Beware the barrenness of a busy life.
I was raised on the idea that busy was good, busy means you’re hustling, and busy is the key to success. Feeling busy meant I was making it happen and doing my best. Busy meant I was leading a full life. Only later, when busy almost killed me, did I realize that busy only makes you too busy to realize you missed having a life.
When I think back, I can understand where this mentality came from. As a kid, busy was engrained into me as my mother would ask me to do chores if she didn’t see me busy, so I became rather good at looking busy. As a teen in my first jobs, I learned the importance of looking busy in front of a manager, as he viewed this as a validation of his own leadership, irrelevant is I was actually getting any work done. I college, I learned to be able to hint my professors how busy I was with their class, making him feel validated as a teacher. When I got into the professional environment, I learned to attract my supervisor’s attention as to how busy I always was making them feel validated as a boss. The end result was that when I felt busy, I also felt validated on my efforts.
Lunch at my desk, coffee on the run, conference calls while driving, and running from project to project, working overtime and the weekends, taking work home, and pushing the deadline’s envelope as work was done up to the last minute; this was my ‘every day.’ And this was done at the expense of my family, friends, and myself; where I justified my absence with work.
Is ‘work’ worth losing your friends? Your family? Yourself?
Because that’s the most dangerous one to lose; yourself. You start getting used to feeling overwhelmed with a ramped up schedule and unhealthy level of stress. But instead of realizing the damage you are doing to yourself, you just learn to develop a stronger tolerance level to abuse, where the only abuser you have is your watch and yourself.
The reality is that it wasn’t work that was keeping me busy, but the need to feel busy. I usually set my own deadlines, or could just stop taking on more work and responsibilities than I could handle. I started to work smarter, where I would actually take the time to evaluate what I wanted to achieve, instead of running out to tackle a project. I would prioritize what could be done and what would simply eat up my time without any real results.
And I forced myself to sit down and drink some coffee without any interruptions. And eat lunch, and talk with my friends, and spend time with my family. And my creativity and self-development went into overdrive all by itself. Because that’s how the mind works. If you keep it busy thinking it’s busy, it doesn’t do much else.
Do understand that I am not talking about slacking, spending hours on your mobile or on video games. To your mind, working on a project and playing another level, there’s no difference.
It’s about learning to take time to literally smell the roses. Enjoy looking at the people walking by as you savor your coffee. Take the time to taste your food, to have actual conversations with people, to run around with your kids, or simply to take a walk. Ferris Bueller said it best when he told us that “Life moves pretty fast. If you don't stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.”