Busyness as usual

Busyness as usual is business as usual. Why is it that as a society we accept being busy as normal? In fact we celebrate it as though it is a badge of honour, even a sign of success. When for many of us it is more akin to juggling plates on a high wire; stressful, exhausting and bad for us if we don’t keep our balance.

I am not here to write about how we “should” be doing it. As always I want to present what I have tried, encourage conversation and get you thinking about what change might work for you.

Like many I have enjoyed being busy, filling my time with tasks and projects. Taking on new challenges in order to feel like I am moving forwards, never stalling. It has filled me with a false sense of fulfilment as a result. I am perhaps “lucky” in that I have always had space for reflection through writing and so that has kept me seeking the right solution for me. You see whilst you are busy, you are distracted from your problems, areas that may benefit you and even opportunities to pursue what you really want to. It is also easy being busy. Let’s be honest slowing down and making space and time for quiet reflection is both challenging and terrifying.

Alex the bull mastiff mix takes over the sofa for sleeping
To be as busy as Alex Snoozeface

Through my recent self development work on perfectionism and the inner critic I have found an alternative approach to the one of busyness as usual. An approach that has brought me fulfilment and enjoyment to my life. This new approach is multifaceted but there are a few key areas I wanted to share my experience of.

In my writing and carpentry practice for example I pursue a form of “good enough”, in direct contradiction of my longstanding perfectionism. It is something that sings to the “rebel” inside me who has fought a long running battle with the “good guy”. But at the same time it speaks to another part of me I consider the “real Tom”. Abstractions and psychological analysis aside this approach has reduced a lot of unnecessary stress for me. It has helped me complete projects rather than stall with indecision, get stuck and give up. It has taken me months of practice in safe spaces such as my workshop to develop, but has been fantastic.

Secondly with the help of lockdown I have been able to focus more time and energy on what I want to do, rather than what I “should do”. As a result I have pursued my daily writing practice, studies and workshop time. But I also value time doing less now. Time to walk our dog Alex, to observe the natural world around me and switch off a little from thinking and creating. When you are busy these activities seem frivolous and a “waste of time”. But lockdown gave me permission to do less, to slow down and consider what I really wanted to do with my time, rather than say yes to everything and be constantly chasing my tail.

Thirdly lockdown has created a sabbatical from busyness, it just wasn’t possible to do a lot of things when you can’t go anywhere! For me that was what I needed. An anti-dote to saying yes to everything - the curse of “good guy” Tom. Something so many people see as a positive, but being a good guy has its flaws. A lot of energy goes into the facade of being good, being happy. Especially when you don’t feel it underneath or need something else. There have been many times where I needed to say no, to be less of a crowd pleaser. It’s one of my biggest flaws and a massive contributor to my depression if I am honest. But lockdown gave me the permission to say no to so much. It has been a practice for me to define my boundaries and one that I am needing even more so now that I am out of lockdown. Rather than going back to business as usual by being busy, I am setting limits with myself and my work in order to enjoy the time I have.

Finally I’ve found therapy this year to be extremely helpful for understanding a lot of the why behind what I do. With that understanding comes acceptance and the chance to make positive changes little by little. Talking about what is on your mind is good regardless of whether it is impacting your mental health. Unfortunately we either seem to busy to talk at a deep enough level, or don’t have someone we can trust to open up to. That’s why counselling and therapy are a sensible option, as you pay a professional listener for a private conversation. I can now see it as a valuable service to use in the long term. When we pay for personal trainers to improve our bodies and massage therapists and physios to fix them, why not someone for our psyche.

With that in mind I’ll remind you of the stats I posted a few weeks ago that support my argument for therapy.

Stay sane, stay well.

Tom :)