friend or foe? the fine line called “busy”

agirofobiaIf I had eventhe time I need to record my thoughts every day . . .
I grew up busy. I had busy parents; we led busy lives. From sun up to sun down (and usually long after and before), my family was on the go. My brother and I did the usual “kid thing”: school, homework, varsity, instrument lessons, church programs, summer camps, etc. There was always cleaning and cooking and laundry and yard work to do. Mom and Dad worked full time. When they weren’t at work, they were working at home. If I ever saw my dad, say, sitting down on a Sunday morning, I wondered what was wrong. Was he sick?

They say busy is good — at least that’s the way it’s always been presented to me. And busy is good. Some of the most depressed I’ve ever been is when I was unemployed and had nowhere to go. Working gives me a sense of purpose and direction — I am doing something with my life. But . . .

How busy is too busy?

I wake up every day with a to-do list a thousand miles long: work, run, ride, swim, wash my car, do laundry, cook, clean, vacuum, dust, mop, make lunches, do dishes, pay bills, check email . . . My blog is important, too, and enters my thoughts a thousand times each day — Oooohh! I could write about this, or this, or, I wonder what they’d think about this? — but often (usually) gets pushed to the bottom of my list.

The only reason I’m writing tonight is because the laundry room at our apartment complex is full.

And I wonder, every night as I’m compulsively working on my list: Where does time go? Why couldn’t we sleep deeply like Roald Dahl’s *BFG so that we didn’t need eight hours of sleep every night (which, incidentally, I rarely get). And what is relaxation worth? Many people have no trouble sitting down and “chilling” after work every night. So, why can’t I? I pride myself in how much I get done in a day, but what about the things I didn’t do — the things whose results would, perhaps, would last a little longer?

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*Big Friendly Giant

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25 thoughts

  1. “Many people have no trouble sitting down and “chilling” after work every night. So, why can’t I?” I feel you Jess. Even my colleagues with kids find time to sit down AND watch TV for a few hours after work each night. With a full time job, it’s so hard for me juggling my blog and planning how I want my first book to go. On top of that, there’s all the chores like you said. Last week I slept four hours each night.

    I too grew up in a household where busy was good. Dad always said there was something to be done, and if not, something to be improved on. When I finished my homework and cleaned my room, my parents would suggest re-checking what I’ve done or rearrange things and see if they fit better. It’s always, “Go go go”.

    That’s not to say I don’t want rest. I really do want it. I long for a few days where I can just sit and do nothing. Even an afternoon. Then again, if I don’t do what I want to do on my to-do list, I feel unfulfilled. Sometimes being busy, maybe we really are bettering ourselves and making a difference around us, even in the smallest of ways.

    • I’m glad you can relate, Mabel. I do worry about you, though! Less than four hours of sleep each night? I used to be able to do that. Now, I just can’t keep up. I got roughly six hours of sleep every night this past week and was exhausted by Friday.

      I can’t stand watching TV, so I don’t watch it at all, either. I am happy to be productive but know I am going in circles. As soon as laundry is done, it has to be done again. It’s part of life, but it’s frustrating. Mostly I want to find a balance that allows me to write more.

      Also, I wanted to comment on your last line: “Sometimes being busy, maybe we really are bettering ourselves and making a difference around us, even in the smallest of ways.” I think it depends on *how* we are being busy. I keep myself busy with things most others can’t see. If I wrote more, or spent more time with the people I love, or devoted more time to a student while worrying less about how clean my desk is (or whatever), *those* are the things that truly make a difference and which will be remembered for the rest of our lives.

      • Don’t worry about me, Jess. I’ve gotten used to my sleeping routine, but when it comes to weekends I do sleep way more :)

        So true, “how we are being busy”. Busy comes in so many forms, busy to one person might not be busy to another. I like how you choose to interpret being “meaningful busy”. You really have a good heart :)

  2. One of the most difficult things we are called upon to do is to “Be still and know that I am God.” This tells us that we are too busy. There is no solution except to down-size our lives…want less, need less, change priorities. Some find it, but most of us don’t. Good Post!

  3. I have lived through busy times and I can still be busy but lately I’ve been trying to take time to relax too. There are things I’m not getting done, there always have been, but I’m happier with today’s mix.

