I do not like the word “busy” very much. I think we often treat it as a crutch, a vague descriptor used to reflexively tell the world we are put upon by its demands. It pushes responsibility for that feeling outwards when it seems to me that a state of “busyness” is something we mostly do to ourselves.
“Ugh, I’m so busy.”
For whatever negative emotions we associate with feeling too busy, there still exists a cultural value on saying we are busy. It’s perfectly acceptable–expected even–to talk about how stressed and busy we feel, for example, but the reverse is not true. When asked how things are going, it is permissible to say “good” or “fine” or even “great,” but we are not allowed to elevate that to stating outright how not busy we are, that we feel we have all of our priorities in order and a enough time to adequately engage in them to an extent we find satisfying. This would come across as terribly smug.
What’s odd in this is how we also turn not being “busy” into a negative in its own right. If we are not busy, we must be bored. Bored at work. Bored in school. Bored with our lives. I’m finding it challenging to understand what the ideal state actually looks like or whether it even exists. I want to find a way to better understand what happens when I feel busy and what’s really going on when I want to describe myself that way.
This is at the top of my mind right now because since starting my current contracting job, I’m feeling “busy” in a nebulous way, and I want to figure out what’s at the root of it. Here are a few observations.
- I have more structured demands on my time than I’ve had since leaving my corporate job even if I’m not necessarily working particularly longer hours. I go into an office 3 days per week for fairly set hours per day, which is different from my previous schedule.
- The contracting job with ULI involves fairly frequent events. This adds variables about where and when I go somewhere in addition to the simple addition of specific days of the week I work there.
- I have expectations for my efforts from someone other than myself or a publisher several states away who only cares when the manuscript shows up. Even though the contract is only supposed to be 20 or so hours per week, my instinct is to ONLY work on their stuff. This is my reaction, not something they’ve put on me.
As a result of these things, I find myself feeling like I don’t have enough time to do other stuff (like write this blog), but the truth is I’m just haven’t found a way to successfully balance these new structured expectations with my preexisting less structured goals.
If that still sounds like being busy, you’re not wrong. And to be sure, there are loads of people who are both too busy and unable to change much about their lives to do it. But what I’m really feeling–and I think what lots of people really feel when they say they are busy–is that I’m struggling with priorities and time management. How much time will something take? When does it have to be done? When should I work on this project versus that project? These are questions I’m not answering very well right now. They are questions I’ve always struggled with to some extent.
I have no answers in the post today, just a brain dump. But at least I’ve been able to check an item off the to-do list. That’s something, right?