“I’m too busy to write this blog.”
Updated: May 26, 2019
For years I’ve used the phrases, “I’m too busy to…” and “I’m so busy that…” to explain why I could or could not do something. I still frequently find myself answering the common query of how I’m doing with a remark of how busy I am followed by, depending on how engaged the asker appears, an itemized list of tasks supporting my case. But what the hell is this busyness really?
Lately I’ve been listening to “The Tim Ferriss Show,” an eclectic mix of interviews and sage words from seemingly successful “performers” or professionals. One particular segment of his interview with Debbie Millman, a highly regarded graphic designer, caught my ear. She mentions “busy is a decision.” Wait, WTF?!? How is it a decision to keep up with email, finish the committee meeting minutes, grade the papers, prepare the class lecture, etc., etc.? These things gotta get done right? Debbie suggests the focus of our busyness conveys our priorities. If you’re “too busy” to call, it may convey that you value your tasks, or the results thereof, more than our conversation. Ouch. Even if it’s not true it kind of stings.
Debbie also suggests that busyness strangely, has cultural value. This concept deeply resonates with me. Somehow so many of us have equated being busy with being worthy, important, successful. But this busyness can come with significant stress and even dependence. I find myself yearning not to be busy, to have time to relax, to call friends back, to read that book (or 20) sitting on my nightstand, or write a blog post, but when I get closer to crossing all the items off my to-do list my anxiety increases and I find a way to add new items. There is an obvious yet disguised motivation to stay busy.
Busyness provides an outlet, a home, to feed and distract anxiety and fear: fear of failure, fear of success, fear of realizing we’re not on the path we desire, fear we may need do something about that and maybe a fear that the results may come at the cost of having stable income, health insurance and a 401K. Of course these fears are valid, especially for the underserved, the single parents, those who are less privileged, etc. but those who have basic needs met should not let the fear of the lower rungs of Maslow’s hierarchy distract us from continuing towards self-actualization.
Fear, procrastination, perfection, and busyness are interrelated conditions for so many of us. If you relate to any of these, I encourage you to add “self-exploration” to your to-do list to find out what’s driving them. Diverting a portion of our busy lives to realizing underlying fears and motivations can make a huge impact on realizing our full potentials and on our overall mental health. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to go cross “write blog post” of my to-do list…
Here are a couple pertinent links you may enjoy:
How to Prioritize Your Life and Make Time for What Matters with Debbie Millman (Twitter: @debbiemillman)