The Easiest of Revolutions
What would you say if I told you liberation from one of the most restrictive regimes in everyday life can be achieved with two words?
I’m going to start a revolution and I’d like to invite you along. You’re going to love it, it’s really simple: When I ask you how you are, you’re going to say “good thanks”.
And with those two beautifully short, crisp words our revolt against the restrictive dictatorship of busyness will begin.
Neither of us will mention the taboo phrases: “not enough hours in the day”, “when did it get so crazy?”, or “do you know someone I can pay to watch and summarise Netflix series for me?”
As our conversation unfolds, something beautiful will happen.
We’ll stop searching for social kudos based on how awesomely busy we are, the oppressing chains of our schedules will disappear, and we’ll become infinitely more interesting as crowds gather to hear us converse like the times of old.
It’s a life-changing moment we can experience together, but I’ve got quite a lot on today so I’m running late. And so are you, so it doesn’t matter. Oh well, perhaps another time — I have a gap in the diary in October?
No one is quite sure when this all started, or who started it, but I don’t think it matters anymore. We’re here. A place where busyness is the new social currency, trading stocks in each conversation, monitoring our value against rising and falling competitors. We know that busyness equals success and we know that success brings respect.
And so we parade our to-do list around like a key life achievement, lifting it high above our heads like a shiny trophy.
I would say it’s the equivalent of the school playground brag, but that would be unfair. The playground brag had a semi-respectable achievement behind the boastful facade; The wonder of completing a rubix cube, riding your bike without stabilisers, a long-distance shot skimming in off a goalpost – they are beautiful achievements in the life of a child.
The busyness brag is far pettier than that. It’s an empty, redundant measurement of our worth. It’s dismissive of our ability to be productive, to be current, to be available. I know that deep down, but it doesn’t stop me reeling off the script I’ve unconsciously committed to memory.
And with every recital I’m spiralling further and further into a black hole that ends not with efficiency and success, but comparison and unhappiness.
You see we’re already halfway down the slippery slope. If you don’t believe me, just look around. We’ve put the busiest man on the pedestal quicker than you can say “Push Notifications Enabled”, and forgotten about the most productive man. We’ve idolised the ‘Inbox-Zero’ and forgotten about the effective, personable communicator. We’ve allowed caffeine to distort our expectations of what a human can humanly do in the space of a morning, and forgotten what two creative minds can achieve with a few empty hours and a blank whiteboard. And most tragically of all, we’ve put our trust in external mechanisms to arrange the compartments of our brain, and forgotten about the beautifully created, fit-for purpose mechanisms our brain has for arranging its own compartments.
So rather than see this as positive affirmation of our own self-worth and social standing, we need to call a spade a spade and see the impact that busyness has on our lives and the lives of those around us.
It holds us back from doing the things we love.
In our pursuit of hurried living we discard the stuff that gives us true identity and enjoyment. Like reading a whole book in one sitting. Like walking 5 miles across the countryside and having a Sunday pub lunch. Like spontaneous trips to Harry Potter World. Like finally learning how to speak Japanese. Like visiting people you haven’s seen in a while. Like spending time on your Cat Café idea (It was a low moment in my life when I discovered someone has already invented that, watching my multi-million-pound franchise go up in smoke. RIP ‘Feline Hungry’).
I don’t have a quick-fix answer to all of this, but even if I did it wouldn’t matter unless we were all onboard. Let’s make a promise: I’ll stop telling you about that time I stayed up overnight to finish my 3rd novel of the month if you stop telling me how busy your son is between Judo class, extra history lessons, Theodore’s birthday party, and flute tuition.
Wow, even 9 year olds are busier than I am.
So, what do you say? Up for a Busyness revolution?