Busy is a badge of honour.
As a business owner, I am often asked the question, “How is business?” To indicate we are successful and prospering, I used to answer, “Busy!” But this association between success and being busy is flawed.
I have nothing against hard work – in fact, I love working hard. Productivity and achievement are two of my favourite things. And I know success is often a product of dedication, perseverance, and focused effort. But do I need to create a busy life in order to be successful?
What do you think about when you hear the word ‘busy’?
Right away, I associate it with stress, full calendars, alerts on my phone and apple watch, picking up the kids and eating on the way to our next destination, missing phone calls, forgetting to call my sister, multi-tasking, auto-pilot, is it Monday already?
In the words of Bilbo Baggins, ‘busy’ has left me feeling “thin, sort of stretched, like butter scraped over too much bread.”
But what about my desire to achieve personal and professional success? Surely this busy life is just temporary and I will arrive at my perfect, balanced life any minute now. This is a necessary sacrifice. Things will get better. Likely by the Fall. In a year or two. Once I’ve paid off my loan. As soon as the kids are out of the house. Insert rationalization here.
Let me turn this on its head for you here:
What if being busy is simply a choice and is not necessary to live a successful and fulfilling life?
Ask yourself this – what would you do if you weren’t so damn busy? Go on! Write it down or list it outloud. I can almost guarantee that your response included things, experiences, or people that are truly lifegiving, rejuvenating, joyful and sacred. And these are the things you would get to if you weren’t so busy sending emails, driving here and there, juggling a hundred balls at once.
So here is a gentle approach to experience the opposite of busy. Take it or leave it, try it or turf it. But remember, in the end, we won’t regret all the emails we didn’t send or the errands we didn’t run. We will wish for more time to be un-busy. Late lunch with friends on a sunny patio, Sunday morning fishing trips with our children, witnessing the beauty of a sunset and being in complete awe of this amazing world in which we live.
Slowing down, even for just a few moments, could truly change your outlook on life. Give some of these a try and tell me how it goes.
There is magic in a solitary focus. Choose one thing you do often, even daily, and do that one thing in exclusion. Maybe it’s cooking breakfast. Instead of flipping the laundry while the eggs are burning or listening to the news while you turn the bacon, engage your senses during the entire process and stay present with what you are doing. Yes, I am saying, wake up and smell the bacon! If you find your mind begins to wander and you start drafting an email or planning out your day, just gently bring yourself back to the task at hand.
If you’re like me, much of your life is on your phone. I can do business anywhere, and while this is an amazing testament to our technological advancement, it also means I need some firm boundaries as to when I allow technology into my life. For example, do you always eat dinner in front of the TV? Dinner is a great opportunity to connect with your family members about their day, express gratitude for the food on your table and the home that you live in. Or maybe members of your family (yourself included) bring their phones to the table. Create times in your day when technology is not welcome. Another great time for this is before bed. If you have last minute ideas or tasks that need to be recorded, grab a piece of paper! There are many studies suggesting technology before bed can disrupt our sleep cycles anyway, so improve your sleep hygiene and tuck that phone away. Take the dog for a walk, do a puzzle, have a bath, read a book. TV isn’t the only way to decompress after a long day.
Calendars & Day Planners
If you have a ‘busy schedule’ and you’re not using some kind of day planning system, it might be time to give it a shot. The great thing about laying out your day in advance is you have to be realistic about what you can accomplish. You also start considering what the most important tasks or events of your coming day are so you are more likely to prioritize those and stay on track. Even if you don’t have a conventional day job, there is still much value in planning your day. Schedule time to hit the grocery store, have date night with your partner, call the doctor to book an appointment, get to your exercise class, plan your family vacation. Seeing your day laid out in advance with realistic times represented will not only prevent you from overbooking yourself, but it will also shed some light on how you spend your time. Perhaps there are areas of your life that are not being prioritized in a given week. Laying out your day or week in advance can help you make the most out of your time and encourage you to include not only your “have-to’s” but your “want-to’s” too.
And if none of these sit well with you, then simply try answering the question “How are you doing?” differently. Strike the word ‘busy’ from your vocabulary. If you are feeling overwhelmed or stressed, other honest responses could be “My days are pretty full lately!” or, “This is an exciting time for me with lots on the go.”
When we reframe our life to see the positive, a ‘busy day’ can turn into an opportunity to experience gratitude for the fulfilling job you have, the growing children you’re raising, or the concerted efforts you are making to build the life of your dreams.
So go seek that success! Just remember that sacrificing your joy and sanity is not mandatory. Our lives can be full without feeling ‘busy’.