If I had a pound for every time someone started a conversation with me by saying ‘I know you’re busy but…’, I wouldn’t be busy ever again. We seem to be obsessed with busyness in this country and often feel that if we aren’t busy, we aren’t doing something right. Even when we aren’t at work, we seem to fill up every second of our day with activity whether it is taking the children to various clubs and activities (filling up their days too, in other words), doing chores or attending social engagements when we’d, honestly, rather be at home watching the telly. What drives us to be perpetually busy and why is this, potentially, such a bad thing?
Our culture seems to value productivity above all else and we seem to judge our value as people on how productive we are. A way most people evaluate their value is by comparing themselves to others and this is how so many people find themselves in a productivity arms race where they push themselves to do more and more to prove to everyone that they are as valuable as the people they see around them. Social media and our linguistic habit of replying to ‘how are you?’ with ‘I’m good but so busy’ are adding to this feeling that everyone around us is super busy and we should be too.
Another reason individuals may be pushing themselves to be busy all the time – and this is going to be a very hard thing to admit to yourself if you are one of them – is because we are compensating for, or running away from, something. If you want to be painfully honest with yourself, you need to ask if you are keeping yourself busy to avoid stopping and thinking about things. Focusing on relatively small but immediate and easily solvable problems can be a great way to avoid thinking about far more profound and difficult issues in our lives. I think we all do it to a certain extent but some people are piling stress on stress to avoid stress! It’s not healthy and is storing up problems for later on.
So, what can we do about it? Have you heard the expression ‘we’re human beings, not human doings’? We need to stop judging ourselves and others on productivity and focus on simply being. It’s also helpful to identity how much of the ‘busyness’ is actually physically trying to get things done and how much is worrying about things. Getting organised can be really helpful with this. Not everyone is a fan of lists but having a ‘to do’ list and crossing things off as you do them is incredibly satisfying and helps you focus on what you need to do rather than worrying that you’ve forgotten something. I also find scheduling time in my day for breaks, exercise classes, floats or any sort of relaxation is a great way of convincing myself that I have got time to do these things. Whichever way you choose to address this issue, it’s worth doing because we’re stressing ourselves out and that can have serious long term consequences on our health and wellbeing.