The Glorification of 'Busy' & Three Easy Steps to Take Back Control of your Schedule
Hands up if you think the word 'busy' is the most used work in your vocabulary.
“How are things?” “Busy.”
“How’s work going?” “Busy.”
“How was your week?” “Good, but busy.”
Do any of these sound familiar to you? I assume that’s a resounding “yes!”.
Unfortunately, life as a millennial in 2018 isn’t worth talking about anymore unless our days are jam-packed with activities, social gatherings, side projects, workouts, social media check-in’s every 1-2 hours, and more. As a generation, we are always striving to do more, be more, be better and live better, but at what cost? We all have the same 24 hours in a day, so if your day is filled with all the above activities, plus likely a full-time job (unless you’re one of the lucky ones who do not need one), then when are you finding time to just ‘be’? As in, live in the moment, be present, look after your well-being and generally take time to check-in on yourself and make sure you are looking after number one.
I used to be guilty of always needing to be doing something, and to be honest, I’m still working on not having this unrealistic, and unmaintainable, idea of what I need my life to look like in order to be fulfilled.
It is still a work in progress, but finally now, at the age of 30, I’ve realized that being ‘busy’ doesn’t necessarily make us good or better, and it doesn’t always translate into significance - although it can give a false sense of purpose as we exert ourselves on a never-ending treadmill.
Of course, there are times and seasons that require more of us, like the holiday's, and these allow us to grow and develop in certain areas of our lives; but after a push, there must be a rest in order for our souls to replenish, rejuvenate and prepare for the next challenge or achievement.
“Busy” as a Badge of Honour
While I do agree that our generation has some uphill battles to fight that our parents and grandparents never had (think property prices, wage discrepancies, social media, competitiveness within our careers), we have also singlehandedly allowed the normalcy of the word ‘busy’ to occur. You only need to glance at your Instagram stories to see how busy people are. (Granted, some people’s “me” time is working out, cooking or socializing with friends, but most people are doing that, plus all the other stuff as well.)
So I ask you this, if everyone’s norm is being ‘busy’, can we even say we are ‘busy’ anymore? Aren’t we just, ‘being’? Is all the busy activity actually leading to anything real? Are we actually doing anything meaningful?
The Glorification of Busy
As we know, there is a big difference between busy work and meaningful work. As Thomas Edison once wisely put it, “Seeming to do is not doing.” We need to check-in with ourselves every so often and evaluate if what we are giving our time to is truly providing value and meaningfulness in our lives.
Over the last few years, the American Psychology Associations (APA) has reported that millennials are the most stressed generation. And I don’t think Canadians are any different. Social media has, unfortunately, further glorified the notion of being busy, and with tools like Instagram at our fingertips, it’s easy to compare your life to someone who appears to be twice as ‘busy’.
If you are feeling this way - and at the end of last year I was definitely feeling this way - then listen up. Busy is not a badge of honour. It only leads to greatness if you are working for a purpose and making progress towards goals that serve it.
What does that mean? Just because someone looks “busy” on social media, it does not mean that anything they are doing is making them a better person. Don’t feel any sort of guilt for your day not being as “busy” as the next person. If what you are doing provides enjoyment for you, then that is all that truly matters. (I know this is easier said than done, but working on your positive self-talk is going to really help you here.)
How to take back control of your schedule
If you’re reading this and thinking to yourself “that’s all well and good, but I have so many commitments that I can’t avoid!”, then don’t panic and follow these three simple steps:
1. Evaluate your current commitments
Before you can do anything, you need to evaluate what already fills your schedule and what kind of impact it has on your life. Other than a full-time job and obligations within your career, what other activities do you have that take time out of your day? Look at your calendar and write down everything that you’ve done in the past month, and then evaluate it based on how it impacts your life. (You can even do a number system here – 1 being a positive impact and 5 being a negative impact.)
Perhaps you went out too many times last month, and although you like being social, you’re finding it’s taking away from your workouts. Perhaps you are still volunteering for an organization that 4 years ago was doable, but now with your commute, it’s just adding extra stress. Perhaps you have a friend that wants you to touch base with her weekly, even though you find the relationship is not mutually beneficial anymore.
This step can be quite difficult but also incredibly vital. I encourage you to be honest, and really ask yourself, “is this activity providing value in my life?” If the answer is no, then it’s time to let it go.
2. Learn to say ‘no’!
Now that you’ve evaluated your schedule and you have reflected on how each activity impacts how you feel, it’s now time to clear the activities and commitments that no longer have a positive effect in some way. For those of you who either suffer from “FOMO” or have a hard time letting people down, this step is going to be a challenge. It’s going to take some uncomfortable conversations at first but try to remember that in order for you to be the best version of yourself, and therefore, a better version to offer to others, you need to make way for things that fill your cup.
This step is my favourite, and once you’ve mastered the art of saying ‘no', you will have a complete sense of control, and it will allow for some free time to do things that make you truly happy.
3. Schedule in some time for self-care
Finally, it’s important not to let yourself fall back into your old ways, especially if you’ve always had a difficult time saying ‘no’ to people. The best way to do that is to schedule time in your calendar for self-care – whether that means working out, reading, cooking, learning to play the ukulele or going on long walks to listen to your favourite podcast. Schedule this time in your calendar, just like you would an appointment or a meeting, and don’t cancel it. Purposefully taking time for yourself will allow you to feel in control of your schedule, and if anything does creep in that you’re consciously trying to do less of, at least you know that you’ve already taken some time for you.