On Not Being Busy

On Not Being Busy

A friend recently asked me for advice on how to be ok with not being busy at work. Or how to not be busy at work. Or maybe she wanted to know how to feel content during the lulls that happen at work from time to time.

I think she asked me because I recent posted this amazing New York Times article titled “I Refuse to Be Busy” into my facebook status, sang its praise, and publicly declared that I, too, refuse to be busy.

The author says: “Busy implies a rushed sense of cheery urgency, a churning motion, a certain measure of impending chaos, all of which make me anxious. Busy is being in one place doing one thing with the nagging sense you that you ought to be somewhere else doing something different. I like to be calm. I like to have nothing in particular to do and nowhere in particular to be.”

I just wish I’d said it so clearly myself. I couldn’t agree more.

I was honored my friend asked for advice because since I read this article, I’d been feeling mighty proud to have embodied this intentionality instead of saying yes to every little thing that comes up.

I have to say though, now that I’ve got the hang of it, it’s simple, it’s easy, and it’s good. It’s really not hard. Doing all the things all the time – that’s what’s hard. Being with one thing at a time and doing them each well, that’s not hard. I’m much less exhausted than I used to be and I’m much less irritable, too.

But it was hard at first. And you know why? I felt like I had to prepare everyone around me for this shift. I had to say no a lot. I had to decline offers a lot. I had to let the feeling of guilt pass through me a lot. Guilty for what? Being selfish. It felt selfish to say no to 10 things in order to mindfully, thoughtfully, and intentionally say yes to 1 thing that I actually wanted.

In hindsight, I remember now that I kept coming back to a mantra: Saying yes to something I don’t actually want is not a gift to me or anyone else.

And maybe in the end, that’s not really selfish after all.

  • VFier

    Thank you. I love this post, and the wisdom that it is hard at first, then easy.

  • Mary

    I loved this, thank you! There is something my mind does when I am relaxing that creeps and says, you should be doing more. And those are the thoughts to say No too:). Your post reminded me of this quote:
    “You have to decide what your highest priorities are and
    have the courage-pleasantly, smilingly, nonapologetically-to say “no” to other
    things. And the way to do that is by having a bigger “yes” burning inside.

    -Stephen Covey

  • Ellie Roscher

    I have also started saying things like, “I’m a well rested person” and “My schedule is really open right now” because they are true statements that I have worked toward and claimed. I used to feel guilty because I tied being busy and frantic to being important, but that just isn’t the deal. People’s reactions are funny when I say things like that. They act jealous, but I suspect fear behind making similar choices to change.