I'm Addicted to Being Busy. But I Should Be Addicted to Doing What Matters

Every day, we rush around from place to place and thing to thing. We’re constantly running, running, running to our next activity, class, event or meeting. We rarely take the time to pause, relax and disconnect. Even when we’re on the go we’re connected, constantly looking at our phones for fear of missing out. We don’t leave time to just be.

I have a confession: I’m one of those people. I can’t stand to sit down or hang out. I’m constantly “putting 10 pounds in a 5 pound bag,” as my mom likes to say.

I know I’m not the only one.

“I’ve definitely correlated busy = successful,” says Alaina Leary, a Social Content Curator at Connelly Partners. “People congratulate me on my ability to be busy, and at job interviews I’ve been little short of applauded for having had so much experience.”

“I’ve rationalized some correlation between being successful and always being busy,” says Sydnee Lyons, a first year grad student at FAU. “I sign myself up for things or commit to projects or volunteer to help out with things that I don’t really have a lot of extra time for. In the end, I usually get it all done, but…I can tell that I’m feeling burnt out.”

Why do we do this to ourselves?

We’ve grown up constantly scheduled from activity to activity, carefully groomed for the best college experience. We fall into the ‘busy trap,’ as this Forbes article argues, because we only learned to multitask, never to relax. “We feel compelled to do it ourselves…we’re used to being distracted," Sydnee says.

The real problem isn’t that we want to be doing something. To be creative, or to feel productive, we want to be creating. It’s the way we go about it. The internet is awash with articles on productivity hacks, tips, and tricks. All we want to do is be more productive!

That’s the wrong way to approach it.

The Rise of The Humblebrag

What got us into this mess is the humblebrag. You know the drill:

“Oh my gosh, I’m so busy I don’t have time to sit.”

“I know, I had to eat lunch standing up in between calls.”

“Lunch? I don’t remember the last time I’ve eaten lunch! There isn’t time.”

Though there’s nothing new about false modesty, social media gives us the ability to become more sophisticated at bragging, according to this recent New York Times article. Coined by Harris Wittels, a comedian and writer for NBC’s Parks and Recreation, the term allows those of us starving for attention to claim that we’re “humble” or “blessed,” when in reality we want to tell the world how awesome we are.

As Lindsay Kolowich argues in this Hubspot blog post, the humblebrag is just a coping mechanism to prevent us from failing. We hide behind the chaos in our lives like it’s a good thing—when it’s driving us crazy.

“I think 'busy' is an over-glorified term,” says Lindsey Allen, founder of Real Talk with Lindsey,  a community for budding entrepreneurs and creatives. “Everyone is busy working on something. I think people fear that if they’re not perceived as being busy, they’ll be perceived as being lazy.”

We constantly praise our busyness, as if being busy equates to being awesome. We confuse quantity with quality, as if spending all of our time doing things means the stuff we’re doing is better than if we took the time to relax.

Arianna Huffington’s book Thrive: The Third Metric to Redefining Success and Creating a Life of Well-being, Wisdom, and Wonder emphasizes this exact point. We glorify being busy because the busier we are, the more “successful” we’ll be.

And I’ve completely bought into it.

Do Something That Matters

Focusing on productivity and the sheer amount we create isn’t the right measurement for a day, even though it may be the most satisfying one. Instead, we need to focus on doing things that matter.

Lindsey gives some great advice: “[Be] addicted to creating fresh content, dabbling in graphic design, collaborating with other influential women in my industry, and creating physical products that inspire others.”

How you go about that is up to you. What “matters” doesn’t need to be saving the world or becoming a celebrity—though if that’s what's important to you, it can be. Find what drives you to be your best and do your best.

And for goodness’ sake, take a break. 

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