“Life is what happens when you are busy making other plans.” ~John Lennon
Busyness has become a rite of passage in our culture.
A status symbol of sorts…you’ve achieved ‘success’ when you can finally complain that you’re too busy. The more you take on, the more valuable and important you are.
There’s a consensus that to be happy one must have a full schedule.
But busy doing what?
Building a career you mildly enjoy, spending time with people you can barely tolerate and participating in activities you find redundant and boring? All the while you’re too busy for pursuits that give joy and fulfillment.
Why Do You Strive for Busyness?
There are a number of reasons you may work so hard at being busy.
One reason, in particular, is the fear of idle time. Like it will somehow evaporate your high standing. Or, worse, suggest that your life is empty and unimportant. Social engagements booked into the next year give the illusion that you are happy and validated.
The fear of idle time could also indicate your fear of feeling — everyone has feelings we work hard to avoid and when you’re busy there’s no time for them.
Or the fear of being called lazy — no one wants to get caught with too much downtime. It is frowned upon in a culture that praises busyness.
And there’s the fear of the unknown. When you are busy, you can predict your life and the outcomes of your actions.
But, are you really that busy?
If you were to account for every minute of your day, I suspect you’d be surprised to learn how much time you spend on non-productive activities…time-wasters that make you feel like you’re doing something. Like mindlessly scrolling through your phone or attending to unimportant work matters.
This weekly planner is a great tool for testing this theory. You can track how you spend your time versus how you’d like to spend your time. You may find you do have a chance to schedule in regular exercise, a weekly date night or time to do…nothing.
The down side to busyness
Because our culture supports a busy life — countless apps for scheduling and organizing, smart phones to keep us connected 24 hours a day and an emphasis on setting and achieving goals — it’s easy to hit burn out and fail to prioritize important tasks.
There’s a German commercial that stopped me dead in my tracks a few years ago — an old man spending Christmas alone, year after year because his children are all too busy to visit him. His grandchildren are growing, and he’s getting older. He finally fakes his death to gather his family together for Christmas. If you haven’t seen it, it’s a tearjerker.
This commercial is a perfect example of a failure to prioritize what is important.
If you were to take an inventory of your life would you find that you’re skipping the things that matter? Are you driving your kids all over to meet their chocker block schedules instead of making time to go camping and enjoy nature? What about eating a healthy diet or reading a good book?
Making time for spontaneity and adventure is important.
Busyness is bad for your brain
Lawton Ursrey writes a compelling argument in Forbes on the need for idleness. He states your brain requires it to function at its best. That when you task your brain regularly, you’re losing out on highly engaged brain activity.
You miss out on potential moments of brilliance — those Aha moments when you’re spaced out in the shower or wake up in the middle of the night.
“Aha moments will occur when you disconnect because the Default Mode Network is processing reflective thoughts of yourself, spatial ideas, and visual information—when you’re busy that activity is suppressed.”
Leisure time is good for your brain
Adventure travel is particularly enticing to restoring mental and physical well-being. There’s the old saying “Take a hike. Get a bigger brain”.
Taking time for adventure could help you feel more focused and engaged in life. It’s an opportunity for self-reflection, to forge new friendships, learn new skills and use parts of your brain that have long been neglected.
It opens up a part of your brain that fosters creativity. It improves confidence, feeds your soul and increases your tolerance for uncertainty.
Book that trip you’ve been meaning to take. Enjoy life again and experience the joy that’s been lacking in your busy life.
You can find adventure in everything…even your downtime.