Busy

The thing that you call ‘busy’ doesn’t exist. There is no such thing as being ‘too busy’ to do something. There is a lot to do. Enough work and experiences and media to fill a thousand lifetimes. There are projects and friends and family that we want to spend time with. There are the little things we have to do every day - exercise, commute, clean, sleep, etc etc. But none of this makes you busy. Busy is a choice. If you aren’t making it consciously then you are making it unconsciously, but it’s still a choice. Why are you using it as an excuse?

Busy is a prioritization problem, a resource allocation failure. If you can’t do something because you are too busy, all you are saying is that the something in question isn’t important. Because if it was important enough, you’d find a way to do it. Maybe you aren’t interested in doing it. Maybe you have other things that have a higher priority. This is fine. This is life. But let’s make no mistake about it. You aren’t ‘too busy’, it just doesn’t cross your importance threshold. We try to be polite by saying we’re busy when we should really say “no, I’m sorry I can’t commit to that”. Except when we really aren’t saying that. Because there are times when busy means something else.

Busy is also a luxury. You know who isn’t busy - a single mom that works two jobs to provide for the kids that she wishes she could spend more time with. She’s not busy, she’s overwhelmed. Her back is against the wall and she’s just fucking exhausted. For those of us with a bit more privilege and options, busy is a signal. When we say we’re busy, what we want to convey is that we’re important. It’s a subtle way of congratulating ourselves on how much we have to do. How much we matter. Great. Glad you have things to fill your time with. Why do you lead with that when someone asks how you’re doing? Is that for the benefit of others or to convince yourself of something?

Somewhere along the way we bought into the narrative that filling our days with work and activity was noble. Productivity, efficiency, overtime, hustle, however it manifests we can’t be always ‘on’. We need downtime. Our time off should be that and yet we often fill it with a different busy-ness. The type where we load the weekend with tasks we didn’t get done during the week. Or we binge watch what the culture machine has manufactured so we don’t fall behind. Or we rush to engage in that interesting vacation that leaves us just as exhausted as a week at work. Because our reward for staying busy in our day-to-day is the opportunity to be busy making it worthwhile. Take a break. Not a break full of distraction. Try some idleness. Take a walk. Be present.

Time is the great equalizer. We all get a finite amount of it (perhaps less than we think). It’s up to us to fill it properly. This includes balancing meaningful effort with idleness and presence. Some things will matter and some things won’t. What makes the cut and what doesn’t shows what your priorities are. If you spend hours on Netflix and none on writing that screenplay you’ve been meaning to do then it means the latter isn’t as important to you as the former. But don’t blame it on being busy.