Since when did being ‘busy’ become our definition of success?
I find that when I ask people how they’re going, they often say something like: “Yeah, good, busy!” or “I’m so flat out at the moment!” Or they ask me “How’s work? Busy?”
I get it. Being ‘busy’ suggests you have lots of work coming in. Which equals money. Which equals success (apparently).
And I fall for it too.
I feel like I need to say “Yeah, I’m SO BUSY” as some sort of proof that I’m not failing at this whole business thing.
Plus, I go so far as to say “Wow, you must be so busy!” when other people tell me all the stuff they’ve got going on. And they proudly respond “Yeah, really busy, it’s good!”
Then the other day I was talking to a guy at my co-work space. He runs three companies and is getting another off the ground. He told me how he was in the process of getting an investor on board.
“Wow, you must be so busy!” I gushed.
“Well, right now I’m just waiting for them to confirm,” he said. “So I don’t really have much to do at the moment.”
His honesty was refreshing. I realised I didn’t need to provide ‘proof of success’ through being ‘busy’ all the time.
So in my quest for personal and professional authenticity, I’ve resolved to no longer go on about how ‘busy’ I am. Instead, I’ll say: “I’m as busy as I want to be” – which is true! This is one of the perks of working for oneself. Of course there are a million things I could be doing, but doing them all simply isn’t possible. And, frankly, when it gets to 3pm my productivity plummets like a flaming parachute.
After all this thinking, I’ve discovered two truths about being ‘busy’:
1. Being ‘busy’ is not the same as being ‘productive’
Don’t pretend you don’t know what I’m talking about. You can spend a whole day claiming how ‘busy’ you are and not actually getting anything done. But somehow society has taught us that if we’re not ‘busy’ working massive hours then clearly we’re not working hard enough. It’s stupid.
This article even goes so far to say that ‘busy-ness’ is a form of laziness.
I’d rather get better at ‘mindfulness’ – in particular, the ability to focus on one thing at a time. When I’m writing a blog post, I want to ONLY be writing that blog post. With my phone and the internet OFF. When I’m at yoga, I want to be focusing on my pose. When I’m talking to someone, I want to be completely present and really listen.
2. Being ‘busy’ doesn’t make you successful or happy
We always feel this pressure to do ‘more’. But doing too much eventually burns you out, and actually makes you LESS effective at what you’re doing. Plus, it can lead to overwhelm. As Tim Ferriss says:
Being overwhelmed is often as unproductive as doing nothing, and is far more unpleasant. Being selective – doing less – is the path of the productive. Focus on the important few and ignore the rest.
In my case, I’m a one-woman show. If I get crazy ‘busy’ and take on too much, I get sick or I migraine, and then I can’t do a single bloody thing! It doesn’t mean that I don’t work hard. It just means that I work hard when it counts. And when I need to take a nap, I take a nap.
I don’t want to be BUSY. I want to be PRODUCTIVE and EFFECTIVE so I can get my shit done quicker so I have more time to spend with my friends, family, my lovely boyfriend and, of course, myself.
To me, that’s success.
Shift your belief
I’m not going to tell you how to be more productive. There are a million blogs and articles about productivity. Instead, I challenge you to shift your belief about being ‘busy’. Are you ok with, perhaps, NOT being busy?
Imagine if someone said “How’s work? Busy?” and you said: “Actually, not really, and it’s awesome! I’m really enjoying life right now!”
I don’t think they’d know what to say.
So next time someone asks how you are, I challenge you to reply with something other than “Really busy”. Try talking about the things that make you feel good instead. And instead of asking someone if they’re busy, ask them if they’ve been productive. Or if they’re enjoying their work. Isn’t that a better measure of success?