When we get too caught up in the busyness of the world, we lose connection with one another – and ourselves.– Jack Kornfield
Why Busyness Such a Badge of Honor?
According to Dictionary.com, the term busy means to be actively and attentively engaged in work or a pastime, not at leisure, or full of or characterized by activity.
At first glance, this doesn’t seem like a bad thing. We might be busy with our work or with a fun hobby.
These days, however, “busy” has become the standard answer to the question, “How are you doing?”
When was the last time you heard someone answer, “I’m great, thank you,” when you asked them how they were doing? When did busyness become our everyday standard? Why is busyness such a badge of honor?
I tried to trace my own evolution from answering “great” to “busy”. I can’t pinpoint an exact time or place, but I know that it started somewhere in my mid-twenties as I transitioned from student and entry level employee to take-me-serious employee.
What Causes the Shift from “Great” to “Busy”?
At first, I thought our obsession with being busy was purely ego-based – that was about feeling important and accomplished and grown up.
As I dwelled on the idea little longer, I started to imagine the scenarios where I commonly answered that I was “busy”.
Most often when I responded that I was busy, the inquiry was coming from a friend that I hadn’t seen for a while or a neighbor that I rarely stopped to talk to. Sometimes it was a co-worker or friend with whom I’d turned down a lunch date here or there or a family member that I hadn’t called as often as I should have.
Could there be more to our state of busyness than I had originally assumed?
Are we saying that we’re busy out of embarrassment, shame or regret for not keeping in touch with friends and family?
Has Busyness Become the Ultimate Excuse for Not Making People a Priority in our Lives?
Some talk to you in their free time, and some free their time to talk to you. – Unknown
For me, although I don’t like to admit it, I know this plays a part. Sure, sometimes I say I’m busy out of habit (or because, let’s face it, sometimes it’s true!) But for the most part, I use it as justification for not calling people back, not participating in certain events, or even worse for not showing up fully in my own life.
When we’re busy, we don’t have time to do the work we’re really meant to be doing. We don’t have time to go the extra mile for a client or customer. We don’t have time to make a difference for someone.
Busyness acts like an invisible barrier around us, keeping us from getting over-involved, hurt or even from failing. We can’t fail if we’re too busy to start.
Busyness keeps us isolated in our own lives. Busyness keeps us small. Busyness makes us feel like we fit in.
As Brene Brown says, “’Crazy-busy’ is a great armor, it’s a great way for numbing.”
With Busyness Becoming so Ingrained into our Society, is it Even Possible to Break Free From it?
I believe that we are seeing a shift from busy back to great. I believe that people are craving a simpler life – and one that is more meaningful. I believe people are slowly starting to make time for what matters again.
For me, the shift began by noticing every time I said I was busy, or whenever I felt overwhelmed. I began to notice whether I was truly busy and start to make choices about how I spent my time.
I made a conscious choice to stop answering “busy” when I was asked “How are you?” and instead check in with how I was actually feeling. It’s a subtle change, but a powerful one.
Of course, I still catch myself saying the “b-word,” but when I do, I’m immediately brought back to what’s going on underneath. Am I really busy? Or am I saying that because I feel guilty, feel fear or don’t want to do something?
How often do you catch yourself saying that you’re busy? And what’s really underneath the busyness for you? It might be uncomfortable to dig into the emotions that being busy are covering up, but it’s transformational.
It’s not an easy shift, but changing your perceptions around being busy will change your life for the better. It starts with making the choice to be aware of how we spend and define our time. Making small changes, every day will add up to larger shifts in how you feel about your time and your life.
I challenge you to go a week without saying that you’re busy. Will you take me up on the challenge?
How many times will you catch yourself saying the “b-word”?
Let’s stop equating being busy with being successful and even worse, being happy! Instead, let’s focus on being present. Then watch yourself go from being “busy” to “great”.