Saturday, 7 September 2013

I know I'm guilty of this- constantly using 'being busy' as an excuse for many things. But I recently read an article that really changed my perspective.

Here's an excerpt:

We're all just so "busy" these days. "Slammed" in fact. "Buried." Desperately "trying to keep our heads above water." So much of this is about out-doing each other. To say that "I'm busier than you are" means I'm more important, or that my time is more valuable, or that I am "winning" at some never-finished rat race to Inbox Zero. 

What you're trying to say with these responses is: I'm busier, more in-demand, more successful. Here's the thing: it's harming how we communicate, connect, and interact. Everyone is busy, in different sorts of ways. To assume that being "busy" (at this point it has totally lost its meaning) is cool, or brag-worthy, or tweetable, is ridiculous. 

By lobbing these brags, endlessly puffing our shoulders about how "up to my neck" we are, we're missing out on important connections with family and friends, as well as personal time.


That made me pause and reflect. Yes, I constantly say that I am busy whenever someone asks me how I've been doing. And it is true- I have been keeping myself occupied with various commitments and goals. But I guess the one big difference here is that by busy, I do include my social engagements.

The article ended on a cheerful note, calling for all of us to keep an eye on our negativity and steer conversations away from that, instead focusing on what is making us happy. It is rather stupid to think that being busy makes you better off. We constantly wave our busy-ness around as if it is something to be proud of, and use it as an excuse to get away with things. I have done it, and have it done to me- how many times have you tried to schedule a catch-up with a friend only to be rejected or have them cancel on you because 'something came up' or that they're 'really busy'? My guess is, quite a bit.

Upon reading that article, 3 things popped into my mind.

1) It's about life's purpose 
We all have different priorities in our lives as we age. As a child, you don't think twice about having food on the table. As a university student you think about the parties you want to enjoy. As a working adult, you fret over whether you would have enough money left over to save. But really, at the end of the day, 'being busy' gives us the satisfaction that we are doing something meaningful with our lives, real or perceived.

The current society we live in look down on those whose life has 'no purpose'- people who make enough to scrap by for the day and with no worries about tomorrow, taking each day as it comes. We degrade people who seem to laze around all day doing nothing. To a certain extent, I do think that these opinions are justified, but it comes because we are inherently obsessed with finding our 'purpose in life'. Some turn to spirituality, others turn to work or volunteering. By talking about how busy we are, it's actually saying how fulfilling our life is.


2) We really are busy, and you're not important enough
One of the most important things I've realised in the last few years is that if someone cares about you enough, they would be willing to carve time out to be with you no matter what. But sometimes, when a friend tells you they have to cancel on dinner because they're busy (or some other work-related excuse), it strikes me as being the same as saying 'you're not important enough'.

Think about it- if you were dating someone you really like, and you both are crazy over each other, it doesn't matter if both of you are lawyers or doctors working crazy schedules. You will find time for each other. But it is when someone doesn't matter as much, and you can't be bothered making the effort, that you find it appropriate to use busy-ness as an excuse. So really, you are not missing out on anything- you chose to miss out because you don't think that these people are worth spending time with. Harsh truth, but if you think about it, I'm sure you have done it to someone.

3) We need balance
Having said all that, we are living in a world where we are constantly connected and on-call. Work never ceases. How many articles have you read about the statistics of work outside of work, i.e. doing work at home or checking your emails during vacations? I have read it a lot.

Technology has made us all control freaks- we think that our companies cannot survive without us and they are constantly depending on us. It is partly true, but that definitely cannot be healthy. Technology has perhaps spoiled us; we all have our work emails on our phones now. But it is also important to have a balance- something not a lot of companies and people are aware of. I'm not sure about how it works in Malaysian companies (though I hear it is pretty scary), but I am very thankful that I don't work in an environment where I'm expected to work overtime constantly. This allows me to find time to go to the gym to get my fitness levels up, meet up with friends and enjoy some precious alone time.

Poster picture for 'balance'- an interesting development don't you think?
What do you think? Are you too busy in your life?
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