It’s part of our culture to always be “doing”. Doing more, doing better, doing faster, as long as there’s lots of doing. If we’re not too busy, we should be ashamed of ourselves, right? It’s it just lazy and self-indulgent, to take time to relax and take care of ourselves, right?
Whose message is that anyway? Busyness is not a badge of honor. Busy keeps us blind to the truth, working hard on what we’ve been told we need to be, so we don’t have the time or the bandwidth for.
Once upon a time, I was your classic Type-A personality. Driven, uptight, always on the go and busy achieving something or other (and maybe I’ve changed a bit, but I don’t kid myself too much). My burnout and my pain came upon me over the course of many hard years of exhausting late nights and frantic days, in the ever-connected culture of business. (By the way, does anyone else think it’s funny that business and busyness are such similar words?)
I always felt behind, and no matter how hard I worked, I never got rid of that feeling. I worked myself to a breaking point. And then I finally, finally got help. And with the right guidance, I was able to explore and test and find some different ways of thinking.
What I’ve discovered, over a number of years of testing that system, is that busyness was actually my choice. There is a tremendous value placed on a jam-packed calendar and an overflowing inbox. Doesn’t that mean you’re important? Doesn’t that mean that you’re critical to the functioning of the business? Doesn’t that mean that nothing can go on without your involvement and your input, because it just wouldn’t be right without you?
Well, it’s morose, and probably so commonly said as to be trite anymore, but the honest truth is that if you were run over by the proverbial bus, the world would keep right on ticking along without you. Yes, you would be greatly missed, because people love you and care about you.
Yes, people would be challenged at first, and maybe there would be a learning curve and some mistakes made while other people did the things that you thought only you could do. And most certainly, nobody would do all the things quite the way you would have done them.
But, let’s step outside the situation and look at the whole thing realistically for just a moment. The truth is, people come and go every day in very small and very big ways. Nobody is indispensable. Life goes on. (Trigger existential crisis here…)
Busyness is simply our personality’s very intricate and clever way of avoiding what we fear. Yes, we are running, running, running, away from the truth. Away from all sorts of truths. As long as we are moving fast and have no time to stop and think and breathe, we can maintain the illusion that we are important, that we are critical, that our life just can’t live without us. Oh, but it can. Life will go along just fine with or without you. So, what is the value in all the busyness?
You might say, but I am keeping people happy, I am keeping other people busy, I am preventing the world from collapsing around us all. Maybe. Or maybe, we are just keeping ourselves distracted from the truth that we are not so important as we think, and we could take all this just a little less seriously, and everything would be JUST FINE.
Busyness is nothing but an ego-trip. And we’ve fallen for it, hook, line, and sinker.
So, what is the alternative to busyness? There is definitely the simple stuff that comes from all the management “best practices”, the conventional wisdom, like “delegate” everything you can, until all that’s left is those things that only you can do. That’s certainly helpful. The ability to delegate is, in part, overcoming the ego parts that tell us that we need to be the one to do something because we’ll do it right, better, faster.
There’s some work to be done on this level, for sure. We probably all have more “horizontal” learning to do – new skill sets, better tools, more effective use of our time.
But really, what else?
There’s also some deeper questioning to be done, a different sort of work – vertical learning, deepening, the really juicy stuff. What does this busyness really keep me from doing, or keep me from realizing? When we can step outside the race for a while, and look at that question, we notice that there are a lot of ego benefits to busyness, but not really a lot of whole-person, integral benefits to our systems and ourselves, our families, our communities.
In fact, in the bigger picture, a frantic pace, chronic exhaustion, and relentless “doing” is keeping us from taking care of our own health, and our own needs, and this, in turn, keeps us from being truly of service to others, in the most meaningful ways that we could be. Instead, we’re in thrall to the status quo.
And, as long as we just conform to the busyness ideal, we don’t have time to stop, and really take care of ourselves and others, and enjoy the moments as they go by. And we also don’t have time to question whether what we’re doing all makes sense.
What deeper truths does your busyness keep you from knowing?
If you want help to break free from busyness and stress, click here to learn how I can support you.
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