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I think it is important to see the busyness culture for what it is. If we go back in time it was different. Think Violet Dowager Countess in Downton Abbey asking “What is a weekend?”
Idle and Busy are just two points on a line. Neither is better than the other but they both carry different costs. The Dowager Countess was able to be idle because so many others were working on her behalf. Obviously occasional busyness isn’t the same as chronic busyness but we, our co-workers, and friends and family nevertheless pay a price. The simple question for each of us each and every day is are we getting enough in return?
I don’t know about you but I have really started noticing more and more conversations where things like “Yeah, I am really busy” get bandied around. Busyness is being celebrated. Many people carry it a status symbol or badge of honour. It can give a sense of purpose and even feel good but what good is it? What is being achieved?
This busyness is often amplified by distractions. Studies have shown that the major distractions are email, meetings and what are known as interruptions, which in the past few years increasingly include our phones. A lot of these interruptions are self-instigated — nobody forces us to check out emails 15+ times a day or to allow push notifications so that we have those constant pings or flashing lights. We tend to volunteer for this because the tools give us a sense of immediate gratification, we’re afraid we’ll miss something or perhaps something deeper is at play.
So, my invitation is to become increasingly aware of any interruptions during your day. Not only external interruptions but also the internal interruptions — those little voices sending you reminders or running commentary: Don’t forget to ring Susan? What’s he talking about. Being busy is great. This isn’t about judging any of these thoughts. Just noticing is a great start and managing those interruptions can give space to start reflecting on other aspects of busyness.