6 Ways to Stop Glorifying Being Busy
The other day, I came across this fantastic picture on Facebook:
I breathed a deep and long sigh, much as I had done after I read the recent piece at the New York Times, The ‘Busy’ Trap (read it. NOW. Then come back here).
How often do you hear other people say, “I’m so overwhelmed. I have so much to do!” or, “I can’t make it because I have four other events I need to attend that very same night!” or, “My kids schedules are booked solid and I just can’t spare a moment!” or, “I’m totally full of myself and think the world revolves around me?”
Wait, maybe not that last one.
How many times have you heard yourself utter these phrases (at least the first three)? It’s an epidemic in America. We all have too much to do, too much of the time. We are stressed, anxious, our health is suffering, and we are irritated.
And the reality is, we create most of these issues ourselves.
I know some of you are saying, “But my life and job really are stressful and I have no control over the situation.” I realize in some cases, you really do have little control in your job, like if you are a paramedic, a soldier, or a wedding planner (dealing with those brides, and worse, the bride’s mom? Uh, no thank you).
But many of us have more control in our jobs than we realize, even if we have a micro-managing or horrendously incompetent boss. We just decide to believe we don’t have control, and hand over the reigns of our autonomy. We allow our boundaries to be bullied under the delusion that we don’t have a choice. Yet as I hear over and over again in the dance world, “Don’t dance for free, no matter what gig. As soon as you’re dancing for free, no one will pay you. As soon as you start charging, you’ll get better gigs.”
In other words, we all have to put our foot down for ourselves, and bust out of our own traps.
I can attest to letting go of my control and boundaries in a job in a big, deep way. My last office job, where I worked for about 4 1/2 years, recently had front-page coverage in the SF Weekly.
I have wondered when the “big” story would break, the one of misuse of funds, threats, and preying on leftist white guilt, far beyond the coverage of a man named Mouli Cohen swindling the organization of $30 million dollars in a Ponzi-like ‘deal’.
At Mouli’s trial, the judge said:
“In my more than 40 years with the criminal justice system, I have never encountered a con man like Mr. Cohen,” Judge Charles Breyer said at Cohen’s sentencing hearing on April 30 in San Francisco’s U.S. District Court. “He is serial in his proclivity to commit cons. He is nearly sociopathic in his inability to relate to victims of the cons that he conceives.”
This ‘deal’ was happening the whole time I worked for Vanguard. And yes, after being there for about 6 months, I knew something was off, though not quite what. It might have taken me about two years to realize there was definitely money heading in directions it shouldn’t (though I thought it was for the ‘deal’ and over-extravagance given to certain donors, and yes, staff. I didn’t realize money was going into the pocket of the CEO, as is noted in the SF Weekly piece).
So how could this happen? Well, I won’t speak for the rest of the staff, but I will for myself – I gave my power away. I let the head of the foundation manipulate me, mostly through my views on racism and classism and my hope for the small, progressive non-profits we were supposed to be funding. I expressed my frustrations at times, and it became clear I better keep my mouth shut to keep my job. I lived in fear that the job was too good, with too many perks and too much pay, and that I would lose it and it would be extremely hard to get another job.
I also spent years and a lot of time doing work that meant absolutely nothing, but I thought was necessary and helpful. Many of us are trapped in the same cycle, even if it’s not the same kind of scam situation.
Good reasons? No. But fear and believing we have no other choice play large roles in many of our decisions, particularly when it comes to work and our career, and beyond that, with our family and our health. I let that fear keep me in a job that was soul-sucking for far too long, and you better believe that impacted my health.
The truth is, we are anxious, stressed out, and irritated because we let that fear take over. And the busy trap falls right in line with that same fear factor.
The Spinning Wheel
Do you feel as if you aren’t constantly doing something, whether that be work, tidying up, planning for the future, working on your kid’s admission to kindergarten, listening to NPR, adding on to your home, checking your email, FB, Twitter, taking a Bikram yoga class, shopping for food, or any of the other million things that can fill our day, that you are being lazy? That doing all these things constantly makes you more valid in some way?
Sure, I think a good majority of us feel this way.
But what are we working toward, other than death? We like to think we are working toward that big pay-off day, but that big pay-off day is nowhere near guaranteed, particularly in a volatile market that we’re not even sure will exist in several years.
Yes, we need to work. Yes, we need to shop for groceries so we can cook food and feed ourselves and stay alive. Yes, we need to plan our finances.
But we also need to hang out with friends just having a chat. We need to sit on the grass with a fluffy novel. We need to turn off our damn cell phones and pay attention to what is real, like the trees, the cat, our kids.
We need to do cartwheels on the back porch in the middle of a fall day.
Click here to read six tips on how to slowly disengage yourself from the busy trap.
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