“How are you? I am very busy, I have so many things to do!”.
Everybody around me is extremely busy, all the time. Not to mention myself… I have so many things to do, that me and my friends have such a hard time to syncronise our calendars. A meeting set today for tomorrow? No way, maybe next Tuesday if you are available…
Some months ago, in a therapy session, I told my therapist that I was very tired. I couldn’t understand why! At a more detailed analysis, in the last weeks I had been working all day long, 8 or more hours per day, I had been running a Half Marathon, I didn’t have any free weekend, because I had been attending workshops, traveling or running. The next free weekend? Not in the next… month. I got scared. I realised I was continously on the run, to mark activities and my body was sending signals. I promised that after the next month, I won’t do anything for a while. I planned a “nothing” weekend and I followed it.
Sometimes I have the feeling we glorify this “busy” title, which makes us feel special, caressing our ego because we are “ïn demand”. If our presence is requested, it means we are successful, right? What successful person has a lot of free time?
I started to appreciate the free time, not being busy
When someone says he is extremely busy, for me is not something to admire anymore. To have all your time occupied says about you also less visible things, but very important ones: that you cannot organise and plan and that you are inefficient, that you can’t delegate and you micromanage, that you took too much on your plate, because you can’t say “no”. Or it says a lot about your extreme need to demonstrate that you are important and in demand, or about an endless empty space that you are trying to fill with calendar appointments. It can be even a “busyness” dependence. Same as workaholics. They do many things, all the time.
I don’t believe anymore that we HAVE TO work 8 hours per day. Nor that being constantly busy is an inevitable condition for a beautiful or meaningful life. For a long time I felt awkward because I was having those thoughts, until I found my tribe and I started to read Tim Ferris and The 4 Hours Work Week. At the beginning of the book, he is explaining how we got to those 8 hours per day, in the industrial revolution era. A new world opened for me, and the 9 to 5 frame is not relevant anymore. I don’t want to work 8 hours per day. I don’t want to be busy all the time. And I believe this is possible.
I think this 8 hours per day condition is just a ghost kept alive by some beliefs about how life should look like, held by many people. This busyness is a disease taking control of our minds. But it’s just not true. There are many places in this world where people work less. In Vietnam I met a guy who works 2-3 hours per day. I have friends who work some hours per week. None of them is a millionaire. They just chose to look for other options.
Why I believe this idea with 8 hours per day is just a bullshit?
On one side, because we are not productive every day at the same level. I have periods when I am extremely creative and others when I just want to stare at the wall. I have high energy days and days when I wouldn’t get out of bed. Why standardize creativity with a fixed schedule?
On the other side, people don’t work so much anyway. I lost track of the conversations about employees wasting time at the office, on social media or talking with colleagues, because they are disengaged, don’t like their work or don’t have so many things to do. Many people don’t see some tangible results of their work and, at the end of the day, how many of them do something really useful, which changes to world for better? Even so, we are extremely busy. With what? With meetings where people are late and then stare at their screens? With irrelevant emails? With speeches where the audience has fallen asleep? With boring tasks we hate, because we don’t see our real contribution?
We keep busy because we are afraid
If you are so busy, it may because you are important and, at the end of your day, you can fall asleep satisfied with your to do list. The noise, hurry, the sleepwalking we see around us while getting to the office, all hide a big fear. The fear to meet yourself, once you stopped all the activities which were preventing you to see you and feel you. We are afraid to be left alone with ourselves and we do everything to avoid it. Why? Because when you are left with yourself, all the monsters you were keeping asleep until then get out of the closet. I am too busy to take care of what would really matter.
I don’t want to be busy anymore
To do less things every day. To negociate the time I spend in a project. To have time to stare at the wall. To go for a walk in a break. To work from a coffee shop. To stop when my eyes are hurting because of the screen.
To spend more time with people I love. To organise evenings only with myself when I don’t do anything important.
To really see people on the street. To say “hello” and “how is your day?” to the lady at the grocery store. To open more so that people can see me too. To be curious about the people I meet while waiting to pay for bread or my neighbours.
To take breaks from the outside world from time to time, no to be available for many hours daily or to leave the country for longer periods of time just to change the air are not whims but mainly conditions to be happy. The space and the silence bring a brand new perspectives. In December, while being in The Philippines, so far away from Romania, I could, finally, see the big picture of my life and understand what was not working and what I needed to do next. This is how I decided to take time for writing.
Ideas come in silence, this is how I can reconnect to what I have become. Space helps me talk to myself. From silence and doing nothing so many great ideas were born: Newton`s apple, Archimede’s Evrika. “Time and quiet should not be luxury items”. For me, working a lot, more than 8 hours per day, is not a virtue anymore.
Maybe I am lazy. I would think the same, if I were still one of those super-busy individuals. Instead, I would say I choose time over money. I had been wishing for many years to break free from the company that was helding me locked in 8 hours per day, without understanding why. And, if you want something badly enough, it happends. For me, it matters to know I can be flexible with my time and decide when to work.
Life is too short to be busy.