I’m the list person. I used to jot it down with pen and paper, now it’s “Remember the Milk” app on my phone. And I love it. It might be a little OCD to some, but my to-do list keeps me organized and task oriented. It also overwhelms me once a while, leaving me with the typical “so much to do, so little time to do it” anxiety.
You may deny it but being busy, tired and even exhausted is a status symbol in today’s world. We wear it like a badge of honor, proclaim it to the world: “I’m busy, I’m achieving, I’m doing, I’m leaving my mark”. It’s the first thing people tell you when asked how they’ve been, “It’s been crazy busy!” I know because I tend to do that too sometimes.
Between work, chauffeuring our kids from one after school activity to another, volunteering, PTO duties and whatever else we have committed ourselves to, we have barely any time for each other. Or sleep. But who wants to waste time on sleep when there are so many things we have to do. We can catch up on sleep on Saturday, right?
We are a nation of exhausted and overstressed adults raising overscheduled children. Sleep is a luxury & hard work is our mantra. We are tired but afraid to slow down because accomplishments and goals achieved is what we think will bring us happiness. Instead we feel overwhelmed, anxious and stressed out like no generation before us.
It’s an endless race and everyone else is charging ahead so we better tough it up and keep going, faster and faster. Yet, there’s never enough hours in the day to handle our always expanding to-do lists. But doing anything that’s not on a list is equivalent to wasting time, wasting life.
Exhaustion is a status symbol and productivity is tied to self-worth, the same way it is to net worth. Only when we produce, achieve, cross that big project off our list do we feel a sense of accomplishment and self-worth. We think that only then our lives be have meaning, be worth it and amount to something.
But I think we’re completely missing the point. I think all that work and little time to play is making us miserable, anxious, angry, stressed out, scared, resentful, jealous & even sick.
I work from home, typically odd hours. My first “shift” is while all three kids are in school (3 hours each day!… I know) and second shift starts after 9pm (assuming, I still have the energy to keep going). I love what I do. And that’s great because it often doesn’t feel like work. But it’s not rest either. Hence a little problem.
Whenever I can, I choose working over everything else. I’ll choose it over exercising, I’ll choose it over sitting down to read a book, I’ll even choose it over being with friends sometimes. It’s bad. I half-joke it’s an addiction. But in reality, I just don’t know how to slow down.
I’m an achiever, a multitasker, a go-getter. I’m very ambitious and I always want to do more. There’s no “me time”, always “go-time”. Crossing things off my to-do list feels great but I never seem to catch up. But “wasting” time doesn’t bode well with me. (I used to brag about how little sleep I’d get and still get everything done! (I know))
I’ve realized though that this constant race is wearing me out and affecting my life & my closest relationships in a negative way and I’m no longer willing to ignore it. I need more peace, calmness & balance. I want a life that’s less rushed, frantic & always in go-mode. I feel this strong pull to slow down and focus on quality not quantity.
For most of us being busy is a reality we can’t escape. But we don’t have to let that define us. We don’t have to constantly focus on goals, achievements, next thing on our to-do list. We don’t have to wake up with that list in mind or go to sleep obsessing over the things we weren’t able to complete today. For one, that’s an anxiety attack waiting to happen. But as for the big picture, that disconnect from what our days should be really about is frankly terrifying. We might snap out of it 10 years later wandering what happened to our lives, what exactly did we accomplish from all that running around, all that effort to put out any fire that threatens our perfectly organized lives.
Yes, we can be productive and still allow ourselves the time to take mental or physical breaks. It’s called work-life balance. But while this is not a new concept in 2013, in today’s society of “more is better” we have to be that much more mindful of how we go about our busy days, more aware of our fear to slow down and “waste” precious time on doing the things we’d like to do, not the things we have to do.
That awareness will be the first step to allowing ourselves the luxury of downtime. So let’s take a deep breath, kick back & soak it all in!