When did “Busy!” become the go-to answer when asked that routine question, “How are you?” or “How have you been?”? I have been thinking about this “busyness” thing a lot lately. Really doing some soul searching. To be honest? I’m not all that proud of what I’ve discovered.
A couple of days ago I listened to this periscope by Crystal Paine. She talks about her addiction – to busyness. While her situation and personality type is different than mine, it did make me think.
I asked myself the question: Why am I so busy?
My first answer was “Because I have so much to do.” Yes, I’m a bit of a smart aleck even when talking to myself.
I started to dig deeper, though, and I came up with several reasons:
- I’m passionate about certain causes (hunger, homelessness, justice) and want to make a difference.
- I have so many interests that it’s hard for me to choose so I try to do them all.
- I sometimes think no one else can do it as well as I can.
- I don’t like to disappoint people by saying “no”.
- I feel a little guilty that I don’t have to work outside the home so I take on lots of volunteer work to justify myself.
- I want people to think well of me and be impressed by what I’m doing.
Did you notice that with each of those reasons I got closer to the truth? I mean, all of them are “true” but when I strip it all down to bare bones, I overcommit because I care too much what everyone else thinks of me and my choices. Ouch.
I don’t want to live my life according to what I think others expect of me. And those expectations may be mostly in my own head anyway. The truth is, I can say no sometimes and people will still like me. And if not, they probably weren’t that important anyway.
It’s too easy to jump aboard the hamster wheel and just keep running without a thought about where we are going. Or even recognizing that we aren’t going anywhere at all.
I start each day with a daunting to-do list and by noon I’m already “behind”. That’s ridiculous and something has to change.
The thing is, almost all of this is self-induced. David doesn’t expect me to do anything much more than cook tasty meals, sleep with him and be happy. I’m truly lucky in that regard. I have a husband who is totally supportive of any (harebrained) scheme I come up with yet doesn’t really care if I do anything more than provide a comfortable home life for him.
So I can’t blame it on anyone but myself.
Year before last we started a business and drove ourselves to the brink of exhaustion. We re-evaluated at the end of that year and cut back. We basically hibernated at home for about 3 months. We needed the downtime. But somehow, before we knew it, life got out of balance again. I decided to start this blog and treat it like a real business. The committees and boards I serve on have become more time-consuming. And now we are in the process of turning our music business into a non-profit which will bring its own challenges in the months to come.
I don’t want to look back on my life and say, “Well, at least I finished my to-do list each day.” I do want to be productive but I also want to enjoy life. To simply “be” sometimes.
A couple of weeks ago I decided I would take a break at 4 p.m. each afternoon to have a cup of tea and read for about half an hour. Would you like to know how many times that has happened? Zero. Nada. Zilch. A couple of times I’ve made it to the library with tea and book just as David is arriving home from work. Almost!
I’m doing relatively well getting in some treadmill time each day but haven’t done a Rosetta Stone lesson in months. I gave up piano lessons because of the time commitment but promised myself I would keep playing every day on my own. Sometimes I go days without playing a note. I want to turn one of our bedrooms into an office but haven’t taken the first step to make that happen.
So many things I want to do that just aren’t happening.
And yet I feel like I’m constantly busy.
I don’t have this all worked out yet. But I’m starting by actually scheduling some fun and some downtime in my day FIRST. I’m determined to have that 4 p.m. teatime. I also want to have dinner and cleanup done by 7 p.m. each night so I can get in one more hour of work before quitting at 8 p.m. That’s one reason I really want to get that office set up downstairs. My desk is in our bedroom and it’s all too easy to just keep working late at night. I need a quitting time. I need to be able to turn off the computer and shut the office door each evening at a reasonable hour.
I’m determined to carve out some other times in my week for non-work or volunteer activities. At one time I would try to have most of my work for the week done by the end of the day on Thursday. I still had a few things to do on Friday mornings but I tried to take Friday afternoons off. I would often watch a foreign film from Netflix or read a book. I called these as my “French Fridays”, a reference to an idea from the French Chic Yahoo Group I’m in.
You see, the French have a reputation for understanding how to truly live – how to make time for what’s really important.
I think it’s time to reinstitute French Fridays around here. I’m going to spend Friday mornings writing at the university library or a coffee shop. No social media distractions allowed – just writing. I may even indulge in lunch at a restaurant before going home. Then I’m going to spend the afternoon doing those things I never seem to find enough time for:
- reading a book
- watching a movie
- playing the piano
- Rosetta Stone
- learning to crochet
Hell, I might even take a nap once in awhile.
I work evenings and weekends a lot so it is totally reasonable to take an afternoon off each Friday. I think I’ll make better use of my time the rest of the week if I have this to look forward to. It will be my incentive to stay focused and not waste time.
I’ve got some decisions to make about the volunteer work I do but for now I’m not going to do anything rash. I am, however, not going to volunteer for anything else at the moment.
I’m also going to read or listen to this every few days:
So, what about you? Do you struggle with being too busy? Do you sometimes feel like life is passing you by? If so, let’s work on this together.
How to Curb the “Busy” and Enjoy Life
- Ask yourself why you are filling your to-do list and calendar with so much. Dig deep!
- What would you do if you had enough time? Make a list.
- Evaluate your priorities. If, like me, you have a lot of interests recognize that you simply cannot do it all, at least not all at once.
- Schedule some enjoyable activities and downtime into your week. Actually put these on your calendar.
- Declare a moratorium on new responsibilities.
- Practice saying “no”.