Ask a friend or family member how they are doing and there is a good chance within the first minute you will hear them speaking about how busy they are and how they hardly have time to do anything. Think about the last time you answered that question. Did you find yourself talking about how busy you are?

The truth is, that more often than not; this is not true. 

We are obsessed with being busy because collectively we have come to believe that the busier we are the more important and worthy we become. Our perceived importance only increases, when we post about our hectic life on our social media feeds and get the throngs of affirmation and sympathy from our friends and followers.

As it turns out, not only does being busy make us feel important, it has actually become a status symbol in our always-on, breakneck speed culture. There was a time when a life of leisure was an indication that you had indeed “arrived”, but this has changed significantly as it is now busy that is the barometer for success.  

A 2017 article in The Atlantic speaks to this epidemic of busyness by stating “The gleam of being both well-off and time-poor, the authors write (authors being a reference to a study published in the Journal of Consumer Research Conspicuous Consumption of Time: When Busyness and Lack of Leisure Time Become a Status Symbol), is ‘driven by the perceptions that a busy person possesses desired human capital characteristics (competence, ambition) and is scarce and in demand on the job market.’ In a curious reversal, the aspirational objects here are not some luxury goods—a nice watch or car, which are now mass-produced and more widely available than they used to be—but workers themselves, who by bragging about how busy they are can signal just how much the labor market values them and their skills.”

If you have found the time in your hectic schedule to read this far and can relate to your need to be busy, let me offer a few suggestions to help you shed that burden

Say No 

I recently received an offer from a colleague to contribute to a book that will be published next year. They requested that I write a chapter and of course, I would be listed as a contributing author. I was honored and intrigued and gave it serious consideration. After reading their proposal and thinking about the work that would be involved, I declined their offer. Why?  I do not intend to max out my bandwidth and this project would have brought me close to if not over that point.

One of the most powerful words we can use to get back to a manageable pace is “no”. It may be hard at first, especially if you are a people pleaser, but there are only so many hours in each week and even fewer of those when you will be at peak capacity. Say no when you need to and guard your time; it is the one thing you cannot manufacture or get back. 

Reduce Your Screen Time 

According to eMarketer, the average adult smartphone user in the US will spend on average 3 hours and 10 minutes per day on their phone. 90% of that time is in their apps. This equates to 13% of our days spent on our phones! 

Our phones, while quite utilitarian, are also a vice for many of us and the device of choice to access our social media accounts. Additionally, these platforms suck up time that adds to the idea that we are so very busy. Here are some recent stats on the average time spent per day, per person on various platforms:

Facebook: 58 minutes per day

YouTube: 40 minutes per day 

Instagram: 53 minutes per day 

WhatsApp: 28 minutes per day

SnapChat: 49.5 minutes per day

Overall, the average person spends 144 minutes per day on social media. 

I won’t attempt to detail the connection between social media and the dopamine levels in our brains and how those levels increase when we engage on social media which results in a reward signal in our brains. Suffice it to say, and if interested do the research on your own, we are conditioning ourselves to always be on which then produces a heightened level of franticness. 

If we take the time to step away from our devices, breathe, engage in meaningful conversation, and stop and smell the roses our level of busy will certainly decrease. 

Establish Boundaries

If you are a frequent visitor to our site or reader of our blog, you know we have spent a lot of time discussing the benefits of establishing boundaries. Boundaries are established in order to safeguard the things that we value and what we deem as important.

By establishing boundaries you will find that you maximize the time you have, have improved focus, and will find the time you need to rest and that you are not as busy as you would like others to think. 

The next time you are asked how things are going before you respond by talking about how busy you are, think about why you want to say it, if it is true, and what you can do to shed this because you being busy is not an indication of your worth or status, but rather of a life lived off-balance.

Photo by Karen Lau on Unsplash