You are busy. It wasn’t always like this. There used to be time for hobbies, or day trips, or movie nights, or reading.
But Busyness spoke sweet nothings in your ear. Promised you more. Offered you everything you ever wanted: more money, smarter kids, better body, yummier food, more culture. Said you were soul mates. You said, “Just this once. It won’t mean anything. I can stop whenever I want. It’ll feel so good.”
Try as you might, you got attached. Soon Busyness was calling all the time. She dominated your schedule. Instead of all that “more,” you had less: less focus, fewer relationships, less clarity. Instead of love & kindness, Busyness made you resentful, self-centered.
Busyness, it turns out, is a cruel mistress.
And she’s a little whiny, too!
As with any bad relationship, your affair with Busyness is harder to get out of than it was to get into.
Busyness isn’t just a jealous lover. She’s also a habit. You get in the habit of having too much to do. You get attached to feeling overwhelmed. You learn to depend on being unfocused. You know it doesn’t feel good but you just can’t stop.
Part of the problem with being busy is that you often don’t realize your own busyness until you stop at the end of the day, drained. It requires an awakening of mindfulness to even realize how deeply you’ve been seduced.
One man said if he pauses it feels like death to him. This speaks to the power of habit. We associate acting habitually with security, ground, and comfort. It gives us the feeling of something to hold on to. Our habit is just to keep moving, speeding, talking to ourselves, and filling up the space.
— Pema Chodron, Taking the Leap
When you tell me how busy you are, that’s not what I hear you say. I hear you say that you’re afraid to stop, to try something different, to pause for no reason, to reflect, to jump forward. I hear you say that you fear you have no original ideas, that the world won’t accept your true passion, that the world will fall apart if you don’t just keep moving.
I hear you say that you don’t know how to be anything but busy. Instead of being “you” who is busy, you’ve started to associate Busyness with your identity. If you’re no longer busy, who are you?
how to have your way with the time you have
It’s a certainty of 21st century life that you will be busy sometimes. But Busyness need not define you. It does not have to be normal.
You may have been seduced by Busyness but that doesn’t mean you can’t have your way with the time you do have. Try these tips for creating a full schedule on your own terms.
1. Take notes.
It’s hard to know where you can cut back, delegate, or make space when your day is a blur. Spend a few days or even a week taking notes about what you do. Just like keeping a food journal, write down as much detail as possible. Notice any patterns? Are there times when you create tasks or responsibilities to avoid downtime?
As I was rediscovering my own self, taking care of a house, raising a baby, and trying to keep it all together, I realized that delegation isn’t just for middle managers. Instead of doing all the mommying, daddy stepped up and took on certain responsibilities like bathing & bed times. When my endeavors grew, he took on even more.
But delegating is hard! To effectively delegate, you need to get real about what tasks actually require you to do them (hint: not many!), you have to let go of the feeling that things have to be done “your way,” and you have to ask someone else to do them (volunteers are few & far between!). Those can be difficult conversations that create anxiety and guilt.
What tasks can you delegate this week to create a little space in your schedule?
I’ve found that the first thing that goes when Busyness comes into the picture is real education. While it’s important to actually get off your duff and act on your goals, it’s very important to educate yourself. We find inspiration in information. We learn new ways of seeing the world. We realize ours isn’t the only perspective that matters. Learning helps us define who we are & what we stand for.
Since you’re here, I know that you probably read blogs to educate yourself. But you can also listen to audio books in the car (or NPR!), download podcasts for your workout, or read books on your digital devices. Multitasking might not be the best way to learn but I can tell you that it’s better than nothing. And it will help to prepare your mind for quiet times when you do find them.
4. Take notes. Again.
I know many of us have deep & abiding relationships with our journals, moleskines, sticky notes, and iPhone apps. But, if you don’t have a system for capturing ideas, thoughts, or reflections as they come to you, it’s time to start!
Few things will make you feel more defeated than finding the time to do something creative but not remembering that great idea you had in the shower. At the end of a busy day, you can still feel productive & creative if you’ve captured your own strokes of genius in a way that let’s you come back to them later.
5. Let go.
Let go of the guilt that comes with not finding the time. You can’t be truly present with your kids, attentive to your partner, creative with your ideas, or kind to yourself until you find the space in the day to let go of Busyness. None of those things are part of a busy day but they are the things that help you remember who you really are. So, if you want them in your life, you need to cut things out.
Cancel the cable, leave the dishes in the sink (or buy a dishwasher), take a walk, hang up the phone, close the laptop, make the choices that result in s p a c e. Let go of the idea that the time you spend with each one of these things is necessary and get real about what you want to be spending your time on.
Learn to say no to the things that don’t fit into your day. Learn to choose space instead of overflowing.
Of course, Busyness can also be jilted lover.
Learning to deal with your relationship to Busyness means understanding how it will repeatedly attempt to creep into your life, despite the 500 foot restraining order against it.
Always remember that your time is your own and the decisions you make on how to spend it are dictated by no one but yourself.