April 2018 Innovate

The Invention of Busyness

Written By: Nadia Alcide

It’s a Thursday afternoon, and you’re hanging with a friend you haven’t seen in a while. Phew, this is the first time all week when you’ve had the opportunity to be intentional. The first question your friend asks is, “How are you?” You answer, “I’m fine, but I’m busy.” There is no doubt your friend will answer in a similar way, validating your response and projecting your importance. With so much stimuli and media coverage, we treat busy ness like a badge of honor. We often think that because our schedules are jammed, we are on the road to endless success. However, busyness is a sign that we are moving further away from what is important in life.

In this time of distraction, we fill our time with busy activities. We should think about and practice how to manage achievement, success, and contributions without sacrificing time with family and friends and our own well-being. In business and work culture, we are rewarded for putting in more time in the office, meeting unrealistic deadlines or chasing after the next big deal. Plus, living a comfortable life and gaining positive notoriety in your community is a nice feeling…So, yes, all this hard work pays off for some, but does it all matter if we burn out and double the time trying to recover?

How did we get here?

How we all got so busy isn’t much of a mystery. We taste success; it’s addicting –even to the most aware. We push ourselves to achieve more because it is the cultural norm. It wasn’t always like this. In the 19th century, people were more well-rounded and made time to expand their interests deeply through a variety of topics and skills. To get back to deeper thinking and intention, let’s examine our current lives and if we are the cause for this constant busyness in our lives.

Are you distracting yourself?

Swedish philosopher Søren Kierkegaard viewed busyness as a mechanism to avoid or distract ourselves from asking true and hard questions. If we always have things to do, we will not find the time to stop, reflect and think. However, this method of distraction doesn’t bring meaning to our lives and work like being less busy would. A cause of being void of reflection is when we don’t have opportunities to develop our skills, our families and our community. We are zombies moving from one form of busyness to the next. So, in what ways are we distracting ourselves from the true realities we need in order to improve and grow Kierkegaard said, “The unhappy man is always absent from himself, never present to himself.” Basically, the constant self-imposed dates and engagements that fill our schedules do not fulfill us; they only distract from our current realities.

Is our health affected?

The short answer is, effectively, yes. Busyness makes us less productive. I don’t know about you, but when I’m feeling less than productive, a wave of stress comes over me and I’m not able to think clearly. When we experience stress, cortisol levels rise. Elevated cortisol levels can create a variety of health issues including hypertension, migraines and metabolic disorders. To make up for feeling unproductive, we put huge, unrealistic hours into our work and spend less time doing what energizes and excites us.

So, how do we change? Making a change is not an easy feat, especially when we are expected to be busy with packed schedules. Ask yourself, what do you truly desire out of the life you live? Start by creating or defining your core values. Your core values give a baseline to focus on when life comes along with its nuances and distractions. Let’s commit to taking action to get closely aligned to our core values. Example: Are you using Netflix or social media to distract yourself from having quiet time? Does engaging in these activities align with the core values of how you choose to use your time? Take a step back. This practice helps us understand the deeper causes of our behaviors versus the symptoms of our perpetual busyness.

Less is more.

There is no doubt that doing less will breathe more intentionality into our lives. We have the opportunity each day to choose how busy we want to be. Saying no to things becomes easier when they do not align with your established core values and goals. Commitment to doing less will not 100 percent work in our current culture but approaching it as something you will try to do the majority of the time will help institute change. Being present is important. Next time you are at your desk or look through your calendar with dread, add in a little time for yourself or schedule a 24-hour break to do nothing –whatever your “nothing” means.

The awareness of our busyness could easily make ourselves the victim. Take the responsibility to know that incremental changes can be made to end the cycle, aka the human hamster wheel. Let this awareness inspire you to engage in more meaningful activities and relationships. Be satisfied with where you are.


NADIA ALCIDE is the chief problem solver at Simply Sociable LLC, a virtual business management firm. Over the years, Nadia and Simply Sociable have helped small businesses and entrepreneurs scale by managing their back-end systems, thus allowing them to focus on growth-related activities. Her team takes pride in making admin simple.

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