Here’s a thing I’ve come to learn about us as a society: We love being busy.
We love talking about how busy we are.
We love having busy schedules.
It’s pretty simple.
In our world, busyness = good.
(sorry for the math symbol…just looking at it is giving me all sorts of horrible flashbacks to high school algebra)
We consider the word ‘busy’ to have a positive connotation because we associate busyness with hard work. And we associate hard work with success. Having lots to do is a good thing, according to our society. It means you’re doing something right.
Our culture’s hard work mentality can be inspiring at times. It can motivate us to make goals and plans. It can drive us to push ourselves and expand our boundaries.
But at some point, I feel like we have to ask: Is there a limit to all this busyness?
We live in a culture that glorifies busyness. A culture that propagates the idea that downtime is wasted time, and that people who want to succeed need to be constantly working. That taking breaks is bad for you. That if you’re not accomplishing something profound during every given moment of your life, then you aren’t working hard enough.
Well, I’m here to attest that this way of thinking is garbage.
As someone who once believed all these things, I can tell you from experience that being on a never-ending quest for work doesn’t contribute to your success. And it doesn’t make you anymore productive than you would be if you weren’t doing it.
Our culture has lulled us into believing that busyness and productiveness go hand-in-hand. But the funny thing is, busyness doesn’t always translate into productiveness. If anything, the never-stop-working mantra that our culture parades around can sometimes make us less productive.
Take me, for example. For a long time, I used to think that being preoccupied with something important at all hours of the day was the only way I could ever accomplish anything. I would set unreasonably high standards for myself, work until I was completely drained of energy, go to sleep, and then wake up and do it all over again. It was just the way I operated. Almost like having a never-ending to-do list.
But I soon came to realize that meeting the high standards I set for myself still wasn’t enough. There was always something else I could have—should have been doing. Always one more thing that needed to be done. I couldn’t figure out why I was feeling this way. Until one day, it hit me right over the head.
It was everything I had seen on social media. The all-work-and-no-play attitude that our culture not only encourages, but demands. It was the expectation that if I really wanted to accomplish something, I wouldn’t pause for even a single second until I got it. And when I realized this, I realized something else that was pretty important.
These expectations weren’t fair to me—or anyone for that matter. It isn’t right that our culture has us convinced that taking time for ourselves is self-defeating. We all deserve to take time for ourselves when we feel like we need it. And there’s nothing about it that should make us feel guilty.
I realized that when I didn’t take time for myself—when I forced myself to keep working even though I wasn’t feeling up to it, I was doing myself a disservice. I wasn’t being productive at all. I was just trying to keep busy, so that I could meet the demands that society had imposed on me.
I could see it in my work. I could see the difference in the work I had done when I was feeling energized and motivated, and the work I had when I was feeling tired and worn. And I knew that I was happier with what I did when I felt motivated than I did when I felt drained.
As the old cliche goes, “quality is more important than quantity.” It doesn’t matter if you do lots of things in one day if you do them sloppily. It’s better to focus on content rather than numbers.
By no means am I trying to say that staying busy is a bad thing. Or that I think success isn’t a product of hard work. All I’m saying is that I think it’s important to know your limits. And, more specifically, when you’ve pushed them.
Working yourself to the point of total and complete exhaustion every single day isn’t healthy. And it isn’t fair to expect yourself to produce quality work when you haven’t allowed yourself to take a break in who knows how long.
Having come to this realization, I have officially decided to abandon my mission to be busy at all times. Instead, I am going to be productive. I am going to make the most of the time that I do spend working. And I am not going to set ridiculously high expectations for every single day.
Thank you for reading. I hope you’re having a lovely week and that so far the year has been treating you nicely.
Do you feel the need to be busy all the time?