How busy became the new stupid

“Hi, how are you?”
– Well, you know, busy. It’s good, but very busy!
“Yeah, it’s hard right, work, the kids, finding time to work out and then relax also”

So busy. It’s our new normal. We’re all busy, all the time. And many of us are struggling. Feeling overwhelmed, or pressured, to perform, deliver, arrange, take care, or otherwise be engaged in things we need to do.

The concept of being busy

There is a lot to say about us being busy in the 21st century. For people who have travelled and made time to learn about other cultures know there are billions of people that do not have any idea what the concept of ‘busy’ means. So let’s start with why we think or feel like we’re busy. When researching on this topic I noticed there are many views on this, so it will be fun to go through them and see what resonates with you and where you can learn something about yourself.

Places to go, things to do. Busy is what we are, right?

Busy means occupied, focused, the direction of energy spend

When looking into the definition of busy, you’ll find that it’s focused on where you spend time and energy on. Busy means that you’re directing energy towards someone or something. It could also mean you feel like you have a certain purpose, it could even add to your image: I’m a busy person, so I must mean something to others. People saying they’re busy might even feel like that matter, because their presence mean something to the people around them.

Busy as our identity

Imagine people answering to the question ‘How are you?’ with a simple ‘Good, good, busy.’. The tone of voice and the way it gets answered tells you something about how their busyness affects their life and how they feel about it. We can all see the calling businesspeople in front of us, walking firmly through the streets seemingly needed and occupied with important things. It’s their identity to be busy, they need it to feel they matter or have a sense of purpose. So the ego could just as much benefit from being busy, in the sense it could make you look and feel important.

The opposite of busy

Another nice way of looking into what busy means it looking at the opposite of busy. And then you start to see even better why in the modern western countries we seem to like to be busy: The opposite of busy is described as idle, careless, neglectful, nonchalant, uninhabited, unambitious or even useless or unmotivated. Most of the words I found even have a sense of judging in them: so when one is not busy, it has a negative impact on your image. But that is a contradiction, because the ultimate goal is to have a holiday or retire, after a year or even a life of being busy, in work for example. Or maybe busy does not imply we need to work, but just have something to be occupied with. Could we be busy with doing nothing?

Why being busy is stupid

Warren Buffet and Bill Gates, two of the most wealthy people in the world, explain in the next video why being busy is stupid. It’s a nice headline of course, and gives something to think about right away, but let me dive in to the concept a bit further for you.

Warren Buffet and Bill Gates explain why ‘busy’ is the new stupid

In this example both gentlemen explain why the need time to read, think and contemplate to be better in what they do. Reflecting on the situation helps them take distance and understand better what is going on. As always, I’m critical and can imagine of you’re already one of the richest men on earth you can actually clean out your calendar. But there is a good point in the concept they touch, but not describe in the video.

Are we busy by choice?

The issue we often face is that we can feel overwhelmed by all the things we need to do, we are just victims of our busy schedule. Others claim our time, dictate what we do when and where and our schedule is packed for weeks with meetings, social events, sports, everything that adds to the feeling of being busy. And then become too busy.

Did you choose this life, to feel like this and be ‘busy’ all the time? Probably not. Well not on purpose, or very much aware of this happening. But the sum of choices that we made did add up to the feeling of being too busy. Let’s repeat that: everything we said yes to, planned and accept we’d do, resulted in feeling busy, until the point of feeling too busy and overwhelmed.

Grand Central Station – New York – in the city that never sleeps being busy is part of your image.

The empowerment of ownership

There are a lot of things we can go into around the concept of feeling busy and overwhelmed, but I already went through the regular amount of words busy people usually have time for to read – so let me go towards some hands on advice. The first thing you will have to acknowledge is that feeling busy is the result of our own behavior. We chose to become busy. Remember when I referred to travelling and those people all over the planet that never feel ‘busy’, that’s mainly because they have a few things different in their lives and attitude towards their life then we. Let’s incorporate those in our own view of being busy.

When you live by a schedule

Open your calendar and take a look. How does the week look like? Filled with meetings, appointments and other things you need to do? That’s the first thing I noticed while studying other people and cultures: the absence of calendar-life. They live in the present. Now. What do we take from that? Stopping to keep a calendar? No, that won’t dig it, because we do have obligations and things to do, places to be. That’s fine. We’re going to adjust our attitude towards our calendar. We’re going to make time for yourself our biggest priority and most important meeting time in the week. Just block our time, for contemplation. The biggest difference Buffet and Gates explained in the video is that they choose to make time for themselves. We all have a choice. And if you’re feeling busy, you’re probably very bad at saying no, so blocking those moments in your calendar where you have planned meeting with you inner self, helps you saying no. You’re already busy during that time. Neat trick right?

Need to, or want to?

Another aspect of what we can do to feel less busy, or at least no longer ‘too busy’ has to do with programming yourself with ownership and empowerment. If you let yourself belief you feel this pressure because you need to do so much and it’s all so overwhelming, you’ll convince yourself that this is the truth and feel like this accordingly. Changing your attitude towards busyness helps a lot: focus on making choices and tell yourself that instead of needing to do all these things, you actually want to do them. It’s mentally empowering to focus on the way we look at being busy: we want to do this, otherwise we’d choose not to. Even if you dislike some of the things you do, they have a certain reason or you have motivation to do it. Instead you need to work to pay the rent, you want to work to be able to pay the rent. Or instead you need to bring the kids to school, you can state that you want to bring them because you like them to have a good education. It serves a purpose, even though the thing you need to do that are not especially fun.

Dethinking as a version of mental detoxing

So being busy is not the new stupid per se, from my perspective. Maybe if you’re the richest man on the planet you can say this, doing nothing, and get away with this. But we less wealthy people have things to do, places to go, and that’s fine. We can change our attitude towards being busy, and especially feeling busy. Dethink the concept, the way we plan our calendar and the way we make choices to want to do the things we do, instead constantly feeling the pressure to need to do things. We want to do these things, remember. Have a nice day, I hope you can be busy with some time for yourself and doing things you chose to do.

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