Choosing Busy

A Peaceful Place - By John Keaton

My lovely and wise sister-in-law, Amy, always makes me think.

One of her recent posts on Design Mom about being busy is no exception.

You can read her post here.

Her ideas caused me to reflect about my own relationship with busy.  Keeping busy has produced many positive results in my life. I believe there are many benefits to being busy. It is good for the body and mind to be productive. It is good for kids to be involved in activities, which prevents boredom and finding their way into trouble.

And yet, there is no doubt that running from one thing to the next to the next runs the risk of leaving us haggard and unfilled.

So many of us, professionals and non-professionals alike, try to figure out how we can live in the gap between harried and humdrum.

I appreciated what Amy had to say. Here are my thoughts and response:

I love having a full plate. I am much more productive and organized when I have more to do. I LOVE being busy. 

Or more accurately, I love standing at the corner of hectic and bored, the Goldilocks approach to the business of being busy. In other words, I aspire to fill my time with moments that alternate between fast and slow pace, producing an average pace of feeling “just right.” 

How do we do this? 

It is all about decisions.

For me, the bad guy of busyness is not the action, but the loss of autonomy and control…. whether I feel forced or trapped, or whether the activity is my choice.

What is busyness, exactly? It is incorrect to assume that busyness is synonymous with “fast.” If I am sitting on a park bench being physically IDLE, but mentally writing a poem in my head through active pondering, I consider myself active with mental energy. Taking time to remember, or ogle over a fresh patch of tulips is a busy mental moment. When I am sitting on vacation, sans cell-phone, sans the cares of the world, watching my kids busily body surfing in the ocean waves, I am busy being a present parent. 

BUSY simply means you are choosing one activity, or five, at the expense of another. Tim Kreider tells of riding his bike every afternoon, implying that somewhere there must be a giant chart which rates different activities on a busyness scale: bike riding hanging attractively {deceptively} at the bottom, while work-related emails teeter destructively at the top of the pile. The irony, of course, being that while Kreider is out riding his bike, friends trying to reach him would, in essence, get a busy signal. The negative connotation of ‘being busy’ seems to stem from the benefit derived from the activity rather than the activity itself.

Even the ultimate antidote to busyness…meditation… requires a focus on being busy with emptying your mind and being busy with the work of breathing. The only break from busyness is death.
I choose not to look at busyness as the enemy. 

The real enemy is the word YES! Which makes NO the real hero. 

The ability, wisdom and strength to selectively CHOOSE how to spend my time is where true contentment [and autonomy] lies. And isn’t that the whole intent of being “busy”…. to ultimately find sustainable peace and joy?


This life is all about BALANCE with eating, relationships, money, etc. Time management is no exception. And in each of those areas it all boils down to making good decisions. It seems to me that learning to make good decisions is at the core of everything.

That is the hard part.

I am the worst decision-maker ever.


LGH said...

What an awesome post! So inspiring and profound....

LGH said...

But, don't be so hard on yourself about making decisions; you decided to put on an incredible reception and it was uber fantastic. You decided to have that cake contest with the priests and laurels; it turned out peachy keen. So, there you have it - just two of your many good decisions.


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