For the Love of Busy

“No matter how busy a man is, he is never too busy to stop and talk about how busy he is”

Author unknown

You know that guy, who complains about how stressed and busy they are, how little sleep they run on. They complain, but there’s a glimmer of pride as well. Maybe you’ve been that guy at some point or another. I know I have. We read articles about successful CEO’s who sleep for four hours a night and work long hours for six figure salaries and we want to be like them because that is the ideal. Who doesn’t want to be rich and successful? So we push ourselves. Five hours sleep, running on nothing but caffeine and willpower. The shiniest, most productive cog in the machine. We live in a world obsessed with productivity.

But here’s the kicker, folks. Busy and productive are two very different things. It doesn’t matter how fast I run on the wheel, I’m not going anywhere.

Busy is not something to idolise. Busy is not something to love. But we do. We love to hate it. To wear it as a badge of honour to prove the lengths we go to, the demand we’re in, how much we contribute to the world. I have to wonder, though. What are we contributing? What are we sacrificing? How does this all balance out?

When my health took a serious turn for the work this year, I was in denial. I wanted to be fine. I expected myself to maintain the fast and efficient level of work that I had been capable of before hand. Instead of maintaining my work, however, I started making mistakes. Lots of them. So many that I soon found myself in a meeting with my boss, staring at a warning letter. Something had to change. It took a major job scare for me to realise a few crucial things. My job wasn’t a career. I didn’t want a career. I enjoy my job, but it should not be the centre of my life. I shouldn’t be damaging my own body trying to keep up a standard I thought they expected of me. I should work to live, not live to work.

I also realised I wasn’t the same person I was when they hired me. Not physically, emotionally or mentally. I needed to adapt to the new way my body operated. It was a slower pace than I was used to, but it would have to do. I talked to my partner and we both decided that full-time work was not ideal for me so, once he graduates university and starts earning more, I could reduce my hours and go part-time.

With the pressure off, I stopped pushing myself. I acknowledged my limits and made them clear to those I work with. Before that meeting, my boss had no idea what I was going through. She had no idea I was constantly sick and in pain. Once it was out there, she offered help and support.

Now I manage my work better. I make sure deadlines are clear so I prioritise better. If there’s an extra task added on, I make sure I know which is the most pressing so I’m not scrambling to get everything done. I learn to say no (politely of course). I don’t work through my lunch break and don’t linger after hours unless it’s an emergency. I take regular breaks and make sure my health and wellbeing is my number one priority.

This doesn’t just apply to work, either. I need to accept that sometimes my shelves get dustier than I would prefer, or there are dishes sitting unwashed. I need to know when I can go out with friends and when I need to stay home.

You know what? I’m not stressed or busy but I am productive. I give myself the space to ensure my work is good quality and being calm makes it easier to troubleshoot and come up with solutions when things do go wrong.

Some people enjoy being busy. They thrive under pressure. For me, I prefer having things to get done, but too much and I start stressing out. Anyone with my illness will tell you that stress is like poison. While I may have immediate physical effects, stress is damaging to everyone. People have died from work-related stress. There’s even a word for it in Japan, Karoshi meaning ‘overwork death’. How terrifying is that? We live in a world that literally works people to death. No job, no paycheque, is worth running ourselves into the ground for.

I’m trying to opt out of the rat race for want of something slower and simpler. I’m much happier on the sidelines.

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