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“So…What have you been doing lately?”
If this question comes up, and it does because I work from home and I think it freaks people out a bit, I get a little panicky and immediately lunge into a full scale monologue listing the things I have done or have yet to do. My entire self worthiness in that moment is defined by just how busy I am. And it doesn’t matter who asks. I feel like this with everyone.
I say things like …..
“I’m so busy!”.
“Life is just so crazy right now”.
“I don’t know how I’m going to do everything”.
“My husband and I are so busy, we barely see each other”.
“We are like ships in the night”
I catch myself monologuing my busy-ness more times than I care to admit. Actually, I’m embarrassed to admit.
And it’s not just me. Busy has become a Social Status – The more ‘stuff’ that a person gets done, the more value we assign to them as an individual. Busy is the new Black.
The Busy Trap
In 1930, John Maynard Keynes predicted that within a century, adults would work only 15 hours a week. Two decades later, Richard Nixon proposed that by 1990, Americans would retire at the age of 38.
I’m thinking that for most of us that ain’t gonna happen.
Despite all the gadgets and really cool ‘stuff’ designed to make our lives simpler and set us free from every day drudgery of hard work – the internet, iphones, dishwashers, disposable nappies and those creepy little robot vacuums – people in the developed world are working harder than ever. The funny thing is – despite being busier, we aren’t getting more stuff done!
While we may legitimately feel busy, Americans’ working hours have steadily decreased over the last seven decades. In 1948, when the government started keeping track, Americans worked an average of 42.8 hours a week. Today we average 38.7, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Current Population Survey (Source).
Even our children are busy. We have their day booked out from wake up until bedtime. School, homework, play dates, after school activities, family time, household routines. Holy crap. Heaven forbid we just send them outside to play.
Everyone else Does it Better
Social Media is a little like that carrot at the end of a stick . Our voyeuristic natures mean we get to compare ourselves 24/7 to other peoples highlight reel on Instagram or Facebook. And everyone else appears to be doing it better. A lot better. Cleaner homes, happier families, going to the gym, having amazing sex on a week night, preparing perfect home cooked meals from scratch and all the while paying bills on time.
We keep chasing that carrot but never getting to that magical mystical destination that so many others appear to have reached.
Don’t ask me what or where that place is either, because I’m still chasing the carrot too. Most of the time I have no idea where I should be heading I just know that I’m not there yet. And I never feel as if I’m getting any closer.
A lot of us do this. We get anxious or feel guilty if we aren’t running around doing something. Anything. Being Busy suppresses this anxiety and makes us feel worthy. It’s not the ‘Busy’ we crave, but rather the feeling of importance it gives us. If we are honest, it’s a little silly.
The Dirty Little Lie We All Tell Ourselves
Time management techniques and advice on how to get More Organised or How to Fit More into Your Day all rest on the unspoken assumption that it’s possible to win the game of being busy. Just keep being busy and you will get there Darling.
It’s a lie. A Big fat lie. The Busy Game is designed to be unwinnable. You can’t succeed simply by being busy. Think of it like a little hamster on his wheel. He works so hard, but he just keeps going around and around.
How to Stop being Busy in 3 Easy Steps
- Step one: Press Pause. Take a moment. No. Take an Hour to evaluate all the stuff you do that is keeping you busy.
- Step two: Identify what you feel to be the most meaningful ways to spend your life right now.
- Step three: Schedule time for those things.
- Step four: There is no step four. Everything else can fit around the things that matter most.
OK, so a lot of unimportant things won’t get done, and yes, a lot of seemingly important things won’t get done either. Your windows may get dirty, your kids won’t learn piano. But be honest with yourself, with all your busy-ness, do you feel as if you are living that Meaningful, perfect life you working so hard for? I know that it wasn’t working for me. I got tired of spending my life in a self imposed overwhelm.
Let it Go. Let it Go.
As Moms, it is time to allow ourselves to stop trying to do it all. It’s actually pretty easy – Just give up doing most of the stuff you are doing.
Be prepared to let some things go. At least for now. Just until you get on top of the things that matter most.
Whether it’s finances, family, fitness. Choose three things you want to focus on right now and make time for them above all else.
For me, these three things were:
- My family. I was starting to feel disconnected with my kids because we weren’t spending enough time together as a family.
- I was worried about finances and my inability to keep to a budget.
- I was neglecting my work because of procrastination.
I decided to let go of some of the Busy stuff we were doing that was distracting us from the important things.
1.The kids don’t do after school activities.They play at home during the week. We have play dates for fun. They get to do what they want. We save money on tuition fees. I get to spend more time with them. We eat dinner together. And the funny thing is, they naturally start to do what interests them. My oldest son has downloaded an App that teaches him to play Guitar. He learned to play it on his own. My Oldest daughter started teaching Art classes to the kids in the area. My youngest daughter could pretty much run our farm on her own. My youngest son has started to love reading and begs my husband to take him to play golf.
2. I’ve banned technology on school nights (except to do homework). And this goes for me too. No more gaming, social media, checking the phone, Scrolling through instagram or late night shopping. It is so easy. Did you know that you CAN turn off the internet. We have this power. There is a little button on most wi-fi boxes (the little box that makes internet happen in your house:) that is old school easy. Just one click and the house is in the dark ages.
3. I’ve stopped cleaning. Well, I’ve stopped cleaning all the time. I clean my house once a day. Then I stop. Yes the house gets messy, but I’ll deal with it again tomorrow. If you are coming to my place for a visit and want a clean house. Aim to get here by 10am. It’s downhill after that. I do one load of washing a day. Kids know they better make sure their favorite shirt is in that wash or they are waiting for tomorrow. I’m learning to delegate jobs to the kids. They have the time now to do those chores that actually help me out. Oh, and I don’t clean the kids rooms anymore. They catch on real quick.
4.I have stopped spending money on stuff we don’t need.Reducing how much we spend as a family was hard. But it was also a great place to start. Cutting costs naturally stopped a lot of the ‘busy’. I now shop once a week. I don’t browse the sales. I throw away junk mail. The Clutter is clearing. Life is real Simple. My kids don’t need the latest brands to make them better people. I don’t need my house looking like something out of a magazine. Our cups and plates don’t match. We look after what we have. My kids now appreciate the value of money. I know now that being busy actually costs money.
This will differ for everyone, so don’t feel like there is a right or wrong way to get out of the Busy trap. There isn’t. But next time you’re feeling crazy busy, think about whether what you’re busy doing is really accomplishing your goals.
So what if you only clean your home once a week? As one writer puts it – you don’t need to conduct open heart surgery on your kitchen floor.
Does your child want to stop piano lessons? Let them.
Who cares if you serve up spaghetti bolognaise three nights in a row.
or (and don’t freak out on this) go. and. have. a. nap. During the day. When the sun’s out. When the dishes are dirty!! Because sometimes doing nothing is just what you need to find your focus.