Beware of Busy

This post was originally published on lifewithjulia.net, the author’s personal blog. 

I have this Google Chrome extension downloaded on my computer called Momentum. It’s gotten pretty popular over the last couple of years, so I wouldn’t be surprised if you’ve heard of it. It essentially replaces your typical Google Chrome tab background with a new landscape. Every time you open a new tab, you’re greeted with the time, the words “Good morning/afternoon/evening, [Name]”, and a different quote that was pulled from an online source. 

The other day, when I opened a fresh tab, a quote by Socrates came up that said: “Beware the barrenness of a busy life”. That stopped me in my tracks and instantly got me thinking because, for as long as I can remember, I have thought of my life as one big 'To-Do' list. Between workout classes, dinners or drinks with friends, meetings, and appointments — my schedule is always jam-packed. The crazy thing is, I've always liked it that way. Having one thing after another, opening up my agenda each day to see a full calendar, and having to plan things weeks in advance gives me comfort. Let me pencil it into my schedule, I tell myself. So it’s there. So the schedule says busy. My days consist of asking myself, what’s next? And then? And what about after that? 

My dad sometimes says to me, “Julia, slow down. Don’t pack your schedule so tightly. Give yourself some breathing room.” I think he understands it — the barrenness of a busy life. I, however, had to stop and ask myself what Socrates was really trying to say. 

Some people on Quora had a sound-off about the deeper meaning of this quote (and yes, I like to search up how people interpret these kinds of things). One individual was saying that a person constantly running around is a person missing life. In trying to achieve something in the future, one misses the ‘now’. Another person thought that Socrates might have been an introvert, his quote being a reflection of how it can be difficult to tolerate a life packed with activity every moment, with little room for downtime. 

Someone else suggested that a busy life doesn’t leave time for reflection. When you spread yourself too thin, you can easily neglect the quiet time needed to run through some important internal dialogue. I agree with that a lot. I find that on my busiest weeks, the ones that have me physically rushing from one thing to the next, I have a difficult time actually taking in all that happens. Days or weeks go by before I begin to ask myself — how did that make me feel? Did I handle that well? What was I really rushing for? 

That is when the busy truly becomes barren — you’re going through the motions, checking off all the boxes, and keeping your agenda forever full without providing yourself the time to consider the smaller moments of joy, love, and growth. 

I don’t know if I have ever talked about the weekly reflections that I’ve started doing the past year, but I find that they help a lot. At the end of every week, normally on a Sunday morning, I’ll sit down (outside if the weather is nice!) and go over what happened the last 7 days, whether it be in my personal life, at work, etc. I’ll reflect on the good, the bad, and the hard to determine, thinking about what I learned or struggled with and writing all of my thoughts down. At the end of each school year, just as we’re about to start a new chapter, I like going through all of my entries and seeing how I’ve changed over time.

The thing is, when you’re constantly busy, you neglect to notice how you've grown. You can get stuck in this forward-facing tunnel, never having an opportunity to evaluate the past or just bask in the beauty of the present.

So, this is a reminder (mostly to myself) to just slow down when you get the chance. Busyness isn’t everything, and it’s not a pre-requisite for success in life. It may leave you feeling productive and satisfied in the moment, but it can ultimately be very... barren.