April 9, 2020

Is busyness a competition?



People are busy. People are overwhelmed. People have too much on their plates. And yet, the complaint is often laced with pride.

We can't wait to tell everyone how busy we are. "How are you?" "SO busy!"

Perhaps busyness triggers our competitive nature. At least, I think it triggered mine.

Back in the late 90s, after having started and run my nonprofit organization for several years while also working a full-time job, I started noticing a tendency to brag about my busyness. The busier I appeared and the more meetings and events I organized and attended, the more important I felt.

Perhaps it made me feel needed and wanted in the world. If I was busy, it was because I was indispensable. Right?

But I got tired of the constant pressure. I was exhausted. Sure, being busy made me feel successful, but why did I require this particular definition of success? And why did I care so much if other people perceived me as busy?

So I made a conscious effort to stop this endless competition.

When I started to let things go and allowed myself to say no to being overwhelmed and taking on too much, I felt so much healthier and happier. I could tackle the things that were most important to me, and let the rest go.

The first time I read about busyness as a "badge of honor" in 2006, I was so relieved to discover I wasn't the only one who felt this way. The blog post was written by Adultitis-fighter Jason Kotecki, probably very close to the beginning of Kim and Jason's Escape Adulthood journey!

I now find it a relief not to be competing with everyone else for "who's the busiest." And I can really get down to the business of my business and my life. (Okay, I confess. Sometimes I compete at the other end of the spectrum: who sleeps the latest?)

I also sometimes still find it hard not to answer "Busy" when people ask "How are you?" Because isn't that what everyone says?

The latest busyness competition on social media is around how many Zoom meetings we're having in a day, thanks to COVID-19. (However, this pride in busyness pre-dates COVID-19 and will continue after it's gone.)

I've been doing my work virtually for over a decade. It's normal for me to have several virtual meetings in a day with clients and colleagues. But do I want to have eight meetings, just because I can, just because I don't have to drive somewhere? Nope.

We all know this is going on, and we're all exhausted by it. We do have a choice (at least my fellow entrepreneurs who are in charge of our own calendars). So why don't we stop?

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