I’m guilty of this. And I apologize. This post is for me as well as you.
We are both overworked. We say “yes” to things when we should say “no”. Our to-do lists never end. We are distracted during dinner, and check our email or twitter feed obsessively. We want to slow down, but it’s easier said than done.
Here’s a proposal: if you and I stopped complaining to each other about how busy we were, I think we could start to wrestle back some control.
As Barbara Frei stated in a tweet yesterday, there seems to be some cultural context to this complaint: it’s some kind of badge of honour – bragging rights – self-importance:
“I’m busier than you are, look how important I am”.
How very troubling.
Stop. Please stop. You are not busier than I am. I am not busier than you are. We are in this together. We need to stop comparing ourselves to others: it is unfair, makes us question what we are doing, and whether we are ‘busy enough’.
Complaining about how busy we are adds fuel to an already out-of-control fire. It adds to frenetic behaviour. It makes me feel bad and anxious, and I make you feel bad and anxious when I complain.
Fine, then. We agree? Good. Let’s shake on it.
But what do we do about our out-of-control lives?
Here are some ideas (and, by the way, I do all of these very, very poorly. Maybe by writing them down, it will help?):
1. Small things: Let’s take some moments to enjoy the little things that make us happy, be it strumming a mandolin, going for a run, or watching a sitcom.
2. Priorities: I think we can prioritize more carefully, and think about what’s really important and deal with those things. Let’s stop using ‘I’m too busy’ as an excuse and be more honest about why we have or have not followed through on a commitment.
3. Say no. If we don’t start saying no, it will never get better. Let’s say yes to things that are either required as part of our job, or things that bring us much personal satisfaction and joy.
4. Deflate that self-importance. Um, sorry, but we are not *that* important. The world won’t stop if we stop or slow down. We are fortunate to be busy. Many people need a job, can’t find food for their family, or are sick. Let’s keep things in perspective.
5. Lower expectations: time is the most limiting of resources, and the current state of instantaneous communication, and rapid access to everything is creating unreasonable expectations on time. Let’s work to lower expectations on how quickly things ought to be done, by us and by others.