Disclaimer: This is an opinion piece about choices I’ve made in my life.
Ask me if I’ve been busy lately and I will tell you that I don’t do busy. I’m not trying to be smart, it’s a central theme of how I live my life.
A while back I made a conscious decision to edit my life and one of the things I cut was my addiction to being busy all the time. In truth, I never liked being busy, it just seemed like the thing to do.
It’s the default response when you ask people how their day was or how they’ve been. Busy is a more pleasant euphemism when “stressed, exhausted and overwhelmed” would have been more accurate descriptions.
Being busy with lots of things to do made me feel important and interesting. I would gloat to people about how busy I was. I wore my busy-ness with pride. If there was a competition on who could be the busiest, I would have been a front-runner.
I used to have a busy job, managing multiple client portfolios and I had to be across $10 million in client projects. My days were back to back meetings, deadlines, presentations and dealing with the fallout when things went wrong. My phone rang hot and my inbox overflowed.
From the moment I entered the office, I would down several coffees and switch into hyperdrive. I hate to admit this but often times I would skip lunch, not drink any water and not go to the bathroom when I needed to because I was too busy. I would remain in a perpetual hurry and would act surprised when I couldn’t sleep at night. I was tired and wired.
This busy-ness would also spread to my free time where I constantly felt the need to be doing stuff and filling my spare time to the brim. I would attempt to ‘wind down’ with 3 screens open. I was the queen of multitasking.
Fortunately for me, my body put a stop to all this nonsense and I developed a chronic illness. This forced me to slow down and evaluate wtf was going on. When I wasn’t busy, I felt this gaping hole of emptiness and it made me feel super uneasy. When I wasn’t busy, a sense of restlessness bubbled to the surface and I couldn’t escape the dissatisfaction I felt about my existence and the meaning of my life.
I used to fill this emptiness with compulsive busy-ness because, you know, this infinite vortex of nothing was pretty uncomfortable. So I would stuff it with food, alcohol, exercise, shopping and the internet. But being forced to slow down made me realise how uncomfortable I was with a slow pace. It made me realise how much I was hiding underneath the busy-ness. I thought I was a happy and successful person. It turns out I wasn’t…
Slowing down and eliminating unnecessary busy-ness in my life has created space for more pleasure, ease and meaning. Consciously choosing to deal with myself, rather than distracting myself with being busy has been a catalyst for huge personal growth. But it wasn’t easy.
It’s a moment by moment choice to be with ourselves rather than running away. It takes courage to feel like shit instead of seeking the social media dopamine hit. We convince ourselves that doing something is better than nothing.
Not being busy has also made me more productive. I’m better able to focus, I can get stuff done when I need to but I do it in a relaxed way. I don’t rush and I’m rarely in a hurry. Because I don’t need to. Not being busy has opened up space for creativity in my life.
Yes, I’m lucky that I work for myself but everyone has a choice about how they spend their time.
Busy-ness is insidious and pervasive. The antidote is slowing down, breathing and connecting to the body. There’s a saying that you teach what you most need to learn. That’s why I teach slowing down, breathing, being in the body and calming the mind. It just so happens that my personal experiences and strategies to break the addiction to busy-ness resonate with others.