Well, we have turned into a nation of very busy bees, haven’t we?
Everybody’s either sooo busy at work, or sooo busy training for a triathlon, or just sooo busy juggling this, that and launching a cupcake business on the side…
No wonder we’re always complaining about it.
After all, not only do we have to actually ‘do’ all this stuff, we need to find time to post a status update, tweet something witty and post an arty photo about it too.
But are we really complaining? Or are we, perhaps, just wanting to boast a little bit..?
Busting busy myths
Tony Crabbe, a business psychologist who’s worked with the likes of Disney, Microsoft and HSBC during his career, has just released his new book, Busy: How to Strive in a World of Too Much (Piatkus, £14.99).
In it, he examines how in our modern information and technology-overloaded world, we can often be guilty of making ourselves very busy - but less productive and effective in the process.
“Busy is a brand, not a fact of life. We’re not busy because there’s too much to do; but because we want to be seen as important and valuable,” says Crabbe.
“We shout our busyness to anyone who will listen, because we think busy is the path to success, despite the personal costs.We are wrong.
“In fact, rampant productivity and personal organisation are the very things that are strangling our ability to think, to create and to differentiate ourselves; all the things that really matter for successful careers in an information economy.”
The multi-tasking trap
Crabbe makes an important point. I often think the same thing about multi-tasking. For years, it’s been rammed down our throats that ‘juggling’ and multi-tasking is an absolute necessity and the answer to everything.
Of course, for most of us, to some degree it’s unavoidable.
But after a lifetime of being the ‘scatterbrain who’s always late’, I decided to pull my socks up. Instead of being all over the place, with all my commitments, all the time, I would focus on one task at a time, only take on as much as I could comfortably manage, and not feel guilty about the occasional day or evening doing nothing.
Ok, I don’t always achieve it, but overall I do and as a result, I’m less stressed, more content, and more in control of my life.
No time? Make time
The thing about being ‘sooo busy’ is that we can get blindly swept along with it. At which point do we stop and ask ourselves if all the things we’re ‘sooo busy’ with are actually making us happy?
There will always be times in our lives when we’ll need to do things that aren’t that happy - cleaning up dog poop, or at the more serious end of the scale, coping with illness.
But when it comes to certain elements of our social, work and domestic lives, we can take a bit of ‘happy’ control.
If you keep saying you don’t have time to take the kids out, or exercise, or eat dinner with your loved one – could you make time by being less busy with something else which isn’t as important to you (checking emails 24/7 or seeing friends you’ve outgrown, for example)?
Addicted to being busy?
Sometimes we tell ourselves we’re busy because other people just need us for so many things.
Could it be, though, sometimes we simply ‘need’ to feel ‘needed’?
For some, this might be a need to be the best and soar up that career ladder. For others, it might be a need to never let anybody down, be it friends, relatives, workmates or even gym class buddies.
Obviously, there is nothing wrong with being ambitious or wanting to be successful, and nothing wrong with striving to be a helpful and reliable, caring person.
But we’re all human and we all have limits.
Learning to say ‘no’ occasionally can prevent us spreading ourselves too thin and burning out, which in turn leaves us happier in ourselves and more able to make others – be it our boss, colleagues or loved ones – happier too.
And surely there should always be time for that?