How to be un-busy in a culture that glorifies the opposite

Years ago, when I saw the quote “stop the glorification of busy” I thought 2 things. The first was about the word busy. It seems to have such a backwards way of making you feel important. Saying you are “busy” seems to mean you have very important things to do and little time for anything else – whatever “else” is. And being un-busy might mean you’re living a boring life.

The other thought that came to mind was how much as a society we do truly glorify being busy. If we say we are busy, which remember can mean we are doing important things, than that can only be a good thing. And so we work hard to keep the facade of being busy, under the guise of doing the important.

We use the word busy without regard to whether we are actually doing something important or not.

When I say that we use the word without regard, I am not really saying that we do it consciously. Nor that there aren’t times that we can be busy doing…really important things. I do believe saying it has become part of our vernacular almost unbeknownst to us. That is what we need to be aware of if we want to stop glorifying and start living more purposefully.

One reason I think “busy” happens a lot more is because we say the word “yes” reflexively – almost automatically. Perhaps we do so to feed a subconscious need to feel important, to be liked, or fit in. We also say yes (sometimes reflexively) because we want to be helpful. Which is not a bad thing to want to be helpful. But I think we need to be sure we aren’t saying it in lieu of giving our selves the help we may need.

Sometimes, things are done or agreed to without regard to how they really work in our own life. And that can create an atmosphere of the wrong kind of busy.

One solution to not reflexively saying yes, or glorifying busy is to ask questions. Not of other people, of ourselves.

Instead of saying yes to doing something, first ask yourself a few questions. “Why am I doing this? Why am I saying yes? Does this serve my overall purpose in good ways?

I think so many of us do things that we don’t really want to do. But we do them anyway. And of course there are plenty of times when tasks or projects are necessary. For me, with work or  parenting, there is a list of things I can say I don’t want to do. I love the work I do but hate spending my time doing bookkeeping. I love my daughter and love learning from her and teaching her. But making lunches, and buying her shoes…again (because I guess they do grow) feels monotonous, and frustrating. Often.

But I do these things anyway because they serve the overall purpose of my life in a good way.

I am not suggesting we shouldn’t say we are “busy”. Plenty of us are and for good reason. We work, we parent, we have hobbies and interests, and so do our children. These things keep us “busy”. But it is when we take on, or in, more than we need or can handle, when we say yes without asking the questions about whether it makes sense to say yes, where busy becomes a real issue.  We cause unneeded clutter with our time and in our mind when we sign up for things out of guilt, or when we do things because everyone else is doing it, to keep up with the proverbial Jones’s.

Just like taking into your home physical things, “stuff”,  without regard to their purpose or necessity will eventually cause clutter, saying yes and doing things for no purposeful, specific, or good reason serves to clutter our head.

It makes us feel full but not fulfilled.

I read an article recently about resigning from a culture of busy where the author talks about deliberately choosing to be un-busy.  Which to her meant saying no more often to the extra things deliberately, so her family’s life doesn’t get too “busy”.  Choosing this can feel uncomfortable; it is definitely not something our culture is used to. And I understand why. If busy often connotes a feeling of importance, what does un-busy mean? Hint: it doesn’t mean you aren’t important. But un-busy could just mean you value your self more so as to not crowd your space and life with yeses that might not have much substance.

To choose un-busy and stop glorifying busy try these tips:

1. Think about your why.

Why are you doing things? Is it to keep up or keep pace with someone else? Do you feel guilty in saying no?  The more you know what you want in your life and for your life, the easier it can be to respond in a way that serves your greater good. It might feel selfish but when you are your best, living your best life, you tend to put out only the best for others.

2. Know your boundaries (and your schedule).

It is perfectly okay – I would even say fantastically okay – to have nothing on your calendar. Why do we feel the need to fill all the space? What wonderful things can come to you, and through you when your schedule isn’t full, or you aren’t going full speed all.the.time. You need to know what you can do without compromising your self-worth, your time, your own goals. And if it means an empty calendar from time to time (or even often), so be it. When your schedule is planned in a way that your priorities for living your best life are carefully carved out you can more easily know if saying yes is good for you, and everyone else.

3. Try not to say “I’m so busy”.

Try to catch yourself before it comes out.  Often we say it with dread as if it is out of our control to perhaps feel the opposite. Sometimes, I think not saying something that can take on a negative connotation is a start in changing our ways. Maybe try to put a positive spin on your “busy” situation. Or even challenge your decisions and instead of saying “I’m so busy” start saying, “I get to do so many different things today. And they all have meaning.” {Hopefully, that is true.}

4. Pause.

Resist the urge to say yes “just because”, from guilt, from reflex, or a place of not knowing what else is going on. It’s as if we are programmed to be “busy” or at least say we are. And so we react instead of pausing. Pausing, perhaps even saying no more often, is freeing — for your soul, and your time.

If we pause, question, be aware, and intentionally choose to be un-busy, we might just feel more important. We certainly will find more time and mental space to do more of the things that make us feel truly alive.

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