Why I'm Never Busy
This post was in part inspired by Randi Zuckerberg, who, years ago, relayed the oh-so-simple algorithm of success. She tweets:
“The entrepreneur's dilemma:
Maintaining friendships. Building a great company. Spending time w/family. Staying fit. Getting sleep.
In 2017 I decided to stop using the word "busy" to describe my life, primarily because it felt like an irritatingly common response (who isn't busy?). But more importantly, being busy was quickly becoming a much-loved scapegoat for what were actually choices I was making on my own accord - giving up time for sleep, to be with friends, etc. all in the name of work.
I took stock of my day-to-day activities in the hopes I would find something I could delegate to someone else, pull back on or remove completely to create more space for myself. The result of this project was a giant realization:
My day-to-day tasks, work and activities are what make up the life I have chosen for myself.
I took a deep breath and saw the opportunity to celebrate (those of you that know me know my love of celebrating anything). I'd done it. I'd spent the last 15 years moving from city to city, meeting new people, working different jobs, traveling the world and taking on dozens of hobbies (becoming "busy") because I wanted to lead an interesting life. And now I had one. The activities of my days are simply necessary to sustain a life I set out to create a long time ago when, most of the time, I felt like I'd never get there (or like I even knew where the abstract concept of "there" was).
An odd combination of relief and celebration replaced the teeming resentment for my To Do list and I began to fully enjoy living in the space I curated for myself. I'm protective of that space I created and I can't imagine neglecting or complaining about it, because I own that space. I made it so. So these days, when people catch me (in the flutter of my life and all it requires) and ask how I'm doing, I say "My life is rich" with a smile. I've been happily surprised at the "Ohhh, I see what you did there" smiles and laughs I've received in return. I haven't had to utter the word "busy" in weeks.
While Zuckerberg’s was an adorable tweet (and honest enough interview), it concerned me that this message is being sent out there into the world. Are we overthinking this concept of basic survival in our richly packed worlds as we attempt to find a magical algorithm for what we're framing as an esoteric, seemingly unattainable balance? Do you really want it all? Or do you just feel like you should want to have it all? What does "having it all" mean to you? And who's definition are you living by? These answers are more complicated than any algorithm. I'm also left thinking about why we're making excuses for things we're choosing not to prioritize. You didn't go to brunch with your friends because you prioritized sleep. You gave up spin class because you prioritized time with your partner. You left work on time, for once, because you desperately wanted to go home and memorize quippy one-liners from New Girl reruns. You're not "busy" you're choosy. Own it and move on to enjoy the thing you're prioritizing. No one cares how busy you are, everyone (who matters) cares how happy you are.
Do we really feel that much pressure from those around us? If you do- stop. What kind of days do you want, independent of anyone else's opinions or expectations? Got an idea? Great. Go do that. It will be hard- as living authentically sometimes is- but at least you'll own your own struggle and live up to your Why everyday. Personally, I'm okay with that.
I have trouble understanding this concept of disregarding yourself, of putting yourself last. You're the most important person you know, and the more people depend on you the more important it is to take care of yourself. We're not effective when we put ourselves last. We're not effective on 4 hours of sleep and with no support system (but hey, you've got those rockin' abs). What would it be like to focus solely on your family, friends and work but never have time to sleep or get the exercise we know is better for your productivity (and health) than working for 13 hours straight? Take a lesson from Japan, who actually has a word for working yourself to death (karoshi), or from our own culture with a skyrocketing divorce rate, possibly because we put everything else first. Try googling articles on advice from the elderly, who rate working too much as their number one regret. Fast forward to your old age and the morbid but oh-so-profound "deathbed moment" way of decision-making; what's important to you now that your time is limited? That strategy has never failed me. Ever.
I might have it easy. I don't have children and my family is on the East Coast. But, I have groups of friends, a husband, a full-time job an an entrepreneur of two businesses and I own a house. I write and read for hours each week and I do yoga (in combination with something else active) every day. I take on extra projects in my community because I find it fun and beneficial to others. I make time to see friends, spend time with my husband in the morning and connect with other professionals in my field so I can foster those powerful purpose-driven relationships. I recently became vegan and I make wellness goals for myself.
I don't do all those things because I have to or because I have all the time in the world, I do them because I truly enjoy them or because I need one category to help sustain me in another. And I think most of us do.
I am by no means a superhuman. I have the same work and life obligations lots of people do, which is why I politely disagree with this idea of picking three, or blaming being "too busy" for ____ (enter thing you wish you had time for here). It sounds naive, but it comes down to you. Why choose to give time to everything that matters to you? My only answer I can think of is, because this is your life. That's a simple answer to complicated question and only you can decide if that resonates with you. My friends have "rich" lives, like I do, and understand that talking every day or seeing each other every week isn't always possible. But we nail the FaceTime wine talks!
I now spend my Sundays calling one friend I haven't talked to in awhile, and I'm grateful for text messages that make me feel like I just saw those friends yesterday. I have a partner that knows how important yoga, sleep, writing, reading, work and friends are to me. He's supportive beyond belief and extremely respectful of my independence. We can communicate about what works and what doesn't (giving up morning time together is no longer an option, so we make it happen). I manage to find ways to be active no matter where I am (walking meetings, yoga at home, walking to the store, etc). In those regards, I am either extremely lucky or extremely naive to think I had something to do with placing those things in my life. Maybe both. But whatever it is you're wishing you had more time for, choose to make time for it and honor yourself for being so bold. You don't need permission from anyone except yourself to enjoy your own days.
Sometimes I feel like I've woken up a Master of the Universe. Other times I feel like I'm a tiny clueless martian navigating her first day on Earth. I take that as a sign that I'm doing something right- regardless of whether I'm succeeding or failing. The thing I've learned, probably the most important thing I'll ever learn, is that we can and do curate our own lives. The life you have is to a large extent the life you created and continue to create. Life is "rich" because you made it so, and that's something to celebrate.