On not being busy
We live in a world that rewards being busy. One that celebrates hard work more than good work. If you are busy, many people take that to mean you’re doing well. You have a lot on your plate, and you are dedicating a lot of time towards getting through it all – this is a good thing.
But is it so good to be busy? Shouldn’t the main focus not be on the amount of time we spend, but on how we spend our time? After all, time well spent is always a fulfilling achievement, whereas simply getting lots of stuff done is not. As the Chinese writer Lin Yutang has claimed, there is a certain beauty to a lifestyle that embraces not doing things and not being busy. “Besides the noble art of getting things done,” he writes in his book The Importance of Living, “there is the noble art of leaving things undone.” For Yutang, they key to a wise and fulfilling life is in savouring those moments of inaction and enjoying the simple pleasures while you can.
We think that such a lifestyle is more crucial than ever in the modern workplace. In what follows, we’ll be looking at some of the ways you can celebrate “not being busy” in your own life, whether at work or elsewhere.
Results over activity
Many of us feel proud and reward themselves simply because they have been keeping busy. This kind of mindset needs some readjustment if you want to embrace what’s really important. You should be feeling pride in the results of your actions, not in your ability to get a lot done. Being busy with lots of activity and tasks is just the means to a larger and more fulfilling end. Realise that not being busy can be a good thing. And likewise, being too busy can be damaging, not just to your mental life but also to your personal relationships.
This brings us to our next point…
Leisure is not a guilty pleasure
Try not to feel bad about having free time. Instead, relish the time you have away from your work and obligations. Rather than your work being the reward, make your free time the reward. Learning to accept and celebrate your un-busy life in this way will help snap you out of “checklist” mode and into “leisure” mode. If you feel guilty every time you are doing nothing, you’re training your mind into associating free time with something worthless.
Your free time doesn’t have to be unproductive. But even if it is, that doesn’t make it worthless. It’s important to stop measuring the value of an activity on the basis of how many boxes it ticks, or how long it takes, or how it looks to an outsider. Of course there can be value in productivity, but that is not the only (and certainly not the best) way to live a valuable and fulfilling life. Indeed, the happiness and serenity of doing nothing has an inherent worth like nothing else.
Invite rest into your life
When you learn to appreciate the value of leisure, you should make a conscious effort to enjoy those restful and relaxing moments: moments free of obligations, work, stress, and activity. Make sure to be strict with your rest. Schedule it, prioritise it, and enjoy it whenever you can.
Many people find it difficult to relax and unwind amidst a packed calendar and crowded day. When being busy is given so much value by society and those around you, that’s inevitable. Just make sure to remind yourself that rest has benefits of its own, in terms of a healthy mind, healthy body, and healthy relationships. You will soon come to appreciate the joy of forgoing your busy lifestyle in favour of intentional restfulness.
Focus on what’s important
The majority of the time, busy people do not have to be busy. That is, if you’re always busy, there is a big chance that you’re failing to prioritise what is important, streamline your activity, and make the most out of your time. So learning to not be busy requires means looking at your priorities and making all the necessary changes to ensure that you have more time in the day.
Yes, it may sound obvious. But the truth is that people usually spend time on inessential activities more than they even realise. It takes asking yourself “why am I doing what I’m doing, what do I hope to achieve by doing it, and is it absolutely necessary that I do it?” Generally, busier people tend to find at this stage that there is a lot of room for freeing up time in their lives, and therefore an opportunity to free their minds of unnecessary stress.
Here at Uncommon, we care about how you feel at work. Our coworking spaces are designed with your wellbeing in mind. Every single detail helps create an environment in which you can feel good about your work. Visit Uncommon in Fulham, Highbury & Islington, and Borough to experience our unique vision of working life.