We’re all busy, aren’t we? Sometimes it seems life zooms by at the speed of blurry light. Especially this time of year—holidays over, the new year in full bore, all those resolutions and goals begging for attention.
Sometimes I’ve felt as if days and weeks and months peeled off the calendar without my ever knowing it.
You’ve had those sections of time, right? When one day you look up and think, where the heck did that year go?
But does being busy really earn us that gold star?
Many of us grew up with the old notion that idleness is the devil’s workshop. Or any variation on that theme. And while this may be true for children (which is why kids hear it so much :), does the sentiment hold true in adulthood?
We see busy people as the important ones, no? I mean, he’s so danged busy, he must be truly significant! Anyone who’s worked in the Dilbert principle of corporate America knows that to seem calm and on pace can be seen as non-essential. Although thank goodness this is changing as corporations become more conscious of what actual productivity means.
Even long ago when I worked in non-profit, where we enlisted volunteers to carry out the tasks of the organization, the mantra was: “Find the busiest person on your board and ask him to do the biggest job.” The idea being that busy folks got more done.
Which indeed, they might.
Or, all that busyness may be just that—someone chasing his own craziness around the room.
Because have you ever gotten to the end of a day, week, month, not knowing where it went, being so busy you hardly remembered your name, and couldn’t point to exactly what you’ve accomplished?
What, exactly, did you get done in all that time?
And if you ran like a lunatic in order to save time, cutting corners, always busy, when were you planning to use the time you saved? And to what end?
I’ve found myself in places where I’ve worked hard and fast and long, “saving” time in theory for more of it on the weekend. Only to find when the weekend came, I was too exhausted to enjoy it!
How insane is that.
I love what author and popular speaker on creativity, philosophy, culture, and business Scott Berkun said about this:
“This means people who are always busy are time poor. They have a time shortage. They have time debt. They are either trying to do too much, or they aren’t doing what they’re doing very well. They are failing to either a) be effective with their time b) don’t know what they’re trying to effect, so they scramble away at trying to optimize for everything, which leads to optimizing nothing.”
That got my attention. I know that when I’m too busy, I miss the nuances. I.e., I’m not doing what I’m doing to the best of my ability. That kinda sucks.
And something I know for true is that when I’m talking about how busy I am, then I’m not actually doing the work in front of me. I’m just talking.
Productivity is of course the opposite of perpetual busyness. I know this oh-so well with writing. Talking about it gets me nowhere. Actually doing it takes me to the moon. You have to in fact produce words on the page in order to be a writer. Otherwise, well, you’re not.
And creativity just can’t live in that state of constant movement.
Many studies have been done on this, and I love the one by Karen Gasper and Brianna Middlewood of Pennsylvania State University. They found that participants who were bored outperformed those who were relaxed, elated, or distressed on creativity tests.
Yep, this is something I know.
This past year has been a truly trying one. I’d bitten off a hair more than I could chew, for the best of intentions, of course. And even though I knew where this would lead, well, I did it anyway.
Until, well, I couldn’t.
By the end of most weeks I was panting. Did I get a lot done? Yes. Was it the very best of me? Hm . . .
But worse, I was doing a lot of talking about writing. And not actually writing. Which is of course where I live. Creativity had, however, flown to Brazil for the season.
Luckily enough, I’ve faced this demon before. So, I faced it again, and reorganized my life once more.
Because even if you have a dream, a goal, a prize for which you’re working hard, if you don’t take time to enjoy your life, what’s it all for? And if creativity is key to your work (and honestly, isn’t it to all of us?), then fostering that is paramount.
So next time you play hooky in whatever busyness your life is about, rather than feel guilty, pat yourself on the back. You’re feeding your creative muse. And that’s what the world needs more of.
How do you stop the busyness in order to accomplish more?