• Busyness is an epidemic that’s permeated our society, leaving us tired, irritable, overwhelmed and fantasising about moving to a remote country town with terrible wi-fi. (Getty Images)Source: Getty Images
If you’ve been swept up in the mad flurry of constantly doing, it may be time to stop and reassess.
By
Bonnie Bayley

12 Jan 2016 - 10:01 AM  UPDATED 12 Jan 2016 - 10:01 AM

Somebody please send help - I fear I’ve been enlisted into the cult of crazy-busy. I don’t remember exactly when or why I signed up, all I know is I’ve been brainwashed into cramming my hours, minutes, seconds even, with an unwieldly list of tasks and to-dos that I am unlikely to ever get through. The moment I make headway, I’ll just replenish the list anyhow, because I’m a Highly Efficient Person. Lately, I’ve caught myself parroting the crazy-busy cult’s lingo. Busy! Frantic! Hectic! Slammed! are high-rotation words that I blurt out on autopilot, when someone innocently enquires how I am. Forging ahead relentlessly, I recoil from relaxation and look down my nose at down-time. After all, it’s the opposite of productivity and a self-indulgent path to slothdom, am I right?

I’m not the only hapless victim of this mass conditioning: busyness is an epidemic that’s permeated our society, leaving us tired, irritable, overwhelmed and fantasising about moving to a remote country town with terrible wi-fi. On the one hand, we resent being busy, bemoaning our jam-packed schedules and lack of sleep while cradling our third latte of the day. But some part of us secretly likes it. We wear busy like a badge of honour that signifies success. If you’re busy, you’re clearly important and #winning at life. It can be a convenient excuse to flake out on commitments at the last minute. All that constant rushing and commotion can serve us on a deeper level too, as a distraction from uncomfortable things we don’t want to face: loneliness, a boring job, that big life goal you’ve been energetically procrastinating on for years.

We wear busy like a badge of honour that signifies success. If you’re busy, you’re clearly important and #winning at life. 

Yes, modern life is complex, demanding and fast-moving. But on some level, busy is a choice we – myself included, have made. So do we keep up the frenetic pace, or do we dare to pause, and consider the words of American author, poet and philosopher Henry David Thoreau: "It is not enough to be industrious; so are the ants. The question is: What are you industrious about?"

Answering that question (honestly and candidly) is the first step to weaning yourself off busy. Dissect how you spend your time and you’ll likely discover you could actually simplify and streamline life a little. Take a closer look at your to-dos, and there’s probably a few you could do away with. Cooking dinner: sadly unavoidable. Reorganising the kitchen pantry: nice, but optional to survival. Seeing friends: delightful. Staying on top of everyone’s social media updates: dispensable. It’s about fiercely safeguarding your time and energy, allocating it to what ranks high on your personal priorities list, for what makes you happy or gets you closer to where you truly want to be.

All that constant rushing and commotion can serve us on a deeper level too, as a distraction from uncomfortable things we don’t want to face.

For women in particular, breaking the busy addiction requires making peace with its opposite: leisure. Too often, our downtime is brief, fragmented, laced with guilt, interrupted by general household chaos and the implicit urge to help and please others. Experts have a term for this: it’s called ‘contaminated’ leisure (as opposed to ‘pure’ leisure, where you allow yourself a decent chunk of time out) and it’s the scourge of crazy-busy types.

A busy life is one that’s crammed full, and that’s its biggest downfall. There’s no space left to breathe, expand, ponder, dream, discover. We hurtle through life without digesting it. We are productive, but not necessarily efficient. We don’t allow our turbulent minds to calm down long enough for new ideas and inspiration to bubble up to the surface. We’re constantly three steps ahead in the future rather than savouring the sweetness of the present moment. Is it time for a major rethink? I think so. How am I feeling today? Outrageously, rebelliously un-busy, thanks. 

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