Rethinking the value of being busy

Chillin’.

No matter where I go, conversation inevitably turns to how busy we are. It’s almost automatic. “Hi, how are you?” “Ugh, so busy, it’s crazy.”

All I have to do is look around to see the evidence — we’re on our phones answering texts, we’re rushing in traffic, we’re distracted in conversations, we download apps that act as checklists and planners and to-dos. We’re rarely in the present moment.

When I’m with my friends, we talk about schedules, jobs, how busy and stressful everything seems to be. And then I pick up my favorite magazines for light night-time reading and I’m hit with it again — article after article about how we are stressed out, busy to the point of frenzy, and what we should do to correct it. Only it’s not actually acceptable to be less busy — to let go of anything on our plate or curb our to-do lists to a manageable level.

Case in point: that “how to overcome your stress” article is next to an aspirational article about some actress who is shooting five movies, developing a TV show, debuting a clothing line, and working out 2 hours a day, of course, in between dating really hot actors. Her life is fabulously busy and successful, right?

Here’s the secret truth: none of us actually want to stop feeling busy.

Busy-ness makes us feel important, needed. But it’s also robbing us of joy. Of life.

For example, a recent study done by Care.com had this to say about the state of women’s emotional health:

  • a survey of 1000 working moms found they spend a mere six hours alone with their partner each week
  • 1 in 4 say they cry alone at least once a week due to household-related stress
  • 29% of working moms won’t hire outside help because they feel guilty about not being able to do it all themselves.

Maybe it’s time we have a new plan — one that doesn’t include crying ourselves to sleep or feeling guilty for all we didn’t accomplish that day, that week, that year. I don’t know about you, but I’m tired of all the busy-ness. Some days, I just want to lay in the grass without worrying about getting the laundry done, planning for the next project, writing at least 2,500 words, or answering emails.

Instead of trying to do it all, let’s try a different approach:

Accept what is.

Are the dirty dishes sitting in your sink? Did you forget your niece’s birthday? Stop beating yourself up. What if it was okay that the dishes sat a little longer — if it meant that you spent more time playing with your kids or enjoying an evening walk? Chores can wait. Enjoyment can’t.

Embrace yourself as you are.

We women are typically trying to “improve” ourselves, and one of the manifestations is being busy. It shows that we are valuable, worthy, striving to achieve acclaim and validation. There is always a way to be “better” than we are now. But what if we are already enough? What if just sharing a hug or a night of movies with your friends made you feel whole? Getting that promotion, deal, or award is a great feeling, but often, we keep chasing these external forms of validation without any lasting happiness. Instead, try cultivating more peace in your life, and let go of always trying to be “better.” Ambition is great, but it shouldn’t define who you are or your value.

Leave blocks of free time for yourself on the weekend.

Just because you have a spare half hour here and there doesn’t mean you should spend it on your phone or occupying yourself with productive tasks. We can’t be in work mode all the time, or we will burn out quickly. Sometimes, it’s good to just sit. Watch what goes on around you. Observe life instead of throwing yourself into it. It brings a measure of peace that you might be lacking right now.