BUSY IS A STATE OF MIND
It’s finally Spring in NYC, and earlier this week I was working at a café when I heard two women next to me engaging in the most venerated of New York sports: The Busy Olympics.
Here’s the truth: No one wins the Busy Olympics because winning that game means losing at everything else.
So today I want to talk about what it really means to be “busy” and why we choose to inflict “busy-ness” on ourselves.
Being busy is not an external condition.
It’s a state of mind.
In reality, you’re only ever doing one thing at a time. You’re only completing one piece of work or one action in any moment—two at the most if you’re multi-tasking.
When you say you’re busy, what that really means is that your BRAIN is busy. Your brain is jumping all around with distractions, anxieties, fears, worries, and to-do lists.
And on top of that, you’re having the thought: “I’m so busy”—which itself causes feelings of anxiety or overwhelm. The existence of the clients, the meetings, or the deals isn’t what causes anxiety—it’s your thought.
There are a couple of problems with the thought “I’m so busy.”
First, it causes stress in and of itself.
Second, it relinquishes control over your mental and emotional experience and schedule. You don’t take responsibility for your thoughts, your feelings, or what is happening on your calendar and in your life. You just throw up your hands and say, “well, I’m so busy,” and blame whatever you’re feeling or doing on external forces.
So if you’re someone who uses being “busy” as a way to stress yourself out, your mantra could be something like:
“Busy is just a thought. I can feel stressed out about this set of things I’m doing, or I can feel neutral, or I can feel positive, but the things themselves don’t mean I have to keep thinking and believing I’m too busy.”
The second reason people are attached to being “busy” is that it makes them feel important. If you notice you have the desire to tell everyone else how busy you are, it’s interesting to ask yourself why that is.
Generally, it’s because you equate being busy with being important or valuable. You may believe that being “busy” signals to other people that you’re important, valuable, loved, or whatever else it is you don’t believe that you are for yourself.
The problem with using busy-ness this way is that it incentivizes you to load your calendar with things that occupy your time but aren’t necessarily enjoyable, productive, or strategic. If you’re emotionally invested in being “busy” to prove your own worth or value, then you’re going to have a hard time saying no to anything, and you won’t use your time to your advantage. When you’re keeping yourself busy by rushing from one task to the next, overloading your schedule and commitments, you actually can’t do any deep work. You can’t enter your zone of genius. You never get into the flow, where you can truly create, and you never get the actual down time you need to truly restore.
If you really want to make progress on your most important projects and initiatives, whether personal or professional, you have to give up the myth of busy-ness. If you’re stressing yourself out by telling yourself you’re busy, you need to let that thought go and cultivate thoughts that help you feel organized, empowered, and believing you have plenty of time to get it all done.
And if you’re attached to being busy as a moral or value proposition, you need to get real with yourself about what work you are asking busy-ness to do for you. Where are you not creating your own validation and self-worth? Where are you relying on overstuffing your calendar to make you feel ok about yourself? What kind of depth of work and enjoyment of life are you sacrificing by doing so?