It’s a harsh question but I have to ask: Is your excuse for not living life that you are too busy? Are you ignoring the important things and people around you because you feel like you must be doing something all the time?
I know I am always too busy and preoccupied.
The first thing that snaps into my mind as I wake is what to write about and publish that day. It’s almost as if my resting mind is not resting at all but thinking of ways to feed my obsession with doing something.
Anxiety will drive me insane if I am not thinking, or typing, or researching, or reading, or editing, or one of a million other things I do to get me closer to the goal of being a financially successful writer.
Notice I didn’t say, great writer, because for me to be great, I will have to spend many more years learning the craft and making mistakes. It is not necessary to be a great writer to be monetarily successful.
No, my goal right now is to make a living as a writer, and I spend every waking hour either doing or thinking of things that will help me get one step closer to realizing my ambitions.
It’s almost like an addiction.
Even when I should be paying attention to my wife, or enjoying a fleeting moment with my son as he drifts off to sleep, I am preoccupied. I should be paying attention to the ones I love because these little moments with my family won’t last forever.
I will not be here forever.
But I can stop my mind churning, thinking of what to write, how to write, when to write, and why to write.
What is this preoccupation with making sure I am doing something every minute of every day?
What Do I Feel the Need to be Busy?
Where did I get that idea that for me to be effective, I need to be busy?
One of my mistaken notions is if I am not hustling, my wife will think I am lazy. Yes, like any spouse or parent, my wife nags when she feels like I am not holding up my side of the bargain. But that doesn’t mean she thinks I shouldn’t rest my body and mind. It doesn’t mean she thinks I should always be moving and working — she, more than anyone, tells me that I need to take care of myself and not work so hard all the time.
I do the same for her.
Where Do I Get the Idea I Should Be Busy?
Raj Raghunathan Ph.D., in a Psychology Today article, suggests humans are miserable if they are not busy. But we cannot be busy for the sake of being busy; we need a reason.
What is my reason? I need to make money, and I want to be a successful writer. Would I be miserable if I wasn’t forcing myself to be busy all the time? Is my happiness tied to me pushing myself beyond what’s asked and is reasonable?
A light bulb went on.
If I look back to yesterday, which was supposed to be a no-work family day, what did I do? I spent the morning on social media, promoting my work. After we left the house and arrived to have breakfast with the in-laws, I was staring at my cellphone, researching a topic I wanted to write about later. It wasn’t until my wife got angry with me that I put my work away and paid attention to those around me.
But, I was still guilty about not being busy for the rest of the day.
Like many, I wear my busyness like a badge of honor, when in truth, I should feel the opposite about sacrificing my time with my family for the sake of work.
Dr. Raghunathan writes:
“It seems plausible that the happiness people get from being busy can potentially blind them from examining the intricate web of consequences, both good and bad, that emerge out of their actions.”
I know I should be spending time with my family while I can, but the need for me to stay busy, pushing towards my goal, forces me to ignore the very people I am trying to make happy.
How do I quit living this way?
How Do We Stop Being Busy?
We need to realize that this constant worry and activity is not healthy for either our mind or our body. Once we change how we think about being busy, it is a simple thing to go about changing the habit.
Slowly is the easiest way to change a bad habit. Commit to working on one small thing a day. For me, my first task is to stop waking up thinking of work or spending the first thirty minutes of my day scrolling through notifications. Instead, I will spend time with the people who matter to me: my wife and children.
What Happens When We Stop Pushing Ourselves to be So Busy?
Can we change the way we look at work without making ourselves miserable? What happens when we stop churning and start living?
- We focus on what matters most by prioritizing what we want to do instead of what we think we have to do.
- We will think of better ideas more regularly.
- We will be able to plan for and adapt to change because change is a constant in our lives.
- When our minds are not always occupied, we will be learning more relevant information faster.
- We will feel happier by our own definition, and be more fulfilled with our lives.
Start living a fulfilling life and working with the important things in life at the top of our minds.
It’s never too hard or too late to change habits that are not working in our best interests.
Let’s stop being so busy.
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