What does being busy mean? Filling your time with many things to do. Simple as that.
The so-called greatness of being busy
Typical North American society implies that if you’re busy, you’re productive, important, contributing. The deeper implication? That you’re fulfilled…just because your time is filled. The audible moans and groans about not having time to do anything else in your life because you have lots of work, family obligations, and chores to do is heralded. We ourselves half-complain, half-boast that we’re sooooo busy when talking with colleagues, meeting people at networking events, and catching up with acquaintances to put on a façade of importance. A badge of “making it” in working class society. No one admits to the negatives because they don’t want others to know that they don’t have a “perfect” life.
The negatives of being busy
If you’ve done any research into self-development, you probably know what some of the negatives are. There are countless articles out there about the negative implications about being busy/calling yourself busy/being proud to be busy. Here are just a few:
- Not making time for your priorities
- Spending less time with loved ones
- Lowered energy and immune system
- Less creative
- Feeling stressed and overwhelmed
- feeling unhappy
- Gives you something to hide behind to avoid dealing with some deeper problem, like a failing relationship, bad habits, discontent with work, etc.
Some of my favourite articles about busyness
I’m not going to re-write what’s already said many times before and in very eloquent, clear, and concise ways. Delve deeper into this subject yourself to improve your life. You’ll thank yourself (and me?) later.
Recognizing you’re too busy
- 15 signs you are too busy and should stop
- 7 signs that you’re way too busy
- 10 signs your life is too busy
Why you shouldn’t be busy
- 21 reasons why you should not be proud of being busy
- How the glorification of busyness impacts our well-being
- If you’re busy all the time you’re doing something wrong
- This is why you’re addicted to being busy
How to stop being busy
- Creating the habit of not being busy
- How to stop being busy all the time
- Many of the above articles also include information on how to stop being busy
We know that saying and feeling that we’re busy is mostly a bad thing. So why would I be proud to be busy?
My history of being busy
In my final year of high school, I learned about real-world time management. I made some friends outside of my Catholic all-girls high school bubble and actually went downtown by myself (much to the worry of my conservative parents) to hang out with them. It was only once a month or so in the final semester, but I noticed something changed. I was feeling more confident, excited, motivated. Of course, there are a few other factors in play like graduation coming up and exploring independence, but one thing did stand out: my grades were improving a lot. I realized that by going out to new environments, trying new things, nurturing new friendships, figuring out things on my own, etc. were building up skills like time management (including prioritization) and focus.
However, in university I took this to the extreme. I wanted to do everything and more on top of a full course load. Clubs, student council, part-time jobs, volunteering, starting side projects, auditing courses of interest, you name it, I was probably doing it at one point. Though I didn’t want to accept it, I knew I began neglecting my studies (as I wasn’t passionate about studying pre-med). I filled my schedule to the brim and double, even triple booked myself just to make sure I was doing something. These other time-takers were used to fulfill me, keep me busy, and avoid confronting the growing depression inside of me. And that is unhealthy behaviour.
In my final year, I took a lighter course load (as I had taken summer courses) and took on – sometimes unwillingly – fewer extracurricular activities. I began to reconnect with friends I didn’t realize I didn’t talk to anymore, got into a healthy relationship, and began my self-development journey. It was like I could breathe again. I felt both mentally and physically better, was easily able to manage my responsibilities (I still had quite a few), had better relationships, and got better grades. Part of it was the lighter course load and taking courses I was actually interested in. Most of it was stopping the madness of keeping busy, finding that sweet spot of responsibilities, reflecting and working on myself, and actually trying to enjoy life.
This luckily continued for the next 2 years while I worked 2 consecutive 9 to 5 jobs while saving up for my travels, where I had my specific work hours and time outside of that to do whatever else I wanted.
Traveling for 1.5 years was a special time and I found myself in a swing, oscillating between going hard, trying to see and do a lot, and burning out where I relaxed for at least a few days at a time. I was ok with this because of my time visa constraints in most countries.
Coming home in December 2019 was difficult, as it wasn’t my first choice, but I intended to make the most out of the opportunity that left me in an uncomfortable position – a position which I’ve grown accustomed to, which I use to continue to grow as a person in my self-development journey. I knew I needed goals, focus, and things to do to not slip into a funk. So that’s exactly what I did. First up: what am I going to do career-wise?
Why I choose to be “busy” now
Being busy is now a conscientious choice that I make, fully aware of its implications in my life. I know what being too busy means and feels like, how to take time for myself, that including time for relationships and self-care are part of that busy life and not an afterthought, and approximately how much workload to take on so that I am at the peak of engagement and motivation without being overwhelmed.
I am juggling about 9 projects right now: one of them being self-care, one of them about social relationships, one of them about experimenting with hobbies, one side hobby, one just at an exploration/introduction phase, and 4 key work-type projects. Sounds like a lot, but they all take up a different amount of time and effort (work takes more time than my relationships than my hobbies). This is what currently works for me and I’m often re-evaluating my situation so that I adjust to keep that balance healthy.
For the multipotentialite, a term coined by Emilie Wapnick to describe those who have multiple passions, this is exactly the right structure for me. We all have one that works for us individually. To find out more about this lifestyle is Emilie’s book How to Be Everything, which changed a lot about my perceptions of what my passions were, which ones to follow, and how to do so in a fulfilling way.
Now, I reject society’s normal “oh I’m so busyyy” and embrace my own definition of the term. I am self-induced busy, loving the variety that I get from having multiple things on the go, feeling more driven and passionate and alive than ever before.
And I hope you can find the right balance for your life too.