Goodness. We’re all so busy aren’t we? We’ve got a lot going on. We’re checking this and scheduling that and updating the other. It’s a jungle out there! Just look at my Google Calendar! All the boxes and the words! Gah!
But IS IT a jungle out there? I mean, really? Or have we just sourced ourselves some tropical plants and put an orangutan on it?
We’ve definitely got a lot at our fingertips, as self-service for everything from supermarket shopping, to banking to travel bookings has become the norm. But are we busying up our moments with low-priority stuff, creating a busy buffer around ourselves, forgetting to slow down at times or even stop and enjoy the view? I think we are.
The Busy Buffer
The thing about being busy is that it becomes your default, a badge of honor, a place you operate from, a defense mechanism that protects you from all manner of annoyances and responsibilities.
‘I’m so/too busy’ is the stock response whether it’s a social invitation, a professional workshop, a new project, a school or club event. How are you? People ask. ‘Oh I’m busy, busy’ is the predictable, impersonal, hedging-our-bets reply.
The trouble with this is that it cuts you off from conversations, adventures, people and experiences that might actually be really enjoyable and valuable to you. It also makes you the same as everyone else who’s busy. A bit of a clone. A bot.
Putting the ‘busy buffer’ on, using it as your default stops you thinking creatively about how you can tackle tasks and manage your time. It also creates a constant state of overwhelm (and possibly sadness) because you’re operating from a position of ‘no!’
Consider what you might really be saying when you pull the busy card. “I’m overwhelmed” or “I don’t really want to talk about myself in any detail” or “I’m very important/successful” or “I’m a bit shy” or “I’m unsure if that’s my kind of thing” or “God. I’m so bored!” Say the thing you mean and give yourself a chance to connect with someone or something new on a candid level. Ditch the busy for the real.
Sitting, staring and rocking
Thomas E Saxe wrote an ode to the rocking chair called ‘The Gentle Art of Just Sittin’ and Rockin’. He went on to explain his love of ruminating in a rocker, going as far as to establish ‘The Sittin’ Starin’ and Rockin’ Club’ a gang for people who like to, well, sit, stare and rock.
He wrote, “A few years ago, while rocking contentedly on the veranda of a quiet Florida hotel, I had the happiest inspiration of my life. Lulled in body and soul by the slow, salubrious rocking motion and pleasantly monotonous squeak-squeak of the chair, I thought drowsily of the frenetic pace of modern life. ‘Why can’t some of my friends join me in rocking away their fretting and fussing?’ I wondered”
How nice! And yet… can you imagine spending time sitting and staring and rocking? I bet you can’t. But why? Mr Saxe explains that busy types like Napoleon, Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Edison took time out to rock and think. They certainly seemed to get stuff done (not all of it good, admittedly, but still…)
Somehow we’ve all deemed ourselves too busy for folly like that. We are busier than famous historical figures, in fact. Slowing down and gathering our energy and thoughts is apparently for less-busy types than us. Leave it to the inventor of the light bulb, phonograph and motion picture camera, the lazy rocking devil.
We’d probably do very well to start typing ‘rocking chair’ into eBay right this minute.
Rest As You Go
While I’m a huge fan of the sit and stare, there are other ways to slow your pace. Mountain climber Phil Powers wrote about a slow themed piece advocating ‘resting as you go’, a trick taught to him by another climber (Paul Petzoldt)
“He advised me to rest in the middle of each step completely, but briefly. The rest step, which I still practice today, allows me to walk or climb with little effort. I can move very quickly yet still find a pause in every step.”
I think if we can’t take time to sit on the verandah and stare, we can try to rest in each step/task as Paul suggests. Not only will we gain in terms of reducing our frantic pace and stress levels, we’re reminded to be exactly where we are, part of the very thing we are doing. It’s so much nicer to enjoy the view we have than be constantly craning for what’s ahead, right?
The difference between a sprint and a marathon – cut yourself a break and allow yourself to take your time.
The Multi-Tasking Myth
Modern types are a motley crew of ‘multi-taskers’ *insert rock fist hand gesture that also looks like a rabbit*
Multi tasking is the description we adopt for tackling a bunch of things in the same time bracket. Think working on a presentation whilst checking Facebook whilst organizing an appointment over the phone while scratching our leg while retweeting breaking news as we sip tea and sign a notice from school. Is that you?!
I’ve got news for you, Motley Multi-Tasker. Research tells us that while we think we are multi-tasking, our brain is actually speedily switching from one task to the next (rather than simultaneously working on two or more things). We’re frantically single tasking, truth be told, and the few minutes we’re saving behaving this way are not doing us any good. Denied! *insert random Wayne’s World reference*
Researchers have found that this switching tasks not only releases the stress hormone cortisol, it gives us a rush of the addictive hormone dopamine. The more we chop and change, the more dopamine we secrete… the more we want to multi-task, crazy little addicts that we are. (I am really resisting bringing Freddy Mercury up at this point).
While we think we are getting it all done and exhibiting our best super person qualities, we are actually doing many things sub-par and not soaking up the process or the satisfaction of getting things done. Do you know what else? We’re a million miles from happiness and joy when we’re in these (alleged) multi-tasking moments.
Savour the doing, don’t just worship the done
In my head that said ‘don’t just worship the dung’. Done, done! Don’t worship the done is what I really mean.
As a crafty person who also loves to cook, I am one zillion percent into the doing. I love the journey, the trip, the making, everything about the hatching and creating of things. Of course, the final result is a lovely win, but more than the end thing I love the process.
Our busy world is so commodity and results driven, that many of us have not been schooled in the beauty of process. We’re taught to examine things like ROI and KPIs. Our education system measures kids regularly, placing importance on tests and task assessments. It’s very rare for process and participation to be rewarded or praised. We’re much more hung up on the measurable, the product or tangible metrics that are the end game.
I think this is such a shame. Not everything can be measured and overlooking the joy and gains of the doing, in favour of the done teaches us that we need to be outcome focused all the time, that the done is all that matters.
And matter, it does, of course. What I’m saying is that we shouldn’t speed up everything we do, or skip ahead, or wish it away, just to get to the end and tick it off our to-do list. This not only stops us enjoying the process, it encourages us to shy away from big endeavors or potentially tricky tasks. We’re in danger of becoming so results driven that we’re dumbing ourselves down, avoiding tough challenges, uttering phrases like ‘I have no patience’ or ‘Ain’t nobody got time for that’ and taking the easy route.
If we do this, we’re cheating ourselves of the joys of persisting at tasks that are harder, missing out on learning lessons about dedication and commitment, bypassing character building struggles and problem solving. We’re also locking ourselves into a snacky, quick-fix kind of lifestyle, when we’re more than capable to taking on projects and challenges that require the long haul.
Remember the delicious doing is what life is all about. (Not just the delicious dung. DONE! DONE!)
The Gentle Art of Just Sittin’ ‘N Rockin’
Thomas E Saxe Jr
Copyright 1954 – the Readers’ Digest Association Inc
Taken from The Art Of Living by Readers’ Digest