An Accomplished Life
“Beware the barrenness of a busy life.” — Socrates
“Hi Tom, how are you?”
“I’m well Jane, just extremely busy.”
“Oh, I’m glad to hear you’re keeping busy.”
“Yes, I’m flat out at the moment.”
The above interaction is one that takes place between people on a daily basis.
But what is behind the busyness?
Is it a way to deflect attention from what really matters?
People brag about their busy lives to highlight living an accomplished life to their peers.
Similarly, they may wish to communicate how meaningful their work is and so it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.
Being occupied implies you are consumed with matters of significance. That is why people emphasise their busyness, to have you know they are important.
Busy people struggle to keep their attention in the present moment because their focus lies in future events and planning for the next project.
“We become active and busy, but this doesn’t actually move us any closer to success. Activity is often unrelated to productivity, and busyness rarely takes care of business,” states authors Gary Keller and Jay Papasan in, The One Thing: The Surprisingly Simple Truth Behind Extraordinary Results.
I question those who have a hectic schedule as a method to divert their attention from connecting with their core self.
The title quote by the Greek philosopher Socrates, invites you to be wary of a busy life which can be barren.
The busy person is disconnected from others, simply because their attention is focussed on their own commitments. There is the impression of a purposeless life, masked behind the facade of a frantic lifestyle.
Busyness can be reframed to imply your pursuits are purposeful instead of busy.
Gary Keller and Jay Papasan affirm, “Don’t focus on being busy; focus on being productive. Allow what matters most to drive your day.”
Busy or Just Unproductive?
“It is not enough to be busy. So are the ants. The question is: What are we busy about?” — Henry David Thoreau
You can be busy but not productive and still chase your tail.
Beneath the busyness lies the unconscious desire to be rewarded for hard work.
People believe being preoccupied is impressive and associated with status. You must be pursuing something prestigious, otherwise you wouldn’t be busy.
I’m reminded of an episode in the Seinfeld sitcom where the character George Costanza, played by Jason Alexander, walks around the office looking annoyed. He realises that being busy is associated with stress and works hard to uphold this facade.
He appears irritated, causing his supervisor; Mr. Wilhelm to fear George is cracking under the pressure of his work.
While this scenario is fictional, it shows how people unconsciously use busyness to draw attention to themselves.
Similarly, you may believe multitasking is indicative of productivity. Busyness implies being on top of things which is often the furthest thing from the truth.
“Productivity isn’t about being a workhorse, keeping busy or burning the midnight oil…. It’s more about priorities, planning, and fiercely protecting your time,” affirms associate editor at Psych Central, Margarita Tartakovsky.
The busy pandemic comes at a cost to people’s well-being and happiness. You may find it difficult to disconnect from work to spend time with family. These are the pursuits that rejuvenate you instead of deplete you.
Busyness can be a sign of procrastination. It is a smoke screen to cover up being overwhelmed and in need of help to prioritise your life.
Consequently, those in the creative field will tell you they are absorbed in their interests and not busy with work.
It was the late Stephen R Covey, author of The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People who said, “It is possible to be busy — very busy — without being very effective.”
The Demands Of A Hectic Schedule
“When someone tells you they are too ‘busy’… It’s not a reflection of their schedule; it’s a reflection of YOUR spot on their schedule.” ― Steve Maraboli
It is vital that you set clear boundaries if you wish to be fulfilled. Busy people find it difficult to say ‘no’ since they do not wish to offend others or be seen as incapable.
I’m yet to meet a busy person satisfied with their hectic schedule. I’m certain they would trade their frantic life for: less work, more time and money.
Occasionally, you might be pulled by circumstances not of your choosing. Business may unexpectedly increase if you’re self-employed as you try to meet the pressures of growing sales. But that doesn’t mean you are happy if all you are doing is working to provide for the demands of other people.
You have a choice how you spend your time. To claim you are busy is failing to prioritise your time wisely.
“Everybody’s busy. Everyone does the actions. But were they the right actions? Were those actions productive? Did you take a step forward? These are questions that most people never take the time to think about,” reminds us author Jeff Olson in, The Slight Edge.
After all, what is the point of being busy and stressed to the point of exhaustion that your health and relationships suffer, just to improve your bottom line?
Surely, there’s a more efficient way to work in the 21st century?
Busy people are prone to being overwhelmed if they continue to drive themselves hard. It is not healthy to run yourself into the ground and expect to stop at the drop of a hat.
Something must give. That is why many turn to excessive drinking to help them wind down or toxic behaviours such as: compulsive eating, gambling or whatever distracts them from what is important.
We all have the same hours in the day and how you spend it is entirely up to you. Many people squander their time running around believing they are productive, when they are simply busy due to their lack of organisation and prioritisation.
I’ve had the privileged of coaching thousands of CEO’s and senior executives over a fifteen year period, most of whom treat themselves and their employees like robots. Sadly, they eventually succumb to stress and health issues and believe it is their fault for being weak.
“We are so busy being enticed by our next endeavour that we forget to savour what is already there and could be deeply meaningful. It is useful to remember the adage “The more things change, the more they remain the same” avows author Bernard Roth in, The Achievement Habit: Stop Wishing, Start Doing, and Take Command of Your Life.
A better way to reframe busyness is to state you are productive or engaged in what you are doing. Conversely, communicating you have taken on more than you can handle, is a step towards reclaiming your lost time.
This is not a cry for help, but exposing your vulnerability to those willing to help you better manage your time.
Find ways to be less busy and more engaged so you are in Flow, as the Hungarian psychology Professor, Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi espouses.
Busyness is a not indicative of a rewarding life if all you are doing is jumping from one task to the next.
Those who manage their time successfully hold on to it like it was their last breath. They prioritise what is important and so should you.
I invite you to think with the end in mind as Stephen R. Covey conveys in his teachings.
Only then will you appreciate what really matters and worth devoting your time and energy towards.