I continue to be inspired by Heather Seller’s book Page after Page. Yesterday I was especially struck by her thoughts on being (too) busy:
“Every time you tell the word you are busy, you are saying to the universe: I need busy work because I am afraid. You are telling us that you like being busy. You are saying to the rest of us: Stay back a little bit. Don’t come over to my house tonight. Who wants to be around the swamped? No one. It’s safe. It’s a protection.
“You are saying: I am unhappy; I am afraid of my power. You are saying to us, to yourself: I am important and in a hurry and people just don’t understand how good I am, especially me.”
Wow. Give that a few minutes to sink in.
Her words are spot on for me, because yesterday I agreed to teach a couple of classes in the fall after having taken last year off to focus on my writing. I still want to focus just as much on my writing. In fact, I don’t want to lose the momentum I’ve gained, the excitement I feel. At the same time, I find myself missing teaching, the college community, the co-workers and students, the space away from home that is mine. The only thing I don’t miss (and I know I speak for other teachers here) is the grading, and that is not enough reason to stay away.
However, I also do not like feeling too busy. Not one bit. So I am going to head into the fall with the mindset of gratitude for being able to do what I love to do—teach and write, write and teach, teach as a way to improve my writing, write as a way to enhance my teaching—and resist the temptation to label any of that work done out of love “being busy.”
The Bing Blog post Twenty Questions: Are You Too Busy? is written for office workers, but most of the questions can help all of us to think about whether we have allowed ourselves to be too busy. Here’s an example: “Do you put yourself to sleep at night thinking about all you have to do the next day, and then wake at 3:00 AM filled with free-floating anxiety?”
Sometimes we are “too busy” in our minds, letting our thoughts run frenetically even if our bodies are idle. Other times we create schedules for ourselves that sabotage any chance for meaningful, intense thought, as Alina Tugend suggests in “Too Busy to Notice You’re Too Busy“:
“Of course, it is not just in the work force that people are madly busy. Many people I know, who might be able to enjoy some downtime because their children are in school and they do not have paying jobs, pile errands on top of volunteering on top of working out on top of, well, you name it. When the children get out of school, they race from one activity to another, and if at some point life seems to calm down, then it is time to take on a big construction project, get a dog or have another baby.”
Tugend offers tips for how to use technology such as email differently so as to take back some control over how busy we feel. Sometimes, though, how we think about a problem is the first and most important step toward real change, which is why I like Rick Juliusson’s “3 Steps to Stop Being ‘Busy‘”:
“Step two was to take the power away from the word ‘busy.’ It’s just an adjective, not a noun. It’s an interpretation, an internal label that we can control, not a state of affairs buzzing around us like a swarm of To-Do lists. I started using positive words like ‘full’ or ‘energized’ or ‘active,’ anything to remind myself that I’m involved in a lot of things that bring Joy and meaning to my life.”
Juliusson’s first step was to stop telling people how busy he was. Instead, he discussed details of what he was engaged in—a much more pleasant and energizing conversation starter.