About All Things Busy

Change Your Thinking

Today’s post is inspired by something I recently read.

“I am so busy.”

We all hear (and maybe even say) this phrase these days. Right? It’s kinda like a two-for-one, isn’t it?

“I am so busy.”

A boast and a complaint. Simultaneously. And if we think about it, we likely started using this phrase when we were in what, high school? University? Having a social life, good grades and adequate sleep – all seemed to be a strange trade-off system.

“I am so busy.”

A badge of honour AND a cloak of shame. I learned far too early in life that forgoing sleep and having a balanced life equated to a certain level of moral superiority. My first job was all about billable hours, so I quickly learned the best had 1500 or more billable hours in a year. But, of course, I averaged 1900, so that made me superwoman, right? (So NOT!)

“I am so busy.”

For too many years, pride and angst (okay, guilt) have co-existed side by side.

Where did this begin?

We gotta go all the way back to the fourteenth century. The root of the word busy is based on the old Middle English period (busy, occupied, diligent) AND the Proto-West Germanic period (diligent, zealous). Accordingly, today, busy is an adjective, and anything busy means industrious, diligent, and assiduous. AND busy stresses activity as opposed to idleness or leisure.

The ‘business of busyness’ created a booming industry called Productivity for organizations. However, chasing after Productivity had the unexpected side effect of undermining our preparation for the future. You see, our obsession with being constantly productive and maximizing efficiency – is focused only on TODAY. And focusing on the current moment is a massive obstacle in getting future-focused work done.

So, is busyness as a value really all that great? (Now, I come to the piece that inspired this post.)

In Japanese, the characters for “busy” are made up of the characters for ‘soul’ and ‘loss.’ Being busy is quite literally described as a loss of our soul.

Let me repeat that.

The Japanese way of writing ‘busy’ is best described as losing our soul.

I think that pretty much sums up what our busyness of today (and our many yesterdays) really mean. So it makes sense that all that ‘I am so busy’ talk is the reason behind so many people NOT feeling fulfilled, happy, joyful and inspired.

I am so busy.

What it really means is we lost our life-work balance. And balance is a crucial component to living a good life.

I am so busy.

What it really means is there is a lack of time for our health and wellbeing. Physically, we struggle to find the time to exercise and eat well, and mentally, we are losing our spark of inspiration and contentment.

And if you are shaking your head and declaring, not me! Congratulations. You are one of the very few lucky ones.

Now, I am not NOT supporting being busy. I believe passionately in the value of immersing ourselves in our goals. However, without a balance, we find ourselves lost and unhappy.

Because what is success (or efficiency, or effectiveness or even Productivity) without a soul?

Being busy means our lives are overwhelmed by the pressure of time.

Which means we lose the space to connect with ourselves. We grow less mindful of how we feel. Consequently, we lose our personal identity and purpose, and we also lose the ability to find a grander perspective in any given situation.

This means we grow more committed to the deadlines, the tasks, and the deliverables asked of us. While short bursts may be useful, over time, and especially where our careers and businesses are concerned, that busyness harms us.

Can we change?

I don’t honestly know. I do know we can try this —

The next time we feel guilty for not being busy, let’s remind ourselves that maybe there’s something more important. Being able to handle a quiet moment is not an act of laziness. On the contrary, finding and leaning into that quiet moment is essential, a respite and an elixir for our soul.

And since our soul is the fundamental essence of who we are, isn’t it worth a bit of attention?