It’s part of the Swedish heritage to do your duty and ‘work hard’. Maybe it’s also part of our western culture. We should be busy and stressed. And happy. And good looking. And trying saving the world. With everything that should be done, we need to keep busy. It seems somewhat trendy to answer the ‘how are you-question’ with a sigh and ‘Oh, I’m so busy’.
Busyness today might look like a symbol of achievement and status. But does it really matter how our lives look like to the outside world? It comes back to the question ‘What is really important’? If we are too busy we might not have time to answer that question. In worst case you spend decades being busy for something that someone else convinced you that you should want or be, without realising it won’t make you happy.
A man who gave a talk about mindfulness said that the Chinese symbol for ‘busy’ consists of two symbols meaning ‘kill’ and ‘heart’. If you try to live as fast as possible, don’t you miss out on things? Maybe it’s better to live as slow as possible?
Just being busy is not a bad thing. What matters is how it affects you and others around you. There might be a sense of purpose to being busy, but there might also be a sense of stress and never having enough time. I know the feeling. Having my own business means there is always something that should be done.
There has been times when I have felt bad and ashamed when I’m not working hard. As if a police officer would suddenly tap me on the shoulder and ask ‘hey, what do you think you’re doing?’ It’s taken a long time to be free of the mental Swedish police officer. It’s easy to fall into the trap of working too much when all my work is so much fun. What is ‘too much’ depends on if I have spent enough time in nature, eaten well, slept well and done my physical training. When I work too much I don’t work very well. I get blasting migraines, forget things, don’t have as much energy to put into my speaking jobs, and my family and friends suffer. The loss of time and life during the migraines is my threat and reminder to keep calm.
Most of us know we’re better people when we are less busy and more present. When we do what we truly want to do and take care of ourselves we become better human beings, more kind partners, patient parents or understanding co-workers. At the end of the day it doesn’t matter which degree you have, how much money you make or the clothes you wear. It’s about if you’re really where you want to be, doing what you think you should be doing. It’s about not wasting your life.
Here is a few ideas to handle the ‘shoulds’ that has worked for me:
– find out what you think is important and do more of that
– stop listening to what others think you should do. They don’t hold your answers.
– do boring things quickly and fun things slower
– let go of what holds you back
– Stop multitasking
– Question where your time goes, and if possible, make time consuming tasks more efficient.
– stop doing things you hate doing
– make time for un-planned periods
– find small pockets of calm in tough working periods