For as long as I can remember, I have thrived on being busy. In the four years I was in college, I completed something like 170 credits (120 was needed for a degree), and also worked between 15 and 35 hours a week for the final three years of college. After my time in the Peace Corps, I took a job that technically required 52 hours a week, but usually ended up being more, and that only increased once I became a manager. After my husband and I started our own business, I took a side job at the library to help us make ends meet, and juggled the two jobs for several years. I liked being busy. I liked having a long to-do list. I felt successful and productive when I could look at all that I had accomplished in a day.
But I can feel myself changing. I no longer have such a strong desire to always be busy. I want downtime. I want to sit on the couch under a blanket with our son and read ten library books in a row. I want to work on whatever task I’m currently doing without six other planned tasks bouncing around in my head. I no longer feel the need to be busy all the time in order to feel like I’m a productive, worthy person.
The Happiest Mom wrote a great article about “I’m-so-busy-itis” a couple years ago, and it’s well worth a read. (Thanks to Rachel from Minimalist Mom for the link). I’ve never been one to detail my to-do list to other people or complain about how busy I am, but I’ve always done so in my own head. Especially since our son was born and I scaled way back on my responsibilities for our business, I’ve felt a need to make sure that I’m always busy in order to justify to myself that I’m still contributing as much to the family as my husband. But I’m finding that I just don’t feel the need to be that busy anymore. I don’t need to justify my worth to myself, and my husband would prefer that I be a little less busy anyway (although he works very hard, he’s always been better than me at unwinding and enjoying downtime).
I have lots of friends who fall into the “I’m-so-busy-itis” category, but I no longer feel any desire to be as busy as they are. I want simplicity, a slower pace, and a relatively short to-do list. I’ve been getting much better over the last year or so about not over-scheduling our weekends, and now I’m taking steps to simplify the smaller details of my life too. Last week I unsubscribed from all of the political/social/activist websites that had been sending me an average of about twenty emails a day. I had been getting so many that I found that I was just deleting most of them anyway, and now my in-box feels much lighter and cleaner. I still feel just as strongly about my political/social views as I ever have, but I don’t need hourly emails to remind me of my views or encourage me to donate money or time. Opting to receive far fewer emails is a very simple step, but it’s one that has made my life a little bit easier too, and I’m looking for ways that I can replicate this in other aspects of my life.
The biggest change I’ve made is the mental switch to not needing to be busy all the time in order to feel worthy, productive and happy. When friends talk about their over-crammed schedules, I don’t feel inferior for having half as much on my plate. Keeping our life as simple as possible – with lots of time to just hang out – is much more important to me these days than being busy all the time used to be. A minimalist attitude towards possessions makes this much easier, since we don’t need to be on a work-spend-work treadmill.
All in all, I’ve decided that being constantly busy and hurrying all the time is a bit over-rated. Even though I thought that I was thriving on that lifestyle for years, I definitely prefer the slower pace that I have now. I still feel productive, and get a lot done each day, but my pace is more relaxed, and I like it that way.