I recently wrote that busyness isn’t real. It’s a mental state that seeps into our lives, filling the gaps of free time and inundating us with “the stuff” we feel we must do. I’m responsible for a lot. I have 5 kids, 2 companies, 3 podcasts, 1 blog, etc. but I don’t feel busy. I have a full calendar, and a full life, but not a busy one, and there lies the difference.
Busyness is less about the amount of stuff we have to do and more about the mindset by which we do it. Let’s imagine two scenarios.
First, imagine Michelangelo painting the Sistine Chapel. It took him 4-years to complete the painting. Let’s imagine he worked 15-hour days frequently, all while looking up at an awkward angle (he didn’t lie down like the movies show). Was he busy? He accomplished one of the most famous paintings in the history of the world over the course of 4-years, but I have a hard time imagining a painter that is painting 15-hours a day as busy.
Now imagine being a parent to a bunch of kids, while working from home. You do carpool, juggle phone calls with clients, take kids to soccer and dance, fix dinner (not to mention breakfast and lunch), and at the end of the day, tuck them all into bed. Your day is non-stop from the time those kids wake up until the time you get them back down. Are you busy?
What’s the difference between these scenarios? One is solitary, and the other involves rangling little ones. Both require concentration. Both require creativity (getting a kid to go to sleep is undoubtedly a creative art). Both are incredibly demanding, overwhelming and rewarding.
The real difference is perspective. The amount of “work” is roughly equal, Michelangelo with his one task and the parent with their 50+. Both still do around 15-hours of work in a given day. So, is one busy and the other not? Or, is busyness really just about our point of view and our ability to rest and find peace in the quiet moments of our lives?
The first step to crushing busyness is changing perspective. It’s recognizing the moments of calm scattered throughout the day and choosing to enjoy them, rather than fill them. It’s taking 2-minutes to sit in silence, acknowledging that for that moment there is nothing required of you.
Consider this exercise. Choose to think of today as full, not busy. Each thing you run to do it an opportunity, not a requirement. Take two moments today to sit for two minutes with no demands on you and no screen in front of you. Then, at the end of your day, ask yourself, “Was today busy, or was today full?” There is a difference.