Our Busy-ness Competition

busyness grind productivity Dec 23, 2019

Starting out with an observation: as people, we like to tell other people how busy we are. Not just “I’m busy,” but giving a laundry list of tasks and activities that have or will keep us from getting together with our friends, is so very common.

That often triggers the competitive nature of the person we’re talking to so that they’re compelled to also list how busy THEY are! And consequently, we’ve begun to equate a person’s importance and status with how full their calendars are.

Right? Anyone who is competent at work will be asked to take on more responsibilities, and so often we gladly do. So, in high demand, you fill up your time with very important meetings and very important adult things. Then you are left to balance your remaining time between caring for yourself (if you even do that), completing your personal to-do list, and spending time with friends.

Why do we do all that, and what’s the alternative way of life? Do we really LIKE being that way? Here are a few things to consider if you’re someone who likes to flaunt your full calendar:

Consider How (and Why) You’re Communicating

If you’re listing off reasons why you can’t meet your friend for coffee this week, stop and think about your motivations for doing so. If you really want to spend time together, it could be that you want to say, “I’m stressed out right now, let me prove it to you so you don’t think I’m blowing you off.” What it says to them is “I don’t have time for you and could never fit you into my busy life.”

Why do we phrase things that way? Do you want them to see you in a certain light? Why is that important to you? Do they have a more flexible schedule that you feel resentful of?

Instead of blasting your friend with your schedule, try to simply say, “this week doesn’t work,” and propose an alternate date. Or invite that friend on a grocery shopping trip you’ve been putting off, and grab coffee before or after you fill your carts.


Take Stock of What You Value

When workers get caught up in busyness, they effectively put on “blinders” and can no longer see anything of importance other than the work at hand. At that point you aren’t looking at your life as a whole or considering your motivations for all that you’re putting on your plate.

Do you truly value busyness? Or do you use it to show your competence to your boss? Fill your time and avoid loneliness? Measure up to something you feel you haven’t yet become?

When you understand your values, you’ll be better able to justify balancing other things into your daily life. Time for your friends, time to take care of yourself, time for hobbies and working toward other personal goals.


Reflect on How You View Leisure Time

The more busy I am, the more purpose I feel. Does that statement ring true to you? How about this one: The more free time I have, the more inadequate I feel.

When you state that you’re busy, it’s mostly followed by “better than the opposite.” Is that true? And if it is, do we feel like leisure time indicates laziness, incompetence, lack of ambition?

What IS the opposite of busy? Learning what it means to you and de-stigmatizing it is what, we believe, leads to an ultimately fulfilling life. As Brené Brown says in her book Daring Greatly, she identifies the 10 Guideposts of Living Whole-Heartedly:

  1. Cultivating Authenticity: Letting Go of What Others Think

    How you’re spending your free time is your business and no one else’s. Are you being authentic to who you are in all your actions, or are you filling your calendar to strive to be perceived a certain way by others?

    One way we (Anthony and Beth) do this is by listing out our values so that they’re somewhere we can always look at them, and creating goals that align with those values. When we’re being our authentic selves, the way we’re living out our values becomes bulletproof to others’ thoughts and opinions.

  2. Cultivating Self-Compassion: Letting Go of Perfectionism

    Being imperfect is human, and recognizing that will set you free and allow you to be kinder to yourself. And taking time to be kind to yourself and practice self care will help you perform at your highest capacity.

    We know what it takes to keep up our highest levels of performance, and we regularly carve out time to do that so that we’re cycling through stages of being completely on our game, and recharging. THAT is better than the opposite - busyness and burnout, which often causes you to cycle through the unhealthy stages of exhaustion and survival mode and never perform at your best.

  3. Cultivating a Resilient Spirit: Letting Go of Numbing and Powerlessness

    What habits are you using to escape or “numb” yourself when you feel powerless? Build on your resilience, recognize what triggers those numbing behaviors and work to form replacement habits that either replenishes your spirit or help you work toward goals.

    What’s more…learn to sit with the feeling of powerlessness. Sometimes we turn to busy work and filling our schedules so that we can ignore what’s really going on in our lives. Escapism is typically engaging in a fantasy world to get away from life’s problems, but your work world is NOT your personal world, so the fantasy then becomes thinking of it AS your personal world and filling all your time with work. So it’s still escapism.

    You can get through whatever is going on in your personal life right now. Ask for help. But ignoring it will only make it worse.

  4. Cultivating Gratitude and Joy: Letting Go of Scarcity and Fear of the Dark

    When we’re thankful for the time that we have and make the most out of leisure time, it will start to feel like enough. You’re stressed because you’re feeling busy, but allowing for a moment’s rest is going to have the opposite effect than you think it will.

    When we let go of scarcity and fear of the dark, we’re able to see the good things we have, and we put more of an emphasis on making time for those things.

  5. Cultivating Intuition and Trusting Faith: Letting Go of the Need for Certainty

    We get it, you like to know that everything will all work out. You’ve put in so much work to get where you are, and sometimes your busyness or lack of it is thought to define where you’re going next.

    Can you trust in yourself and your abilities enough to let go of what may be in the future, and spend time in the present moment?

  6. Cultivating Creativity: Letting Go of Comparison

    When we compare ourselves to others, it creates an urgency to perform and stack our date books.

    When we’re truly creative, we are living into the joy of being rather than the stress of being as good as or as busy as your coworkers. Try to allow for expression of who you are in your free time and see what happens.

  7. Cultivating Play and Rest: Letting Go of Exhaustion as a Status Symbol and Productivity as Self-Worth

    This says it all right here, even though all the other pillars play into this. You deserve time to rest and to play. Your worth is not based on how busy you are. It is OK to have free time - and to ENJOY that. How does it feel to hear that?

  8. Cultivating Calm and Still: Letting Go of Anxiety as a Lifestyle

    In true moments of calm and still, we aren’t worried about what happened today at the office. We aren’t trying to tie up loose ends from home or worrying about how tomorrow will play out. Sometimes it’s okay to cut loose and do something for no other purpose than relaxation!

  9. Cultivating Meaningful Work: Letting Go of Self-Doubt and “Supposed To”

    You are good at what you do. Can you sit with that knowledge and stop trying to be everything to everyone? Can you work more efficiently and do what is meaningful to you without thinking others will think less of you, or that you’re “supposed to” be doing more? Creating more meaningful work can leave you with less stress afterward, and can help you know what needs to be cut out in order to make work more fulfilling.

  10. Cultivating Laughter, Song, and Dance: Letting Go of Being Cool and “Always in Control”

    Finally, you have a unique personality that chances are you have been holding back from the world if you haven’t been allowing yourself a chance to let go in your leisure time. Give rest and fun a try - and make the world more beautiful because you’re in it.

How do these guideposts resonate with you in your life? What do they mean to you? And do they make you reconsider how you’re competing with your busyness?


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