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The Pursuit of Busy-ness

I am soooooo busy!

How many times have you heard this phrase?  How many times have you heard this phrase today?  

Busy-bragging

two person shaking each others hands

Being busy, or ‘busy-bragging’ is an epidemic.  Constantly stating that we are so busy is now part of our core language, something to wear as a badge of honour.  It makes us look important.  I’m sorry I haven’t seen you for 2 years (even though you only live 5 minutes away), I’ve just been sooo busy!  Oh my god me too, there’s just not enough time in the day to do everything!  

I went to visit one of my old friends a few months ago and that was the first thing that came out of their mouth.  It was a sunny day and we took an hour off for lunch to sit outside.  They couldn’t relax because of all the other things that they should have been doing rather than taking some time out to relax and eat their lunch.  I found myself getting caught up in all the busy-bragging, and then trying to outdo them for the rest of the afternoon on how much I had on my to do list.

Most of the time people don’t even realise they’re doing it, it’s part of our subconscious, a competition to see who is busier, and therefore more important than the other.  People are proud of it, like they are a better person than you because they manage to do everything and have such a Perfect Life (capitals intended), and by taking two minutes off you have somehow failed as a human being.  I can’t even tell you how many times I’ve said this myself without even realising what it meant.

Are we actually as busy as we think we are?

Ironically as I sit here I realise that I have been meaning to write this blog for over 3 months now.  I have been busy.  Or more accurately I have been prioritising different things over writing it.  I love writing so it really shouldn’t have been deprioritised, but I also love watching The Walking Dead.  So how do you do everything?  In true multi-tasking skill I am currently doing both (although as we well know, true multitasking doesn’t exist – just check this blog for spelling mistakes)!

I have recently met someone who is actually BUSY.  Busy with a capital everything.  So busy I literally have no idea how they do everything that they do as there really isn’t enough hours in the day.  Ironically they never really seem to mention it at all, they just take it in their stride.  It is fascinating and it really puts things into perspective, it makes you really think about how and where you spend your precious time and how you perceive your levels of busy-ness.

And I know exactly what it’s like because that used to be me.  I used to get palpitations if I wasn’t using every spare second of every day being ‘productive’,  I was being ‘lazy’ if I went and sat in the garden and sunbathed for 30 minutes.   What would people think??  How am I ever going to achieve my goals if I take these 30 minutes and not actively work towards them??  Time is so precious, I simply cannot ‘waste’ a second of it.  Then I read a quote (I know, I know!) which really stuck with me.  ‘Time you enjoyed wasting was not wasted’.  Not everything has to be ‘productive’, you are allowed to do something just for you, something that makes you happy.

closeup photo of person holding panasonic remote control in front of turned on smart television

Last year I had a really good think about how I am actually spending my time.  It is quite interesting.  There will be things that you are doing that really don’t need to be done.  As a result of this epiphany and ignoring my husbands many (many) protests I implemented a television ban for a really, really long week.  It turns out that we do actually watch quite a lot of TV in our household.  It is one of those things that we put on to ‘fill’ the time.  Something to do that distracts us and allows us to be just that little bit more mindless.  We watch so much in-fact that on the very first day of our week long ban we literally didn’t know what to do with ourselves.  What is there to do we cried, it’s so boring!  But as the week went on we become more and more creative with how we were spending our time.  We got so much more done and we did things that we ‘kept meaning’ to (like play board games mid week, imagine!).  Unfortunately this did not last, and I went straight back to binge watching (it’s amazing how quickly you can watch the entire Greys Anatomy box set if you are really dedicated).

colors palette

People these days are busier than ever, even though everything we do is so much easier (trust me, I tried making meringue with just a manual whisk recently, 45 minutes later it was just about done and my right arm muscle was hulk-sized and very, very sore).  So why are we really so busy?  I refer to my previous blog on ‘The Paradox of Choice’.  I think part of our busy-ness is because we have so much more choice these days, which subconsciously takes so much of our time.  We personally took days and days agonising over the ‘correct’ paint colour for our kitchen (with more than necessary trips to the paint store).  How ridiculous is that?

