I’m a very busy person. I always have things to do, whether it comes at work, from home, or from my what I feel is my personal obligation. I constantly complain to friends and family about how busy I am all the time.
And yet, I’m always signing up for new things and new responsibilities that I know will help people. I don’t think about it much, but I’m always on the move, always on the phone to catch up with old coaches, bosses, co-workers, friends, and family. I’m always thinking of more ways I can love God and get more involved in my church.
I don’t go on vacation. As a teacher, I have summer vacation off, but I’m already thinking about what I’m going to do to work next summer and make money to ameliorate the sense of emptiness I have when I have free time.
But do I secretly crave being busy? Do we secretly crave being busy? Do we wear being busy as a source of honor, as if being busy tells us that we’re important and valuable? Is busyness a secret addiction that we all have?
The truth is that I don’t know. I complain all the time about being busy, but I know that I secretly hate it when I’m not busy. Not being busy is the time that I have to confront all the problems that busyness allows me to put off. I know that when I’m on my deathbed, the times I was busy weren’t the ones I’ll remember.
As Timothy Kreider of Medium and the New York Times states: “I think what I’ll really wish is that I could have one more beer with Chris, another long talk with Megan, one last good hard laugh with Boyd. Life is too short to be busy.”
I don’t want to think about the many confessions I have to make to my parents about my future. I don’t want to think about my past traumas and the things that haunt me day and night when I’m not busy. I love being busy because it makes me always seem important, to my students, to my fellow teachers and staff, to my principal, to my parents.
Here’s a newsflash: just because you’re busy, that doesn’t mean that you’re accomplishing more. It doesn’t mean that you’re important.
I have learned the valuable lesson that there’s no such thing as wasting time, that even the time you spend doing nothing and sleeping in is time spent with necessary rest and recovery, time necessary to recuperate your mind. Time spent with friends is necessary time to get connected and make right on your relationships.
Brene Brown once wrote in Daring Greatly that one of the most numbing behaviors we use against vulnerability is being crazy-busy, being a busy-holic because being busy is a norm that has become normalized in our society.
Is being so busy actually so great? The answer is no. The truth is the time we spend not being busy is incredibly valuable. The time I spend just sitting or on a walk, doing nothing, is the time that I can seriously reflect.
Maybe our societal and cultural addictions to being busy is a way of avoidance. Sure, you have a lot to get done. I do, too. But do you really have to do it all right away? Is what you have to get done so pressing that you have to neglect friends and family?
And look yourself in the mirror: is being busy a way of avoiding the problems in your marriage? Is it a way of avoiding your fear of feeling ordinary? Is it a way of getting attention and feeling important? Is it a way of avoiding your complicated relationship with your siblings and parents? Is it a way of avoiding your mental health problems?
So be comfortable with doing nothing. Be comfortable with inaction, because that’s where so many of our great ideas and necessary thoughts come from in the first place. Remind yourself that there’s no such thing as wasting time, that even the times where you’re sitting on the edge of your seat, where you’re doing nothing, is time that you need.
Even though we crave busyness, as individuals, as a culture, as society, sometimes we have to embrace the times when we aren’t busy.
A version of this post was previously published on medium.com and is republished here with permission from the author.
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