy because of our ambition, motivation and drive and many times this is true in the beginning, but if we are not careful, it can consume, invade and overtake our lives. We are stressed out, we don’t sleep, we don’t eat well, we get sick and it becomes a perpetual cycle. Not enough time…more to do.

It is important to note here that there is a distinct difference between busyness and productivity. And let me be clear that I am no angel of inactivity. Early on as an executive and even before then, I was the ringleader of the I- am-crazy-busy-circus. Sometimes it was productive busyness and sometimes it was simply self-fulfilling. It wasn’t until after much soul searching that I learned that I was creating a lot of the culture of busyness for myself and as a result of my example, for others too. For me, busyness was a way to protect me from, well…me. I owed it to myself, my family, and those I was leading to halt the culture of busyness and foster the culture of values, balance, priorities and productivity.

Busyness can serve as a certainty, a reassurance, a break from emptiness. Our lives could not possibly be meaningless if we are busy. We must be important if we are completely scheduled and needed every hour of the day.  After I became more comfortable with myself and my life, I stepped down as the queen of the busyness rodeo. I chose to seek balance in my work life which, by the way, is incredibly possible. It’s just not always easy.

The frantic, hectic, and all-consuming nature of our culture’s day-to-day existence might be as difficult an addiction to break as smoking or drugs. Many experts have given name to the effects of it: The Stress Syndrome. Tim Kreider, commentator for the New York Times describes the busyness trap as a “hysteria that is not a necessary or inevitable condition of life; it’s something we’ve chosen, if only by our acquiescence to it… it’s something we collectively force one another to do,” and changing these habits are not easy.

It is admittedly easy to get caught in the hustle and bustle of work, life, and intersecting priorities. But you have the power to disable busyness. Next time someone says “Busy, and you?” try changing your response. Since you are likely too busy to add anything else to your list, I will leave you with three simple thoughts on disarming the busyness in your life:

Challenge the concept of busyness in your day so that you can embrace productivity. Ask yourself questions such as:

  • “Is what I am doing now either necessary or something I am passionate about?”
  • “Does this task deserve to be on my list? Is it essential to my life/role?”
  • “What would happen if I did not do this?”
  • “Is there something more important I should be doing?”

Embrace the word no. Period. (People will still love you. In fact, they may admire you even more.)

  • “No, I’m sorry, I wish I could help.”
  • “No, we have a family policy to be home for dinner so I won’t be available then.”
  •  “No, thank you for asking me. Maybe next time.”
  • “No, I am not able to do that at this time. Here is what I am able to do. Would that help?”

Create space in your day (and in your life) and be accepting of it. (your brain and body need the idle time)

  • Protect your lunch breaks. Chew slowly to taste each bite.
  • Put your phone down while waiting for appointments and take a moment of intentional solitude.
  • Keep the radio off during your commute to sit quietly with your thoughts.
  • Consider meditating or finding quiet time to think and dream big.

Are you too busy? What is one thing you can do disarm the busyness in your life? 

10 Comments on “are you too busy to read this?
  1. This is a great post! We do need to learn to say “no” more often and to take more time and care over the fewer things we do, rather than rushing through many. Thanks!

    • Yes, Melinda, rushing is such a difficult habit to break. I have been working on this especially with my children. When I slowed down and watched, I began to see how much I “hurried” them and am trying to slow down in that area of my life.

  2. I don’t say that my life is busy or refer to my day as “fine”. I refer to my days as full. Full of all the things that I want to accomplish in a day and full of amazing opportunities I had no idea that were going to come into it. I am grateful for my life and live each day on purpose. No perfectly of course, but to the best of my ability.

    Words that I usually use to describe my day are fantastic, wonderful, and fantabulous. Each day is filled with so much excitement and it is a blessing to be living.

    • Joanne, I love your energy. I’ve really worked hard to try to remove fine from my vocabulary over the last few years and to be authentic in my responses. I love to be great when I’m great and to be honest about having been better, when things are difficult. It’s amazing how automated our society gets in responses, isn’t it?

  3. I love this post, Erin. I have worked pretty hard to not use the word “busy” when describing my life. Because really everyone is busy. And people tend to get competitive about their busyness by responding, “if you had FOUR kids you’d understand how busy I am.” Just not saying the word at every turn helps a ton. I have to mindfully think of an answer and even correct people when they say, “I know how busy you are…” I like to respond “no busier than anyone else” or “not too busy to chat with you.” However, I think I might be too busy for laundry. 🙂

  4. Pingback: The Clutter-Free Approach to Intentional Living | intentionista

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