Busy is a choice you make.

When I worked for the Institute of Reading Development, we had a very intense pep talk from the head honcho. It was intense because he read some amazing literature to us, and because he dropped the sort of knowledge that I don’t expect from bosses. (Granted, I have worked for all the worst companies in Oklahoma. You can read about the job from hell here.) Essentially, he told us that we had to be on time for the job. But what’s more, he said that being on time is a choice. And I don’t think I’ve ever agreed with anything more.

The reasoning behind it was that you know what time you have to be somewhere. You know how long it takes to get there. You know that there are factors that could inhibit you actually getting there. So you do the math and work out when you have to leave. And sure. This should be a subconscious process. Everyone should be capable enough to arrive on time. Except, think about how many people you know who aren’t.

I’m not talking about the people who are occasionally late, because we all are. What I’m talking about are the people who are ALWAYS late. These are the people who have never figured out how to calculate the time it will take to get where they’re going.

I believe this sort of lack of awareness is pervasive. For surely as there are people who are always late, there are people who are always busy. And these are the people who do not understand why they happen to be that way.

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Busy Is a Choice

Now, let me explain. I understand that everyone has a lot of things going on. Balancing work and life is hard enough. In fact, there are days, perhaps weeks or months when that balance is non-existent. But we’re capable adults. We make things work. And we get through the busy times because we know there will be time off soon. And without those busy times, would we fully appreciate the time off? Would we still marvel at the novelty of sleeping in, or reading a book from cover to cover one Sunday afternoon, or enjoy a Friday happy hour with friends? I maintain that we would not.

And I don’t want anyone to walk away thinking that I don’t acknowledge that some people are busier than others. I do. In fact, I will also acknowledge that if your busyness is a choice, it’s probably because you possess a privilege that others don’t. After all, if you’re working two jobs to keep the heat on through the winter, then it probably doesn’t feel like much of a choice.

If you are that person, I hope something gives and you’re able to live comfortably without having to work so much.

But I suspect the majority of my readers aren’t that person. I’m not that person, and that’s why I can proclaim from the top of the mountain that busy is a choice.

When We Don’t Choose Busy

I’ve been cutting way the heck back on my busy lately. I think a lot of the need for busy I felt came from a place of anxiety. For so long I had to work multiple jobs to keep the wheels from falling off. And for so long I had gone to school full-time while working full-time. My brain was apparently incapable of existing in a world where it wasn’t busy to the point of exhaustion every day.

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I don’t do that anymore. I’ve significantly cut down on the amounts of extra things, especially since I spent the majority of the year as a writhing burn out monster. And I do that for my sanity. I do it so I can write what I want to write. I do it so I can devour a book or more a week. I do it so I don’t constantly feel that fight or flight stress. I do it because busy is a choice.

So, if you’re always busy and you have yet to analyze why, ask yourself what choices you’re making. Are you busy, or just manic? Can you cut something out for the sake of your sanity? The answer is almost always yes, and you almost always should. If you feel behind, constantly overworked, or like you’re spinning your wheels, remember that busy is a choice. No one else can get you out of that but you.

I think, by now, the pop psychology of the day has instilled in us the notion that saying yes to one thing means saying no to another. So, I would like you to apply this to busy. Are you saying yes to busy because you’re saying no to a manageable lifestyle? Are you saying yes to a second job so you can afford something that you might not actually need? Are you saying yes to helping someone even though it means saying no to working on your own stuff?

To bring it all back around again, just as we all know that person who is perpetually late, we also know that person who is perpetually busy. I used to be that person. I refuse to ever be that person again.

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Are you busy? What can you cut out right now to choose a less busy life?

10 Responses

  1. I hate when people go on about how busy they are. I hate the word busy and the concept/what it’s come to represent in our society. I believe we make time for things that are important to us and that we say we’re busy instead of saying “that’s not a priority for me.” As in, self care/time to relax is a priority for me. I am okay saying that when I decline an offer instead of just falling back on “I can’t, I’m so busy.”

    1. Yes! I think that’s a very important distinction to make. We all have the same amount of time, but it’s all about what we allow to occupy our time. I’m all about down time these days, and I get so irritated when others act as if they can’t possibly do the same.

    1. It’s definitely hard to figure out what you can give up. But once I finally figure it out, I wonder why I didn’t cut it earlier.

  2. I think that the first step is self-awareness. Until you recognize and truly want to change your “busy” then it will continue on. I am speaking from experience, it is the journey I am on right now: diligently working to leave the frantic behind for a more soulful state of living. That means cutting out things that do not fit in that mission, creating boundaries that might not be comfortable at first; saying no to more paid work, to events and “opportunities” and most importantly, to toxic people that suck you dry (more fountains, less drains). I live in constant state of hustling and opting out of those that are not right for me, I hope that I will get better at this. I think I am on my way.

  3. So glad to see you back on the blog! I’ve missed your voice.

    So, after I saw your snap about T-25, I ordered the DVDs. They should be here next week. I had just cut my gym membership the day before and when I looked up the program, I thought…okay, I can do 25 minutes on my lunch break (I work from home, so OF COURSE I can), so I’m giving it a try. I’ve heard good reports from multiple social media friends about it, and I’m optimistic. Also, getting out in the winter to go sweat is the worst.

    1. Thanks, Rachel!

      And I bet you’ll like it. They start you pretty slow, and there’s always a modifier example, so if you can’t do weird burpee push ups while midair for a double back handspring, they show you an easier move. (Not that they have that kind of thing, but there are moments when I wonder how coordinated they think their audience is.)

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