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The cult of busy

An Cailín Rua

An Cailín Rua
Anne Marie Flynn

So how’s your year been? In a word, I’d probably sum up mine as being ‘busy’. A good complaint, right? I’m not so sure.
It’s funny how being busy can almost be regarded as a badge of honour in the current climate. Particularly when you work in the service industry, retail or any other business that was battered by the crash. It sometimes feels like a bit of a hangover, a legacy that insists that now that times are improving, we have to really relish it, even if it means we are under more pressure than ever.
But does being ‘busy’ equal being properly productive? Does it really mean you’re working to your true potential?
Journalist and author Brigid Schulte referenced ‘the overwhelm’, created by the frenetic pace of modern life. Toggling between work, family, maintaining a home and other obligations, we feel constantly behind, a bit out of pace, leading to a sense of panic and stress.
And in the digital era, the boundaries between work, other obligations and downtime are more blurred than ever.
Your phone is always on.
In the US, being over-busy is now becoming recognised as a significant health concern. For good reason; when we fail to make time to decompress, self-care suffers. Sleep is compromised, as is exercise, fresh air.
And mentally, constantly working – even on a volunteer basis, in your spare time – takes up all your headspace. Downtime is reduced and stress levels increase. Ability to prioritise is compromised in the quest to get something – anything! – ticked off the list. It inhibits us from investing in ourselves and our minds, and the things from which we get genuine enjoyment.  
And most importantly, it prevents us from dreaming; from looking outside ourselves and our existence and nurturing our own desire to grow.
Of course, being busy isn’t all bad, and everyone is wired differently. Some of us thrive by being continuously occupied. Others burn out. Others still love the routine, the sense of feeling driven. But by filling every hour in the day, we leave ourselves no contingency when something goes wrong.
Finding the balance between thriving under pressure and burning out is more important than ever. So, if you are feeling constantly under pressure, in 2019, perhaps it’s time to break free from the cult of ‘busy’ – and the benefits are many.
Freeing up your time also frees your mind. Even though our brains are the ultimate computers, they still need time to process the millions of files we open every day. Downtime can bring clarity, allowing us to see the bigger picture and consider other opportunities that we may otherwise have missed. It allows us to be ‘present’, to enjoy the moment we’re in, rather than skipping ahead to the next. It means we are more emotionally available, and better able to preserve our relationships with our loved ones, instead of allowing them to drift.
Something else that is worth remembering is that being busy doesn’t equate to being important – often, it’s the opposite! No one is indispensable, and if tomorrow, we weren’t here anymore, life would move on without us, slowly filling in the gaps.
It can also be argued that being busy is a choice, not an obligation; we always have the opportunity to say ‘no’. However, being busy can be a convenient excuse or a distraction from things that might be difficult to face in our personal lives. Or it can be like an addiction or a habit from which it is hard to break free without taking the initiative and making some changes.
So this Christmas, if the above resonates and you get the opportunity, try to take some time for you. Switch off your phone. Wrap up and go for a walk. Cook some good food. Sleep, and if you can, sleep some more. Call your loved ones. Visit them and hug them. Watch some rubbish TV without feeling guilty. If you’re tempted to switch your phone back on, don’t. Recalibrate and reprioritise. Life is short. Close your eyes and do nothing.
Because sometimes, doing nothing is the most productive thing you can do.
Happy Christmas.