being intentional, important nothings, Inspiration

The Myth of Being Busy

“I’m busy.”

“I’m so tired. It’s just been such a busy week.”

“One more day of vacation, and then it’s back to being busy all the time.”

How often do we hear these kinds of remarks? Or make them ourselves?

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I spent my twenties being busy. The end of college was busy. Graduate school was busy. Teaching was busy. Planning a wedding was busy. Moving [several times] was busy. Busy, busy, busy.

Truth be told, I was proud of it. Being busy made me feel useful and productive. I believed it gave me purpose and validated me.

When I would get together with friends–rarely, of course, because we were all so busy–I enjoyed sharing what kept me busy, what my weekly schedule was like. I enjoyed hearing that my friends were busy, too, because it meant that I was surrounding myself with people just as useful and productive as I was. We weren’t just spending our time on the sofa, eating bonbons. We were career women.

We were busy.

We hadn’t wasted our college degrees on daydreaming and chasing butterflies.

We were single women who took the opportunities offered by singleness to throw ourselves headfirst into our careers. We were the ones who got to work early, stayed late, and could always be expected to say yes to additional tasks. We weren’t like the career women who had to split their identities into working woman and domestic diva (or working woman, domestic diva, AND supermom, a role we couldn’t even envision because how much busier could a person possibly be?). Our careers were our lives, and we spent at least 80 hours a week devoted to them.

Over time, more and more of us joined that group of women with split identities. We were working women who took off the career hat and put on the happy homemaker apron after 5:00, cooking and cleaning and scrapbooking all of our homespun memories so our husbands and future children could feel all warm and cozy. We were sure to keep social media updated so that people would know how busy we were, what with the perfectly frosted homemade sugar cookies and the handcrafted wreath on the front door. And did we mention that we do, indeed, still work fulltime? Ah, yes. Balance. It means being busy all the time, but chin up. You’ll want to get those hand-embroidered Christmas stockings done now because you will be so much busier once you have kids.

And now some of us are joining the career woman/wife/mom group, and it means jumping into a whole new level of being busy. Personally, I’m still in that middle group of career/wife, but I see my friends who have kids and I wonder how they do it. To me, the most difficult part of having kids would be the element of the unexpected. Right now, I know my husband’s and my schedules ahead of time. We’re pretty predictable. It makes it easy to have a set time for groceries, laundry, cooking, and sleeping. I don’t know from experience, but I have a strong suspicion that having kids changes that. (wink, wink)

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I’ve decided I’m over it. I’m over being busy.

I don’t mean that I’ll suddenly resign from my job, hire an in-house maid, and reduce my weekly meal plan to nothing but room temperature canned goods. I’ll still be productive.

In fact, I’m reframing my mindset. Out with the busy, in with the productivity.

This may seem like simple semantics, but for me, word choice is everything. I blame this on having majored in English.

I’m busy when I have the run, run, run til you crash and burn mentality. I’m productive when I have a vision, set goals, work toward achieving them, and spend my time intentionally.

I use busy as an excuse, not just to other people so I can get out of activities or responsibilities I’m simply not interested in, although I’m certainly guilty of that. I use it as an excuse to myself. I don’t have a workout routine because I’m too busy. I don’t read for enjoyment because I’m too busy. I don’t do that volunteer work that would really bring me joy because I’m too busy with all of the things I have to do.

I’ve convinced myself that focusing on making my own life enjoyable and cultivating myself just isn’t as important as my job. I allow myself to feel guilty if I’m not focusing on work 99% of the time. I’ve convinced myself that busy makes me worthy.

Busy does not make me worthy or validate me as a human being. Busy is about what other people see, and it often drains all of my insides to the point that I feel like I only consist of what other people see. That’s a dangerous way to live.

So that’s it, folks. I’m over being busy. I will continue to be productive and to follow my 2014 goal of being more intentional, but I will reframe my mindset so that being productive and intentional includes–no, requires–time for what makes my heart sing.

And I won’t feel guilty about it.

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