The Cult of Busy
It’s time to end the glorification of busy.
Busy can become a way of life. We’re seduced by all the incoming – the emails and text messages that make us feel wanted and important — stimulating our dopamine, as research shows, but in an exhausting, ultimately empty way. Busy has a dangerous allure. If your normal is busy, it’s tough to sit quietly with your thoughts or to really feel what you’re feeling. What if, instead, everything became a choice – how we spend time, who we respond to and how much or little we write? What if we recognized the difference between accomplishing our goals for the day and responding to other people’s requests? What if we learned to say no – a lot?
For many of us, our ego soars when people make demands on our time. What if we could free ourselves from needing, or even wanting, this validation? What if, instead, we carved out the time and space to be productive however it best serves us? That may be consciously keeping ourselves not busy. We equate busy with productive but, as Ori Brafman writes in The Chaos Imperative, many great discoveries — from Einstein’s theory of relativity to Donkey Kong — were invented by people who built white space into their day.
Imagine asking “How are you?” to one of the most successful people you know or, say, Elon Musk, Sheryl Sandberg or Warren Buffet. I’ve never heard anyone at that level respond, “busy.” By most people’s definition they are, constantly making high-level strategic decisions with a large impact.
What are they doing differently?
Two things. One, they aim to project an image that things are under control. Two, they actually have things under control. They’ve hired excellent staff, implemented thoughtful processes and spend time only on tasks that require their attention. Is that not something to strive for?