Undoubtedly, there’s much to juggle in this crazy, modern world. However, at some point in recent years, we crossed into an unhealthy territory where everyone wears their level of busyness proudly as a status symbol. If you don’t have a million different things on your plate, you are doing something wrong. Busy has become synonymous with successful in our minds.
Our schedules are no longer about our own enjoyment or making a real difference in our communities. They are just another method of comparison among peers—particularly other women. As much as we add to our schedules, someone else always seems to be doing more. I’ve often thought there are some people out there who must have secretly been given more than twenty-four hours in their day, and I somehow missed out.
Think of everything you have voluntarily tacked on to your schedule–the boards you serve on, the organizations you’re involved in, the volunteer work you do. All are great things at face value. Now go through your list and note which items you actually enjoy and which things you’re participating in because “everyone else does” or “it was an honor to be asked” or “I couldn’t say no”. How many of those schedule-fillers do you participate in because you genuinely enjoy them and wouldn’t want to be anywhere else in the world? I hope it’s every last one of them, but I bet it’s not.
Harvard Business Review calls this phenomenon a “More Bubble…being enabled by an unholy alliance between three powerful trends: smart phones, social media, and extreme consumerism”:
“People are beginning to realize that when the ‘more bubble’ bursts –and it will- we will be left feeling that our precious time on earth has been wasted doing things that had no value at all. We will wake up to having given up those few things that really mattered for the sake of the many trivial things that don’t. We will wake up to the fact that that overstuffed life was as empty as the real estate bubble’s detritus of foreclosed homes.”
At some point, we must stop glorifying our busyness, stop comparing our schedules and level of involvement to others, and start having some respect for our own personal time—time we can never get back.
One author refers to this as a “disciplined pursuit of less”. Just like a CFO making essential budget cuts for the betterment of the company, we’ve got to be willing to sit down and take a long, hard look at what is taking up our time and make some cuts. This discipline requires a combination of tough criteria, heavy elimination, and self-awareness to cull your busyness problem and free up your valuable time. Pursuing only the things you love and cutting the rest can be not only freeing but can also make you more productive in the things you decide to pursue.
Start giving your free time and your daily schedule the respect it deserves—even if it means turning down what seems to be some great opportunities. Maybe next time someone tells you how busy they are you should respond with, “Oh that’s too bad.”