The Glorification of Busy

By Molly WalterNovember 3, 2014

My campus minister recently shared a photo on her Facebook page that said, “Stop the glorification of busy.” I told her how much I loved that phrase, as it is something I have struggled with throughout college. She agreed and went on to comment on the many people who work 50+ hours a week and get so burned out on what they do, causing them to hate something that was once their passion. She said she didn’t want that to happen to her, so she had decided to no longer bring work with her on her days off. If it didn’t get done, it was OK, she realized. People would still show up.

There’s a lie that says we have to have it all figured out. I think that, by glorifying the idea of being busy, we’re feeding into that lie. We’re told we have to work at least 40 hours a week, volunteer, and be involved in all sorts of extra-curricular activities and hobbies. By staying busy, we appear to have it all figured out. If we can do it all, people will look up to us, we think. Whether it concerns work, school, family, friends, obligations, or volunteering, we all find ways to fill our time, often down to every second of the day – and if you don’t, it’s assumed you might be seen as lazy or unaccomplished. It can be very stigmatizing to not be busy every moment of the week.

I have always secretly liked being busy for this exact reason. It made me feel important and self-reliant. It made me feel like I could do anything. I told myself that one day down the line or after college, I would have time to relax. I would be able to tell my children I had done it all. I worked full-time in college and paid my own way. I led a TWLOHA UChapter and was deeply involved. I took care of myself.

I also really hated being that busy though. I hated working the amount that I did. I was tired. Many people can relate to this; I think most people feel swamped in their time and feel like they don’t have space to do the things they love. There may even be days when you feel like you don’t even have room to breathe. I know I’ve had many days like that.

When I started college, I had no respect for my own time. I had a timeline in front of me of how my college years were going to go. I learned very quickly it was not going to work that way. My first college professor and mentor told me I did too much. She told me to slow down and make time for myself; I did not listen to her. My second year of college was worse. I had my own apartment and was working even more. Although she moved to a different university, my former professor and I would keep in contact. She continued to tell me to step back. She told me to talk with my advisor when I was stressed, so I began scheduling in mental recesses where I could go into the advisor’s office and let go of my stress. Gradually, I began to realize both of these mentors were right: I needed to slow down.

Now that I am in my fourth year of college, I have taken that advice. Of course, I am still busy. I still have the same amount of work on my plate. But I no longer pride myself on that busyness. I am learning, daily, to ask for help from people. I am learning to say no to things I do not have time to do. I am learning to trim back the hours I work, to make time for myself. Some days that means not going out, staying in, listening to music, and being alone. Some days, though, that means getting ice cream with friends. It means saying I’m not doing homework today, because I’m going to watch a movie with my roommates first. It means finding the balance between getting things done and making time for myself. It’s a hard balance to find, and it is a process, but I’ve learned it is incredibly important.

Know this: Your time is important. So spend it on things you are passionate about. Of course, some of your time will inevitably go toward things that are unpleasant; you will spend some time worrying, working, freaking out, crying, and screaming. But you will also spend your time loving, laughing, and having conversations that may change your entire life.

Make time for yourself. Make time to do things you love and be with those you love. Don’t feel bad if you aren’t working 50 hours a week just to get everything done. Don’t feel bad if things take time. Don’t feel bad for putting things off when you feel that you need to. Find your balance. Rather than glorifying busy, begin by simply valuing your time.

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Comments (4)

  1. Phillip Hawbaker

    Standing still in a world of motion can be tough but often times doing so can solidify your own goals and let you choose the direction you want to head. A rolling stone gathers no moss but is always acted upon by an outside force. A tree grows moss but always grows towards the warmth and sunlight. Find a balance between both and nothing can stop you! Such a good read 🙂

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  2. Anonymous

    This is a major issue I’ve been having and this was exactly what I needed to hear today, thank you so much.

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  3. Lili

    Thanks for writing this. Learning to step back and not be so busy all the time was a big step in my life as well. I overworked myself to the point of developing stress-related insomnia. I’d go for weeks at a time sleeping maybe 2-3 hours every other day because I was so worried that I wasn’t going to get everything done that I needed to that week. I finally was forced to take a break when all that lack of sleep caught up to me and I fell seriously ill. I was bed ridden with one illness after another for nearly three weeks, and I lost 12 pounds. I remember when I finally woke up and got myself in the shower. I had a look at myself in the mirror: black rings under my eyes, veins showing under every inch of my skin, nails brittle and cracked, and a distinctive gap between my thighs that had not been there at the beginning of the month. I knew I had to change things up, so I quit everything except for work (thankfully they didn’t fire me for being absent so long) and school. That was about 10 years ago. Whenever I start feeling myself get overwhelmed with having too much to do, I just remember what I looked like that day and I step back and evaluate what is actually important and what can be delegated to someone else.

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  4. Leonie

    I try to get myself always busy, because I want to. I want to forget things, and as long I am busy I don’t have to think about the things (: Feels great, actually.

    Reply  |  
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