“Let’s not make busy get in the way.”
Because I like the prospect of connecting with people, this quote (or like-kind) has been part of my closing in an email or a voice mail I leave with a friend(s), a response to a text message about getting together, and/or my two cents when friends are “trying” to schedule a time to meet.
Wait. You’re what?
Remember the New York Times Opinionator, The “Busy” Trap? I do, because when it came out, I remember it was all the buzz among my friends. While I didn’t wholly agree with the NYT opinion, I understood the perspective. Shortly after the NYT article, there was a Wall Street Journal blog post – Busy: A Four Letter Word. The WSJ author’s perspective included the following –
Talking about how busy you are is idle banter about one intimacy grade above talking about the weather, and probably less useful. But it’s also a convenient, non-personal topic that everyone can relate to, a sort of verbal tic that people can spew when they’re bored, tired, or not interested in telling the truth about how it is really going. Because, when it’s not going well, “busy” is beautifully unassailable.
While I am more inclined to behave in a way like the NYT article (e.g., my way of creating space and idleness), I am totally on board with the WSJ perspective. I get it. I totally get it!
Keeping busy, am I?
Several weeks ago, someone asked me if I was keeping busy. For whatever reason, I had a flashback to a couple of years ago – when I read the NYT and WSJ articles. My answer to the question was something like “If by busy you mean doing stuff I like and stuff I have to do, yes, I am keeping busy.” And since then, I have revisited my relationship – busy + me.
So here are two things that have surfaced as part of revisiting busy + me – using the word busy and choosing your 168 hours in a week.
What if you stopped saying “busy”?
I came across this Washington Post article – Six reasons you’d be happier if you stopped saying “busy”, republished from Fulfillment Daily. (Below, I list the references included in the Post’s article.)
This article reminded me of times I have been on the receiving end (and a few times on the giving end) of these six reasons.
1. It keeps you from being present.
2. It disconnects you from other people.
3. It is a choice.
4. It is a cover-up.
5. Busy is not a feeling.
6. It can easily be re-framed.
Self-awareness and clarity
Self-awareness and clarity about what brings me joy and about my priorities are helpful. The “why” of what I do is already answered. This helps me decide how I spend my time – with whom, where, because, and what.
The author closes with the following –
“Before trying to figure out which responsibilities you should cut out of your life, try removing this one word from your daily conversations. It just may happen that life starts to seem a little less hectic.”
Everyone has 168 hours in a week.
Several years ago, I read Laura Vanderkam’s 168 Hours: The Blank Slate of Time from her ChangeThis manifesto. (I also read her book.) In short, everyone has 168 hours per week. However, many times, people opine about not having enough time. Vanderkam suggests at least first attending to time spent for one’s career, family, and personal life.
But that raises the question: if we have so many hours, why do we feel so starved for time?
I think the answer is that most of us aren’t very strategic about our hours. We tend to live life as it comes at us, which in our distracted world happens very fast. We don’t think about how we want to spend our time, and so we spend massive amounts of time on things—television, Web surfing, random conference calls or meetings, housework, errands—that give a slight amount of pleasure or feeling of accomplishment, but do little for our careers, our families, or our personal lives.
As part of Vanderkam’s approach, she recommends keeping a time log first to understand how one spends time.
But what if we approached time differently? What if we viewed our 168 hours as a choice? What if we filled in the things that mattered most—personally and professionally—first?
From this exercise, one can spend time contributing (or not contributing) to what matters most – one can discover changes to make.
So whenever you find yourself saying “I don’t have time to do X, Y, Z,” try changing your language. Instead, say “I don’t do X, Y, and Z because it’s not a priority.”
Vanderkam closes her manifesto as follows:
When you say “I don’t have time,” this puts the responsibility on someone else: a boss, a client, your family, capitalism, society. The power slips out of your hands. “It’s not a priority,” turns those 168 hours back into a blank slate, to be filled as you choose with the things you decide matter.
I remember while reading 168 hours, I became more mindful about busy + me. And I became more tuned-in when others expressed about the busyness of life. I believe them, and I believe they are busy.
So what if creating a blank slate means also coming to terms with the six reasons of being busy? Maybe it’s something to try – if even for a week. You know, for the next 168 hours.
And of course, from this, there are tiny habits and small shifts that can redefine one’s relationship with busy.
Which of the six reasons have you used, if any, in the past 3 months? How are you spending your 168 hours each week? When do you want to meet up to share being “busy”?
REFERENCES in the Washington Post article:
- Study in the Journal of Psychological Science, “Idleness Aversion and the Need for Justifiable Busyness” (.pdf)
- Study on Psychological Aspects of Natural Language Use: Our Words, Our Selves (.pdf)
- Study in Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, “The Benefits of Being Present: Mindfulness and Its Role in Psychological Well-Being” (.pdf)
- Infographic – Connect to Thrive – on social connection, Connectedness & Health: The Science of Social Connection
- Stanford’s Center for Compassion and Altruism Research and Education