Crazy Busy or Fake Busy?

Baby Blues ElectronicsFrom the first job out of college, I’ve worked for organizations where we could choose our hours as long as we were there between 9 a.m. and 3 p.m. By 7 a.m., you’d find me at my desk tackling my first tasks of the day. In one company, two of us had an unspoken competition going to see who would arrive first. The guy, an hourly worker, did everything he could to work long hours. Yet whenever I arrived after he did, I’d find him sleeping and I’d dream of crazy pranks to pull on him during his zzz moments.
The fake busy
I’ve also seen people faking their busyness when I walked past their cubicles at the end of the day. They may think they looked busy, but most of us knew they wanted to stretched their hours so they’d look good and outstay the boss.
Sometimes the problem was their inability to end a phone conversation. It didn’t take long to learn that being deaf — among other things — made me a more efficient worker. My phone calls required a third party (the relay operator), so folks were less tempted to call me or have a friendly conversation.
The crazy busy
Then there are those who are truly crazy busy as described in “The ‘Busy’ Trap” from the New York Times by Tim Kreider. Gini Dietrich also shares her experience in “Always ‘crazy busy’?” How many times have you know parents who report some variation of this? “My seven-year-old does scouts, baseball, soccer, basketball, religious school and youth group.”
In the old days, playing three sports wasn’t a big deal because each lasted for one season per year. Soccer in the fall, basketball in the winter and baseball in the spring. Now, these sports have two or three seasons a year. Players who try to stick to a sport once a year may not be able to get back on the team, so they play every season to avoid losing their spot.
I also used to work a lot on the weekends writing content for my websites and handling whatever remained from the week or jump ahead for the next. That changed when I injured my thumb. I could barely work at all, so I broke the habit of not working weekends.
Taking back weekends
By the time my thumb worked again, I struggled to work on weekends. I decided that weekend work would no longer be the norm. Because of this, my family and I went to the State Fair, International Festival, the amusement park. We don’t do something every weekend or even once a month, but we do more than we did in the past.
We’re a low key family of homebodies. (Daughter is the exception and she’s living it up as a college freshman.) But still, I look for experiences for us to do together. With first born in college, I know how quickly a childhood fleets. With my dad’s passing, I know how quickly life fleets.
The one thing I sacrificed? My blog. I’d write blog posts on weekends because I devoted my weekdays to clients. It may have hurt this website’s search engine standings and traffic, but there’s more to life and finding business than satisfying Google Panda, Penguin or whatever search engine best practices has us riled up. People say if you want something, make time for it. I don’t believe that. Instead, it’s about prioritizing your life, starting with the top items and stopping before you fill up your slots. This ensures you have room for the unexpected (and they ALWAYS come up) and taking it easy.
Here’s a great excerpt from Tim Kreider’s article:

Like most writers, I feel like a reprobate who does not deserve to live on any day that I do not write, but I also feel that four or five hours is enough to earn my stay on the planet for one more day. On the best ordinary days of my life, I write in the morning, go for a long bike ride and run errands in the afternoon, and in the evening I see friends, read or watch a movie. This, it seems to me, is a sane and pleasant pace for a day. And if you call me up and ask whether I won’t maybe blow off work and check out the new American Wing at the Met or ogle girls in Central Park or just drink chilled pink minty cocktails all day long, I will say, what time?

You know what? I look at my life and remind myself I have what I wanted: family, home, flexibility and the time to enjoy the little things and exercise. For the most part, I’m happy. And when I’m happy, I do a better job of keeping my family and clients happy. So it’s critical — not selfish — to take care of yourself first and keep your busyness under control.
How’s your schedule? Are you the right kind of busy? Do you leave room to breathe?

6 thoughts on “Crazy Busy or Fake Busy?”

  1. Meryl,
    I know what you mean about prioritizing your life and being busy doing the wrong thing. In the last little while I haven’t done a great job when it comes to prioritizing, but I’ve been making changes.
    I’m supposed to be doing some personal writing, but every other thing gets in the way. So now I try to write first thing in the morning, and that means it gets done and there is still a lot of time for the other stuff.

  2. Hi Meryl, I like you post, especially the last part where you talk about how you have the life you wanted. It is so easy to get caught up in the busyness of doing nothing, that sometimes you can’t appreciate what is in front of you. I agree that it’s all about priorities. One of the books I really like is 168 Hours by Laura Vanderkam.

  3. @Avil, it sounds like writing is a priority for you. Writing first thing in the morning sounds like the best way to make sure it happens for you.
    @Krysty, I’m trying to be more aware of the moment, whether it’s walking my dog, teasing my kids or riding my bike. Thanks for the book recommendation. Will look it up.
    @Jason, thanks for catching and sharing the tweet!
    Dilbert had the perfect comic today on this topic:
    Thanks for stopping by and commenting.

  4. Nice reminder about keeping the main thing the main thing. I am conducting two experiments around this topic right now:
    1. I’m waking up earlier. Back in my military days I’d be up at 5:30 and was astonished by how much was done by mid-morning. I’ve set the alarm to 5 am for the last month or so and love what I get done while being ready for a nice breakfast time with my family.
    2. I’m trying meditation. I’m awful with focus, so I last 10 minutes. Still, those 10 minutes help to set some clarity on the day – or a little bit of life.
    Keep up the reminders!


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