Choose life (or you know, just not to be busy)

So I made a decision.  I chose not to be busy.  It’s so liberating saying you’re not busy.  BUT, It does take a while to change your mindset.  I kept thinking that people would perceive me as being lazy.  You know what though, so what?  Does it actually matter what people think of you?  As long as you are happy it really does not matter.

Imagine being able to say yes to everything that you’re invited to.  Not having to book things three months in advance.  When you are a child there was none of this advanced booking, you just turned up at your friends house, knocked on the door and asked them to come out and play.  And pretty much they were always there, ready to play.  So why now is everything today so difficult?

Think back to the 1920s (I know, I wasn’t alive either, but we can imagine).  In 1928 economist John Maynard Keynes predicted that by 2028, due to economic and technological advancements, people would work about three hours a day, and even this reduced schedule would represent more labour than was actually necessary. His main worry was that people would actually find it hard to fill all their spare time.  He was correct in his advancements predictions, but not in the result.  Sounds crazy doesn’t it, so what happened?

As I said, I think it’s partly to do with the fact that we have too many choices in life now.  Yes, everything is far more automated, but there are also far more choices available to us now.  And thanks to being more connected to people we would never have met before via social media there are also so many more things we ‘should’ be doing.  We ‘should’ be going to the gym more and having the perfect beach bod (there are thousands more classes and options available to us than ever before, all open at ridiculous hours just incase you feel the need to go and work out at 3am), we should be keeping up to date with ALL the TV shows, we should be traveling more, we should be shopping more, we should be reading more, we should be cooking like a chef every night, our house should be showroom ready…the list is endless of things that we should be doing and if we are not then we are somehow failing as productive human beings.  I mean how boring would your instagram account be if you didn’t have anything to post?

Wellbeing, looking after yourself and taking time out, whilst very en vogue right now is still not actively encouraged enough.  Because of the way we have been programmed to think, we think that those who are not constantly ‘go-getting’ aren’t working as hard as their counterparts, so sacrificing your ‘me’ time proves that you are super important and don’t need a break, therefore are harder working.  Luckily this is changing and studies have shown that having more free time does lead to a better work life balance and makes you more productive.  This will take a while to embed though, but it’s great that we are finally recognising it and doing something about it (just talk to those amazing Scandinavians).

No one said it would be easy…

So, really think about how you are spending your time.   Does it spark joy?  Is it really that important?  Is it an actual obligation or is it something you just think is an obligation (and be honest with yourself)?  Can someone else do it for you?  In some cases you actually create more busy-ness by your actions.  Just have a look at this video of an email tree.  It’s pretty eye opening.  Think about the reactions to your actions and have a think about whether you actually need to do it, or whether there is a better, more efficient way that does not add to your busy-ness.

Before I decided to ‘not be busy’ I would book something in every weekend.  My friends are scattered across the country, so to visit them would be a weekend long affair.  I was finding myself wishing each weekend away so I could get through to the next weekend and panicking about all the things I had to do in advance of the trip.  This was not fun, it was stressful and I wasn’t enjoying anything that I was doing.  It felt like a chore, which is the exact opposite of what it should have been, it should have been fun.  Why was I doing it?  Now I get excited about trips and still see my friends the same amount as I always have and still get much needed weekends at home, all it takes is a change in mindset (and a little bit of courage). 

sunset beach people sunrise

Take a lunch break, leave work on time occasionally.  Switch off the social media in the evening.  Switch off the TV for a week.  Read some tips on how to be less busy (there are a lot out there) and implement a few of the tips.

Finally, I can’t stress enough the benefits of completely decluttering and organising your surroundings.  It’s amazing what this does for your mental health and mentality.  Imagine how good it will feel to not feel like you have to do things all the time.  Imagine the weight being lifted from your shoulders.  Looking around your house whilst relaxing with a cup of tea and being surrounded by things that make you happy, not things that make you sad or feel stressed.  Give it a go, what have you got to lose?  You wont regret it.

Also, If you need help, I know a really good professional organiser…

 

 

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