How busy are you at this very moment?
I ask, wondering what’s brought you to this brief reflection in the Journal’s most interior pages.
I’m flattered, and frankly, mildly bewildered, when someone tells me they’ve read one of my articles entirely, especially when people today seem busier than ever.
Our society glorifies many things, among them, being busy.
Among social pressures to be successful, sought-after and stereotypically attractive is the pressure to remain perpetually immersed in an endless set of tasks, to remain engaged with coworkers, peers, friends, acquaintances and even relative strangers, via email, text-messaging and a slew of social media platforms.
When someone is busy, it’s considered a good thing. After all, attending to a full to-do list, packed schedule and landslide of messages can’t mean you’re unsuccessful or overlooked. Being busy, therefore, must mean you’re doing something right.
Until very recently, I’d always loved keeping busy. My childhood and adolescence were absorbed with extra-curricular activities — conditioning conducive to joining an overachieving Queen’s population.
I was led to believe that busyness is synonymous with happiness.
I kept getting busier and busier, assuming I was doing myself a favour.
Until one day, amidst my feverish multi-tasking and over-zealous smartphone usage, I caught a glimpse of a woman sitting complacently on a wooden bench, reading a magazine, and sipping an iced tea.
That’s when I realized it.
Being busy doesn’t mean being happy, nor does it necessarily mean being productive.
I’ve spent an unreasonable number of hours detailing to-do lists when I could have actually done things.
Scheduling every second of my day isn’t a greater achievement than if I were to opt for a coffee break or enjoy a long lunch with a friend.
Sifting through emails seconds before going to bed isn’t accomplishing too much either, save insomnia.
As a wise teacher once told me, “you always have time for what you make time for.”
Perhaps the art of prioritization lies in a more laissez-faire approach. Important things will get done because they must, while others will fall away, revealing how trivial they always were.
Priorities define our lives, but I’m not sure being busy should be one of them. There are far more worthwhile ways to spend one’s time.
I no longer believe in being busy. I believe in prioritizing the things I love to do, and the people I love. Because it’s a choice. I could choose to be busy, or I could choose to simply be.
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