Here is a typical young-adult conversation:
“How are you?”
“Good! Really busy right now.”
Not only does this response not appropriately answer the question, but our response demonstrates what we expect others to want to hear. We, especially those of us who are young, feel that we need to be busy all the time. And, of course, the implication comes with the idea that we’re supposed to be busy with certain types of things.
I find that the ideal of being busy is adult peer-pressure. If I have a day off work, and stay home and tidy the house and maybe do some laundry and watch some TV and read some interesting articles online, I am doing things. Some of these things are important, some of them are necessary for me to relax, recharge, and be enabled to face the upcoming workweek. When asked on one of these days by a friend or peer, “how are you?” I don’t usually feel comfortable giving the response, “I’m not doing much today” unless I follow it with some kind of excuse [I’ve been really busy lately, I wasn’t feeling too well, I had some unexpected free-time, my plans were cancelled]. Why should I feel guilty for watching a few re-runs of Stargate SG1 on my morning off work? Especially if I’m watching it while folding laundry. But I do feel guilty.
Being busy, I think, is one of the idols of my generation. This likely stems from college life where we keep tight schedules and late nights. As a result we enter the adult world with the idea that if we’re not kept running from thing to thing with reckless abandon that we’re not doing enough. That we’re lazy. That we’re not well-rounded. Being busy is not actually the problem here. The notion that being busy is the ideal is marring our idea of what true fulfillment should look like.
Each person is different. Some people are more introverted and need time to decompress after a long day of socializing at work. No person of this character should feel guilty for taking some time alone. Others are more extroverted and find relaxation in talking nonstop about their day and what’s happening for the rest of the week and what might happen tomorrow [I’m this kind of person]. This person should not feel guilty for sitting over a cup of coffee and talking to their spouse.
Neither the introvert nor the extrovert need feel that they must do something after work or school. A 9-5 day at the office is more than enough. If someone wished to volunteer, attend classes, work out, attend a sports event, or go to a church meeting all those things are fine, good. But, if they’re causing so much stress that, when asked “how are you doing?” we gasp and sigh and say, “I’m really busy right now” then we’re doing too much. We’re succumbing to the peer-pressure. We’re equating “busy” with “fulfilled” and the two are not the same thing.
So. How do we escape from the peer-pressure invading our regular language? Creating the mindset that you “get” to do something after work instead of “have” to do something after work is likely to be one of the most helpful ways to aid you in this changed mindset.
Filling our schedules with things that are rewarding and help us to grow will enable us to avoid that stressed-out busy feeling. If we’re doing things we love instead of just doing things for the sake of being busy then we will find ourselves to be less concerned with being busy and more concerned with the tasks themselves.
“Beware the barrenness of a busy life.” – Socrates