The cult of busy

I don’t know anyone who isn’t busy… Do you? It’s odd, because I should know people who aren’t busy – I know people who are retired or who don’t work or who work flexi time specifically so that they won’t be busy. But they are.

It seems we’ve all collectively bought into a cult of busy that says that unless your days are full and somewhat frantic, you’re not contributing fully to society. I don’t know when exactly this became our collective truth, but I don’t think it has to be this way.

My New Year’s Resolution last year was not to rush, which was surprisingly difficult. Mainly because I was too busy: trying to cram too much life into too few hours. I was trying to be everything to everyone – 100% worker, 100% mom, 100% wife, 100% friend… It’s just not possible. As a result of trying to cut down on physically rushing, I managed to make my life less busy. But it’s a weirdly alluring trap to fall back into – there’s a tug, most days, to take on more, rest less, and keep constantly on the go. It’s almost as if we’ve decided the answer to, “how’s it going?” always has to be: “busy!”

But it doesn’t have to be.

My lovely friend Peter shared a startlingly simple and effective solution to busy-ness with me when we were camping in Yosemite (which was every bit as magical as that sounds: giant rocks, starlit skies, big beauty all round). Every weekend, he has No Plan Sundays. A day of absolutely no plans. He wakes up and decides to do whatever he wants to – or nothing at all. He can hang out with friends, spontaneously, or stay in his pyjamas all day. The idea felt to me then – and still feels – like a long, cool drink of water. What a relief!

Mark and I have adapted No Plan Sundays to One Plan Weekends. One of the weekend days we’ll make plans (generally either morning or afternoon, but occasionally both) and the other day is sacred. Down time. Off time. Spontaneous family time. Of course, it doesn’t always work (if friends are visiting from overseas and only have one day to see us I’m not going to miss that opportunity) but I find that it really helps me recharge for the week ahead. We can stay in our pyjamas late, eat pancakes, play and read the paper. We don’t have to rush the kids or try and fit to anyone’s schedule. We can go on adventures or just stay home. There’s no rush. It’s not busy.

I remember distinctly that when we walked the Camino in Spain, I would take time out every afternoon just to chill. We had walked all day so I felt I deserved some nothing time: just lying in a hammock or sitting in a chair, quietly soaking up my surroundings and not doing anything in particular. Isn’t it funny how much easier it is to do that on holiday, though? Real life offers so many endless To Do’s that it’s really difficult to just unplug. And to give permission to yourself to unplug.

If you’re looking for permission: here it is. You are not living your best life if you’re constantly busy and feeling rushed and exhausted as a result of it. If busy-ness makes you happy, by all means go ahead! But if you’re feeling stretched and thin and worn out, here’s your permission slip to take a day off. Every weekend. And another one to try and find a slice of nothing time in each day…

  1. This is so true. I had plans to take a friend for a birthday lunch today and she cancelled last minute. Now
    What to do , a free few hours to almost do nothing , but I cannot, it’s Monday for goodness sake !

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