  4. Yeah. For years I was a slave to all of the “to-do’s.” Now I’m a slave to the complete lack of desire to do those things anymore. ;) There’s a line somewhere in there that I need to find — getting enough of the things done while holding on to some relaxation and me time.

  5. How funny. I just finished today my 2-part post-series about this very subject…well, closely related subject: time and how best to spend it.

    So I must ask, Did you and Jon not have ANYTHING clean to wear and the laundry just had to get done, even into the wee-hours of the morning!? *wink*

    • Sorry I’ve been out of the loop with your blog, Professor! I consider blogging “me time” and, hence, don’t get to it nearly as often as I should. I always enjoy your perspective.

      I did five loads of laundry yesterday. (I started this post Thursday.) I can’t stand to let things pile up like that! So, yes, laundry had to be done. My biggest problem is my perfectionism and wanting our apartment completely clean at all times. I drive Jon nuts.

      And I finished this post early last night — well, before midnight, anyway! :D

  6. I try to think of things as what will give me the biggest return. Can the dishes sit for a while in the dishwasher or shall I write in my blog? You can see which one won the race.

    I also did away with television. I do feel that I have gained some time but the problem is that it is easy to create lists; just harder to act on what you have written down!

    Have a good weekend!

    • You’re right, Steve. You’re right. Now if I could just get Jon to get rid of that television… Sooooo much wasted time (his, not mine).

      You have a good weekend, too!

      • I did it mainly out of necissity but after a while the pain went away and I really do not miss it that much at all. Well, sadly, sometimes I do have a weird desire to see Chef Ramsey yell at pudgy wannabe cooks but it goes away after a few minutes!

  7. I know you have written before of wanting to be the perfect girlfriend/person etc and of being a clean freak ;) but you have to ask yourself, am I going to spend the next 50 years cleaning and doing self imposed ‘must be perfect’ tasks? and if so why, cos you sure don’t sound happy about it. Yes you are missing out on relaxation, and if you’re driving Jon mad, you’re not achieving ‘perfect’ girlfriend status :) do you think Jon prefers to watch you running around like a headless chicken cleaning the apartment, or snuggling up on the sofa together and ‘chilling’? everyone needs stop and think time, or stop and just BE time, it kind of makes you less stressed, you’ve got a long life to live, don’t look back at the end and wish you’d done something else other than laundry and keep a show home.

  8. When I got home recently from traveling I made a list of things that I wanted to get done each day. Living in an ashram we’re supposed to keep a spiritual time table but none of the things on my schedule were the spiritual things. I was like how can I have an official list and not even put those things on there. I can understand not keeping to my schedule but at least it should be on the paper. So I redid it, adding in my morning prayers, meditation, and scripture study. Amazingly enough, those are the only things that I’ve actually kept to and I feel so much better for it. We always prioritize the worldly work but we never prioritize the inner work, the spirit work. It is just a shift (no pun intended) that we have to choose to make. Not sure how long it will last but I am glad to be doing it for now.

    • You are so right, Sreejit. It’s much easier to prioritize the outer world because it’s so much more tangible. We can *see* the results, while, with inner work, it’s something we only feel. My blog is much less tangible than my clean apartment. But I think a lot of people are making some really astute comments about the importance of slowing down and paying attention to the less tangible. Inner work and taking time to “smell the roses” is equally important to everything else.

      So good to hear from you!

  9. Hi Jess! I was just reading an article from Fast Company titled, “Why already busy people are more likely to get things done.” This should be encouraging.

    Personally, I find that being busy is subjective. There are some kinds of busy that I find essential for my sanity, eg, keeping the house somewhat clean (I’m not a clean freak, but I can’t function in a cluttered environment). Then again, if I’m working so hard that it’s taking me away from the people and things I love, then that kind of busy is no longer fulfilling. I guess it all comes down to finding a healthy balance.

    • Yup, it’s all about balance. I agree that busy people tend to get things done. I almost mentioned that in this post. The world’s innovators and the ones who make a difference are rarely the ones who sit around. But I also agree about busy being subjective. Not everything I keep myself busy with is always as important as I make it out to be.

      Always good to hear from you!

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