The B.S. of Busy

Let me ask you a very simple questions, my friends.  How much of this sounds eerily familiar to you:

“Yeah, I’m just SO insanely busy right now.  I just don’t have any time to…

  • Eat better/cook at home
  • Read more
  • Go to the gym
  • Go church/pray/meditate/think
  • Spend more time with my family/friends/alpaca herd
  • Finish that epic poem that would make Homer look like a complete and utter poser
  • Knock off that home improvement project”

It’s a pretty familiar refrain, no?  I can see a few of my own lines interwoven amongst that particular list.  Our lives are incredibly frenetic these days as we seek to balance work, family, hobbies, friends and maybe even sneak in a few moments of welcome solitude where we do nothing but appreciate the silence.  Ohhh, if only there we more hours in the week!  THEN we could make some magic happen.

One problem: we’re totally kidding ourselves and doing a damn fine job of it, I might add.  We have completely bought into the notion that we are unable to do any of the noble items listed above because of time.414314_3382676527306_1281256846_3291588_1565812469_o

What do you mean, I’m not busy? Look at all that freakin’ paper! Paper = busy!  Sheesh…

I think I’ve had this occur to me before, but an article from the Wall Street Journal really brought it home for me.  Laura Vanderkam wrote a wonderful piece called “Are You As Busy As You Think?” where she brings up some thought-provoking data on how much time we truly spend working, sleeping, eating and so on.  Many people will talk about 50, 60, 70 hour work weeks, but apparently the data does not back up the quote figures.  We tend to inflate because… hey… we’re competitive and we can’t be seen as less busy than the Joneses, right?

But here is where Ms. Vanderkam’s piece gets real.  She writes:

Instead of saying “I don’t have time” try saying “it’s not a priority,” and see how that feels. Often, that’s a perfectly adequate explanation. I have time to iron my sheets,

I just don’t want to. But other things are harder. Try it: “I’m not going to edit your résumé, sweetie, because it’s not a priority.” “I don’t go to the doctor because my health is not a priority.” If these phrases don’t sit well, that’s the point. Changing our language reminds us that time is a choice. If we don’t like how we’re spending an hour, we can choose differently.

Ouch.  Come on now… don’t tell me I’m the only one who felt that one sting a little bit.  How many things have I said I couldn’t do because I was just too busy, when in reality, I was just saying they weren’t a priority for me.  More than I want to think about.

This is a big reason why I get frustrated with people who tell me over and over about how they want to exercise, get in shape, etc.  The typical pushback I get is about time and being too busy… but I know it’s not that, in the end.  It’s just that 5 other things are much more important to them.  And those could be legitimate things for certain, but it’s just a matter of what you will deem to be important, much more so than just time.

So it’s time to rethink the time rationale, my friends.  I’m going to try her test by switching every statement of “I don’t have time for…” with “It’s not a priority…”  I can’t lie – not sure if I’m going to like the results, but who said attaining self-knowledge was all rainbows, sparkles and puppies?  I’m pretty sure it wasn’t Nietzsche, but it has been a while since I’ve read “Beyond Good and Evil” so I could use some brushing up.  Maybe that sneaky bastard snuck it in there without my noticing.

Staring Into the Abyss


An interesting thing often occurs when I sit down to write up almost any blog post I do… a gnawing sort of feeling that, even though I may like what I’m writing, I haven’t the slightest clue whether it will resonate with a single soul out there on Teh Interwebz.  Needless to say, that can be a bit of an unsettling feeling because I do my utmost to ensure my blog entries are authentic – what you read is 100% pure me.  Straight, no chaser.

In that way, I can relate a touch to the famous quote by Nietzsche, “And if you gaze for long into an abyss, the abyss gazes also into you.”  Now granted, I am not generally a big fan of Nietzsche’s work because what he wrote (these large and powerful texts full of bravado) stood in stark contrast to how he lived (meek and mild, blending into the background), but I do like the quote.  He may never have intended in such a way, but it often feels like how it is to sit down, stare at the open screen in front of me on my Mac and think, “Holy crap… is anyone really going to care AT ALL about any of this?”

Fortunately, some people do seem to care and have been nice enough to say so.  Thank you to all of you – you keep me going.

But there is the daily challenge for us all in many ways: looking ahead into a future we can only view as that same kind of darkly murky abyss where nothing is clear and a good long stare will bring about nothing but even more anxiety, hand-wringing and general bad mojo.  Seriously – it’s science.  I looked it up in the New England Journal for the Furtherance of Mojofication Studies.  It’s a very scholarly periodical designed for superior intellects like mine.

That’s why I realize a little more every day that the greatest triumphs are rarely a singular shining moment of transcendent excellence (although they surely can be).  It’s much more often a collection of smaller moments that will eventual grow, gain momentum and become something much bigger than you could really expect when first starting out.

To use a strength and conditioning example to illustrate.  When most people begin a serious exercise program, the gains come along at a fairly rapid pace as your body basically soaks up the new challenge and adapts to it, week over week.  However, this will slow or, if you aren’t terribly thoughtful in your approach, stop all together.  Once you’ve been doing something a while, new improvements do not happen nearly as rapidly, but rather, they develop as a slow build.  It’s only at the end when you look back you realize how far you’ve come and how much you’ve truly accomplished.

So for me, it’s just one blog post at a time and with each ensuing entry, hopefully something approximating a body of work will come into focus… and maybe a few more people will read it, tell their friends and so on.  I am still in the beginner stage where I should be a little smarter about getting my site a little more “pop” – no question about that.  But it still won’t change the fact that in order for this project of mine to grow… it’s a series of entries just like this one, day in and day out.

You may not have a blog, but I know there is something you are working towards as well.  We all have that “thing” that stokes our passions.  Put in the daily work as best you can.  I’m doing my best at it and some days are better than others.

Step up to that abyss, but don’t waste your time staring into it.  It only stares back into you and it’s not a staring contest you will ever win.  Instead?  Give it a quick wink and promptly kick it’s ass a little bit every day.



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