Being busy and the cult of busyness
I look at friends who left homes and jobs in London to set up lives elsewhere and think how well they seem. Their skin looks brighter, their stress lines faded away and I think to myself, it’s because they’re not so busy anymore. I often fantasise about spending a week at a health camp (somewhere abroad obviously) and having five nights of good night’s sleep and time to fully relax. But the reality is, other than hugely missing home, I would find something else to do because I’m one of those people who measure their self-worth by how much they’ve achieved in a day. I’m a fully paid up member of the cult of busyness because somewhere in my subconscious I believe that I’m a better person when I get more done.
What is the cult of busyness?
Fully paid-up subscribers to the cult of busyness like myself get a feeling of satisfaction from being busy. It feeds our sense of importance and worth because we feel we are needed and wanted. It also sends an external message that somehow our lives are more valid because we have so much on and are always on the go.
Researchers from Columbia University, Harvard and Georgetown conducted a series of experiments to see how being busy was perceived. They created two characters called Jeff: one who worked long hours and had a busy schedule, the other had a leisurely lifestyle and didn’t work. They found hardworking Jeff was thought to be more important and his lack of time was due to the fact he was highly sort after.
Losing the busy mindset
As someone who puts their self-worth into how many tasks they’ve finished in a day, the cult of busyness is an attractive one to be in. I tick things off lists. I take my child to play dates. I rush around working full time and sorting my home in the evening.
My mind also has a habit of turning fun into tasks I need to do. Getting my haircut becomes something I need to tick off the list rather than an experience to enjoy. Likewise, shopping becomes about making sure I get everything I planned, rather than having time to myself. I realise it’s my mindset that needs to change. I’m aware that I’m filling up my life with a series of tasks… I need to become more comfortable with being still.
5 ways to leave the cult of busyness
- Stop multi-tasking and focus on one thing at a time. I have a habit of trying to do too many things at once and achieving very little.
- Switch off the screen. It’s so easy to lose time falling down an internet rabbit hole under the pretence of relaxing. Read a book, watch a film or have a bath instead.
- Be realistic about what you can achieve. I take on too much and then feel overwhelmed by everything I need to do.
- Set boundaries. For the first time in a long time, I articulated that I needed a day to myself. I used that day to do things I enjoy and not just to carry out a series of errands. I now recognise it’s something I need to do on a more regular basis.
- Start saying no. I have a tendency to say yes to things without really thinking it through. I’m trying to learn that sometimes it’s ok to say no.