If you say you’re too busy, I encourage reflection on why you made the decision to claim its title. Your voice echoes loudly.
How you lead your life gives permission for others to do the same. Every time we laugh off that we “skipped lunch” because we had “too much to get done,” our students, our staff, and our peers could believe our constant activity is the high watermark of achievement. In order to reach your position, your status, your stature, they believe they must do the same. We make martyrs of ourselves in the name of service while we neglect the most potent and influential communicator we have: role-modeling.
To harp on the most currently popular instrument to evaluate our lives, vulnerability could be a key in why we keep ourselves occupied and teach our students to do the same. What glory comes from constant activity? I’ve often heard of individuals “keeping themselves busy so they don’t have to deal with things.” What is sacrificed by avoiding things that need to be processed? I am a member of the constant “giving of myself” demographic of which I speak.
Realizing this, I recently sat down and created a list of “things I avoid thinking about on an almost daily basis.” I am coming up on one year out of grad school, and I realize what I’m missing are activities that would allow for my identities to grow and develop, or even exist again. As an artist, as an uncle, as a learner, as a partner, as a brother, as a friend.
My previous supervisor Jason Cha would often remark on the difference between “being” and “doing”, citing “busy” as “the b word” which reflected on your prioritization. Too much “doing” and you can lose sight of “being” who you are. Too much “being” and you lose sight of what you should be “doing”. A simplified binary to configure that ever elusive “work life balance/rhythm/flow”.
For us, it’s not who watches the watchmen, it’s who cares for the caretakers? Do we create enough time for self-care within our work or do we keep giving because we can? Just because we can doesn’t mean we do so effectively.
I also don’t believe these conversations always need to happen with those with whom we work. If we don’t have an outlet other than through those we work with, we have isolated ourselves. If it is with a single partner we share our thoughts and feelings, how much do we unravel for them to hold alone? Do we even tell them? Do we process ourselves by ourselves?
I admit that every time I end a one-on-one with a staff member I say, “If you need anything, I am here for you.” Why would I feel it’s necessary to say this? Why might a student need to hear that? Maybe because in a production centric society where worth is measured by what you’ve done, not who you are, I want them to realize at least one person cares enough to listen and to help if ever needed. The culture of busy can take away from our investment in our shared humanity. Maybe that’s why I and more professionals feel compelled to be that outlet, because we don’t have it for ourselves.
When you communicate busy, you communicate priority. I’ve always appreciated the sentiment, “Be careful not to confuse busyness with productivity.” I also believe the Abe Lincoln quote, “Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe.” Please note he doesn’t say to just start hacking away to get the job done. He prepares for success. The question is, does busyness equal success? I, among many, offer the consideration that it doesn’t. It’s time to reflect on who we are, who we say we are, and who we want to be for ourselves and for the world.