A multitude of plagues beset us today, and one of the most pernicious is busyness. Somehow, we have allowed this to become a martyr’s badge of glory. We revel in how little time we have to ourselves as if this validates our importance, our inclusion into the elite. The few. The proud. The busy.
Three ramifications of this infatuation have forced their way into my consciousness lately:
When busyness infects us, we stop planning and stop thinking. We start reacting, and are constantly overwhelmed. This leads us to prioritizing based on pain, which will always lead us to pay more attention to immediate demands. Unconsciously, every time we do this, we are plucking our important work up and dumping it unceremoniously as a sacrifice to the urgent. The gods of busyness are never appeased, and we end up living our life fighting the fires we have lit on these insatiable altars.
Meetings are the ultimate expression of busyness. Nothing says busy like a calendar full of meetings. We feel more and more important as we dash to and fro without pausing to think or prepare or work—we just congregate with other addicts and talk about working instead. Most meetings could have been a simple asynchronous digital conversation, but instead we crowd our calendar with evidence of our importance. Like so many other addictions, we reason to ourselves that all of these meetings are necessary—this is real work. We are having crucial discussions. And the cycle perpetuates.
Tragically, one of the first casualties of this plague is the opportunity for self-care. Even contemplating considering time out for renewal feels heretical. We fill our time with “shoulds” and “have-tos” in order to maximize efficiency and continuously realign our paradigms with the highest priorities, and other empty nonsense phrases. Just as with our projects, we unconsciously budget for rework and recovery due to an urgent lack of time to slow down and take a careful approach now. Absent self-care, we become the doppelgänger of our battered calendar—an exhausted husk reminiscent of potential greatness.
The rather obvious cure for the plague of busyness is to slow down. We must acclimatize ourselves to inefficiency, and embrace occasional boredom. There must be white space in our lives and in our minds. We must consciously step out of the urgent to consider the important.
One practical approach to facilitate this is to simply schedule time to think. Feign conformance by using the favorite weapon of the busy elite—the calendar—to thwart their designs. When regularly practiced, this thinking time will result in drastic changes to the way in which you spend your days.
There is little chance of exterminating a plague that so many are eager to experience. You cannot remain completely unsoiled as you trudge through the ubiquitous infestation of the workplace and world. But you can escape the clutches of comprehensive infection. Practice constant vigilance while granting yourself permission to take life at a slower pace. Success, while never certain, is imminently attainable.