Are you being productive or are you just busy being busy?
Taking time out, time away to recover, “me time”, whatever you call it, often looks like laziness from an outsiders’ point of view, let's be honest. Ha, I was once asked, 'You spend all that time reading and watching videos (about how to start and run a business/blog + how to take better photos etc.), you invest all that time and what have you got to show for it?' So I know about the external pressures of what this type of phase looks like. It's difficult because research, reflection and planning doesn't look like much to others; it actually looks like a lot of wasted time and effort. If it were non-productive scrolling, those comments would be valid but in this instance, not the case. It's also difficult because there's not usually an immediate gratification when it comes to the self-improvement type of planning and reflection - it's a long term vision and investment which means phases of appearing to do nothing, or being dubbed lazy. We’re so used to being ‘busy’ and conditioned to believe that being busy is a good thing. Never mind if it’s productive or not - if we’re not doing something, we’re lazy and wasting time, right? On the fence? Riddle me this, when you catch up with friends or whānau (family) is this one of the first things you say;
“What have you been up to? What’s new?”
Or when meeting a stranger, try and tell me “what do you do?” isn't one of your go-to conversation starters - I'm not saying it's good or bad, it's just an observation that what we do is perceived to be of utmost value in society.˘ When I'd get asked these types of questions, I used to feel obliged to say I was doing at least something, anything - just in case I was perceived to be lazy by my peers, even if I hadn't been doing anything. I equated being busy with being important, fulfilling a purpose and something of that ilk. Oh how times have changed…
When I experienced the major (for me in my life and at that time) breakdown moment from this post, I began to view and value things differently; other peoples opinions being one. When people would ask what I had been up to, I’d reply with ‘nothing*.’ And those were some of the most awkward and intriguing moments, because it seemed to throw people off a lot and come as quite a shock; as if their whole arsenal of conversation topics were follow ups to 'what are you doing', eg.; how's that going, do you enjoy it, how'd you get into it etc. and so they wouldn't know what else to talk about for a while; queue the awkward silence which I came to find humorous after some time. But it got me thinking, why is that? Why do we have to be doing something all the time? Why do I feel inclined to say I'm doing something when I know I haven't been, not in a way others would understand anyway..
Alright, let's stop and think for a sec, are we being productive with our time or are we busy being busy i.e. going through the motions? Or do we just suck at planning and organising our time efficiently/effectively? Or is it something else? Because let's clarify something; being busy isn’t the same as being productive i.e., having a great deal to do (busy-ness) vs producing large amounts of .... (productivity). Yes we have a great deal to do! We have our various roles and responsibilities to fulfil on the daily, on top of the mountains we face and climb. Eventually, we get worn down and our days off aren't at all long enough to recover or refill our tanks (whakaaro from the first post) because that's our only time to explore and do fun stuff and whatnot. So we head into the new week with a lower capacity/wellbeing, copy + paste for a few more weeks til the inevitable burnout or crash... All because we've learned from our environment (society) that being busy means good and doing something, while doing nothing means no good and lazy - and goodness me we don't want to be labelled as lazy of all things.
However, lazy is defined as 'unwilling to work or use energy' which is quite the opposite to making time to recover and reflect. I reckon 'busy being busy' is more closely aligned to that definition, eg.; “unwilling to focus energy on productive, meaningful tasks, so we spend more time completing the task in order to stroke own ego or appear important..”
In contrast to making the time to recover; to stop and step away from our normal routine (for any amount of time), which takes a lot of concentrated effort and energy, i.e. not lazy. When we commit to this type of process, it often means having to say no to people or being selfish by putting ourselves, our wellbeing and our future before others which may be an unnatural feeling for some; it could mean making decisions that may incur short term suffering or loss; it definitely means getting uncomfortable with the change of pace and with our thoughts and brutally honest reflections and so on.
And at some point, we have to decide and act on what's more important; to take time for ourselves and recover/reflect on how we've been running the show and adjust appropriately or to keep burning out or running a mediocre ship because we're 'too busy' to value our wellbeing, our productivity and what we have to offer the world... if you've been following the blog for a while you'll see that I like to make sure that a certain way doesn't work a good 4 or 5 times before I'm convinced to let it go, but let's be honest; burning out is not fun. It's taxing not only for us but also for the people around us and eventually you get to a point where you're just over it. You're over putting yourself (and others) through something you have power or control not to. You're over that yuck energy featuring in your life. You're over being on a winning streak only to have it ended by the lowest low. That ain't 'balance', that's not taking care of ourselves properly and it's got to go.
If it's important, we make the time. And our wellbeing is important, it's paramount. So let's do it. No excuses, turn ya notifications off for a while; do your thing, do what you need then come back to this; let's go uninterrupted; stop with the I'm-so-busy-but-really-I-don't-know-how-to-plan-properly nonsense and take a step back (figuratively) and look at your operation. Value this moment, this is where the magic happens! This is like the training before the final match, this is where the preparation and planning happens for the big game. Y'all know I'm talking bout life, right? Taking the time to assess our current situation, analyse the decisions we've made and their effects plus strategise our next moves is
Aku mihi maioha,
˘Compared to how are you/your family, are you well/happy/fulfilled - why/why not, what excites you etc. If we're aware of it, we can make changes (if we want to and we do want to). Change the narrative, change the conversation topics, change the story, change societal values, change societal norms, change the world. It can be done, and it only takes the small steps.
*Obviously I wasn't doing nothing, I exist so I can't be nothing, but at the time I couldn't even attempt to explain that I was internalising multiple different experiences, feelings and thoughts all at the same time - which occurred internally, so externally it appeared like I was doing 'nothing'. Therefore nothing was the more appealing and sane-sounding expression to share.