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The Business of Busyness

The Business of Busyness

Jun 17, 2016

‘They’ say you should look at what passion and perspective you could bring to the world- what is it that you do that is unique or new or marketable?

Strong-empowered-womenWell, in my case, the answer is nothing. As in, the thing that I do best is nothing. Long and personal story but I guess you could say I am in super-early retirement. Well now I am a writer too but that is hardly a full-time job and certainly doesn’t require much getting out of bed, so the thing that I seem to do better than most people I know is: not much.

I had an idea once to become a life coach. More specifically, an un-life coach. I thought I could help people learn how to un-plan, un-complicate and un-busy their lives. I probably could do it too but it all seemed a bit too much like I would have to get planning and be busy, so I let it slide. See, I am so good at applying what I do!

What I have realized though, is that people find my life bewildering; odd; and if I am completely honest, I think a tad contemptible. But how can you not be doing something, I hear them think. “But what do you do?” is asked in a slightly bewildered tone. As if “doing something” is required, as if “doing something” makes me matter, as if “doing something” is my value.

Yet, when asked, everyone wants to retire. Everyone wants to be “doing nothing”. I asked a group what would be their perfect day recently and the fastest answer was “sleep”. So we seem to have this strange contradiction between everyone thinking they should be “doing something” but actually wanting to “do nothing” and no-one really being sure which would make them happy!

Because busyness is not just something that everyone is doing, it has become the thing that everyone wants to be seen to be doing. Busy has become a status symbol. People rush around at work, confidently claiming that they are “busy.” People rush home in rush hour traffic, to be frazzled, flat out, under the hammer, so they can escape from it all. Then, only to scramble off on a holiday to collapse on a beach though it is never for long enough, only to dash home to start it all over again.

Here is the kicker– I am sure every single one of you has had this conversation- from either end and with varying degrees of truth:

Sarah: How was your weekend?

Emma: Busy! Just so crazy! The kids had sport/we caught up with family/we were renovating or gardening or camping or travelling or just doing something, anything, to make sure you know I matter!

Have you ever felt embarrassed saying you just spent the weekend quietly at home? Have you ever bluffed and claimed you visited family or went out or did anything besides spending the weekend on the couch watching Netflix? Have you ever thought that the word “busy” is just a euphemism for “happily living normal everyday life; showering and getting dressed, grocery shopping and doing all sorts of unremarkable things that don’t make me sound important?

 Busy is a status. Busy makes us matter. Busy keeps us going. 

Busy is a mask. Busy distracts us. Busy is not really important.

 I am not even going to get into the repercussions of busyness on families… I don’t have kids, so I am not really qualified to talk about how busy that can make you feel but I did used to be a child therapist, so am qualified to talk about how you being busy makes your kids feel. I am currently watching a teenager I know spiral as her parents get busier and busier in their own lives and have less time for her feelings. It is breaking my heart but the parents are too stressed to sit and listen to me right now.

I don’t have brilliant answers. I rarely do. I do however have a few questions:

How much of your busyness is real?

How much of it is essential?

How much of your busyness is truly in line with what is most important to you? Are you spending all your time at work while claiming that family is the most important thing in the world? Put your time where your heart is.

Here is one suggestion (as opposed to a brilliant answer!!!)

Value your down time. I don’t just mean value it but actually do it (that is an awesome start!!!).

Value your time in your head and your heart as much as your busy time. Doing nothing is just as valuable as being busy. Being valuable and important is, in fact, an internal journey that requires lots of “not doing”, but we will get to that somewhere down the track, I am sure!

As a friend of mine so beautifully wrote today, “the hard times don’t have to be the bad times”. I know things do need to get done, and some days at work will be filled with tasks that all need doing. I am just suggesting that we don’t cling to being Busy as a sign of our importance. Take time when you can for you. Netflix and truly chill. Be proud of doing nothing. Then the times you really are busy, it is just getting stuff done, not a lifestyle.

By Tui Anderson

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