Well, maybe not lazy, but relaxed and mindful instead of crazy-busy and frantic? That’s a worthy goal. I recently read the article “The Busy Trap” by Tim Krieder, and it made me cringe in self-recognition and cheer at the same time. He makes many great points, but this especially resonated with me:
Busyness serves as a kind of existential reassurance, a hedge against emptiness; obviously your life cannot possibly be silly or trivial or meaningless if you are so busy, completely booked, in demand every hour of the day.
You want to know that what you are doing matters. You want to be doing something meaningful so at the end of the day, you can put up your feet and feel that wonderful, deep satisfaction. Twitter counts, right?
I discovered how much I rely on busyness as a means of validation when I was laid off a few years ago. At first I was occupied with finishing my master’s in education and getting married, but then the only real “job” I had was finding another paycheck. Of course, I also kept up the house, ran errands, babysat my nephew and helped with my disabled grandmother. Still, I always felt I had to come up with a list of what had kept me busy so I could rattle it off when I picked my husband up from work to prove that I was worth keeping around.
Since starting my own business and moving into a formal role as caregiver to my grandmother, I have found lots of ways to keep busy. Too bad busy doesn’t automatically guarantee profits. When a business is new, most time should be spent on marketing. The online world provides lots of ways to do this, all of which can be either legitimate activities or time-sucking rabbit holes. Especially when I don’t want to do the hard work, like actually writing a blog post or revising web copy, I can turn to Facebook and Twitter and blog reading because building relationships is key to connecting with my Right People and thus making money. It sounds good in theory, but more often than not it doesn’t lead to profit.
Another way I stay busy is reading e-newsletters, so I can stay on top of my industry and educate myself for free. I love me some education and the Internet abounds with quality information given generously. Actually, that provides me with another great excuse for not posting more often: Who really wants/needs more to read? I know that I can’t really live by that, however. I have to trust readers to curate their own content and if they use my blog as busywork, hey, that’s on them.
Being busy just to feel like I’m doing something isn’t really fulfilling. It’s like eating a bunch of popcorn all day instead of well-balanced meals. Am I full? Yes. Am I really satisfied? No. How do I feel? Kind of yucky, actually. As an author, you may find yourself falling into the popcorn trap more than you’d like. When you’re actually writing, word count is word count and you know you’re making progress. But what about when you put on your marketing hat? How much time on social media is worth it? Or should you be blogging? Or commenting on other blogs? These are all activities that can have a high return on time invested, or not.
Sometimes all the busywork is a symptom of something else. Maybe your brain needs a rest but you feel guilty taking one. Maybe you have the idea that X hours must be spent on “work” regardless of how you feel. Maybe there is an issue you need to address, an inner critic you need to talk to, but you want to avoid the hard inner work.
Usually, your busywork time could best be spent talking to your monsters/inner critic/anti-muse. Yes, use your fantastic author’s mind to create a dialogue between you and whatever is keeping you from doing the work. Type it out, write it out, take a walk, use a sock puppet, feel silly, and keep asking questions. Don’t let your monsters be mean or get snippy with you, but otherwise listen to what they have to say.
You can comfortably tell yourself that this inner work is necessary for moving forward, and you will almost always get something from the conversation you weren’t expecting that is quite helpful. Sometimes even 10-15 minutes of this will result in being ready to leave the busyness behind and luxuriate in what is most meaningful to you.
Would you like to join me on this mission from Busy Bee to Lazy Ladybug? How does busyness show up in your life? Please share in the comments!