The Busy Paradox

Last week I had an early morning call, answered 76 emails, ran to the gym, cooked quick lunch, had a business meeting, wrote a blog post, saw a client, called my sister, grabbed a goodbye dinner with a friend and cleaned-out my Tivo with Scott.  I brushed my teeth and thought, “What a successful day.”

Yet, when I laid my head on the pillow I realized I was exhausted—mentally and physically.  My back was sore and I hadn’t even registered it.  I thought through my meetings, the call with my sister and ruminated on all of the things that had happened to me that day…for the first time.  45 minutes later, no closer to sleep than I was when I laid down, I couldn’t help, but wonder why this was the first time all day I was actually thinking

Sure, I had been thinking all day.  But I had not had a second to ponder, question or feel. I was too busy to feel.  I was just doing.  This led me back to the thought I had while brushing my teeth, “What a successful day.”

What about it was so successful?  I had some OK meetings, and responded to normal emails, but nothing was particularly out of the ordinary.  In fact, the day had been stressful.  I had wolfed dinner and lunch, almost gotten a parking ticket, talked on the phone from place to place in the car to squeeze everything in and had not done a single thing that I just enjoyed for the sake of enjoyment.  Everything was work or obligatory.  Even cleaning out the Tivo had become a task, not a time for relaxation.

I think the reason I felt it was so successful was because I was busy.  And somewhere along the line I have been trained to think that busy equals successful.  I thought about some of my Truths.  When I say truths with a little ‘t’ I mean surface beliefs and truths with a big ‘T’ are some of my core values and beliefs.   I realized I was trained to think:

The more busy you are, the more successful you are.

Yet, when you are busy, you do not take breaks, you do not feel how your day is going you just do it and most importantly, you lose sight of what you enjoy because all you want to do is get things done.  I call this the busy paradox.  This also tied in with some other outrageous, seemingly nonsensical beliefs I was carrying around with me and acting upon:

The more stuff you have, the more successful you are.

Successful people do spend 45 minutes in bed thinking about their day.

These are not beliefs I want to have.  I have taken a few steps to stop the busy paradox in my life, and hope these will help you:

1) Take more moments

I am trying now to take more moments during the day instead of saving my ‘rumination’ time for right before bed.

2) Distinguish enjoyment vs. obligation

This is one I am still working on.  I often times have to remind myself that what I am doing is for pleasure, not just to get it off my list (example: clearing the Tivo, finishing a book on my side table, etc).

3) Realize busy is not always good

Being busy does not always mean you are more successful.  Being busy can distract us from what we really want and need.

4) Do not fear boredom

I used to get to the end of my list and have a momentary panic of ‘what am I going to do now?’ or ‘what do I even do to take breaks??’  I am slowly conquering my fear of an empty list by thinking of things I love to do that have nothing to do with my business, efficiency or getting things done.

I hope that you were able to relate to some of the issues I have dealt with in this post.  Do not let busy trick you!

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