A couple of days ago I ran into this lady I’ve known for years. She walked up to me, we hugged and kissed on the cheek and I asked: “It’s been a while, how are you doing?” She replied with a rather short: “I’m doing good! I’m very busy.”

A cultural disease so many of us seem to be suffering from. Busyness.

As I listened to that answer, I saw how her eyes looked weary and from the way she moved I wondered whether she’d had a headache. But before I could inquire about what kind of busy she meant, she returned the question: “and how are you yourself?” I paused and thought about the answer. Then I looked her in they eye and said: “Actually, I’m really good! I’m not busy at all at the moment. In fact… I think I’ll get rid of being busy completely.”

Well… that answer seemed to startle her a little. She took a step back. She stuttered a bit and didn’t seem to be able to utter a correct sentence. After what seemed like a minute, but was probably a couple of seconds, she gathered her thoughts and said… that’s good… that is really good! She looked at me again, seemed to take a little more distance and pondered about what I had just said. She then started to explain her busyness to me. It almost sounded like an apology. It was work… and the holiday season… but starting January things would go back to normal…

I realized she changed her own stance to her being busy. Where initially her being busy was an argument to the statement of being good, after what I said it appeared to be something not so desirable and she hastened in explaining why she was busy and when times would get better.

That was interesting. Why did my comment on wanting to quit being busy startled her like that? Why did it make her change her mind about her own busyness? What is that? (Probably an interesting theme for another blogpost…)

Now I don’t want to make more out of this than it was. This was a simple conversation between two ladies, interested in one another, but no further than the shallow supermarket talk. We’re not close friends, and whatever we said to each other will probably not occupy our minds beyond that evening. But it did make me think about that cultural disease so many of us seem to be suffering from. Busyness.

At my last client, being busy was a status symbol. Everybody disagreed with me when I made that statement, but from the behavior in the office and the conversations at the water cooler you could clearly extract that if you’d have a lot of free time in your calendar, you weren’t really someone worth talking about, or worth talking to, but that’s pretty much the same, right? And not just in the office, I notice the same stance — almost pride — in busyness with soccer parents, hockey parents, or even with the parents at the schoolyard, taking time off their busy schedules to pick up the kids from school or drop them off on the way to whatever meeting.

I know I am in a privileged situation currently. I have not been part of the everyday “rat race” for a couple of months. I don’t have to get up at the same time every morning (even though, I do get up at seven each morning to watch my girls get ready for school), I don’t have to commute every day, going to work and commute back again in the evening. I can be calm and quiet for hours each day. I can take my time to plan a nice and healthy meal, I can go the supermarket whenever I feel like and get some work done in between those activities. I can enjoy just sitting in my living room, overlooking the birds in my garden, the bunnies in their cage, while sipping from a warm cup of tea, pondering the day and whatever comes to mind.

Yes I’m privileged this way. Being independent allows me to have these moments from time to time. But it is not just the privilege of having all this time all of a sudden. I do believe it is also mindset. Mindset and new habits. I deleted my Facebook account over a year ago, with no regret whatsoever. Recently I worked really hard on overcoming my addiction to playing games on my phone. I realize that when we do things like that: checking our social media, playing games on our phone, we pass time, that we can only spend once. We’re probably not just passing time, at least I wasn’t. I was also shutting down my brain. I wanted to take a break from thoughts, from planning, from overlooking my schedule, from worrying about not having enough time to do everything I wanted to do.

It’s interesting to realize that these moments where I sip my tea, while it’s still hot, looking out at the birds and the weather, the time spent on that, is no longer than the time I used to spend on social media or on mindless games on my phone. But the energy and inspiration I get from doing nothing is so much more than from wasting time on social media or games. It is such a small investment, that I can totally do when I am back with a client, working office hours for four or more days a week. I can be mindful and enjoy life whenever I want. I am in control of my schedule and my mind. No one else.

And it is exactly that feeling of being in control of time that defines whether we feel busy in a good way, or feel like we’re being lived by a force we can’t control. If we take the responsibility of the time that is given us, we will be rewarded with the feeling of choice and options. Each day we’ve been given holds 24 hours. It is up to us how we spent that. And it is up to us how we talk and feel about that.

Think for a minute… if someone reminds you of something you said you’d do, how do you respond? Do you say: I didn’t have the time to do that? Or do you say… I made other decisions today? The result is the same. You didn’t do what you said you would do. But the way you talk about it and think about it, makes a world of difference.

The first response makes you a victim of the limited time you had and you didn’t see how you could have done things differently. It is not your fault, you are not to blame.

The second response shows you own the time you’ve been given and the choices you made while spending it. It gives you back power and control and gives you options to spend it differently tomorrow or today.

It is a simple way of framing things in a slightly different manner, and it will open up so much freedom and options in your life.

Why not try it and let me know how it affects you. I’d love to hear your thoughts on this!


Many thanks to Beth Hatter for reading and improving this blogpost with me.


Published on Medium on January 23, 2020

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