Your busyness doesn’t have to define you

I often have conversations with friends where we talk about how busy we are. “Oh my,” one of us will say. “I only got 6 hours of sleep last night because I’ve had so much work to do.” The other will nod sympathetically and agree. It’s shared commiseration, but with an element of pride. “We’re really doing it,” we tell ourselves, with a mental pat on the back. “We get stuff done.”

Many people I know believe that busyness is a sign of virtue, of accomplishment, and even character. But more and more, I don’t think this is healthy. By believing we have to be busy all the time, we put ourselves under a great deal of stress, and ignore the benefits of quiet, down time and relaxation.

If we’re constantly trying to stay busy, we’re never going to be satisfied. Busyness is a never ending ride—complete one task, check it off the list, and immediately, you’re on to the next. It’s a fact of life that the pleasant feelings we experience from accomplishing something inevitably fade away, but I think many of us push too hard to try and maintain those feelings by chasing the next accomplishment, and the next after that.

This can be an exhausting way to live. Think of your body as a car engine. You wake up fresh in the morning, and everything is running great. Your fill up the tank with some breakfast and hit the road. But drive nonstop all day, and your gas tank will run low. Drive constantly for weeks and months, and the engine will start to break down.

You’d probably think someone who drove their car into the ground without stopping to maintain it was making a mistake. But if you’re like me and my friends, you probably praise people who do that to themselves.

But ask yourself: what’s the point of all that busyness if it just leads to more busyness?

If we spend all our time rushing around trying to get stuff done, we miss what’s right in front of us. But what’s right in front of us is really worth paying attention to. Spending more time with that, and less time worrying about what we have yet to accomplish, is a great way to relax into life and feel more authentically present. Let go of being busy for the sake of being busy—and see that you never needed it in the first place.

Give it a try!