We’ve all said it to friends, coworkers, family, ‘ I’d love to join you at the – fill in the blank — (gym, party, restaurant …), but I’m just too BUSY’! Usually followed by a deep sigh, you see your friend shaking their head and rolling their eyes. How did we all get to be so busy? Busy is the little black dress of the excuse wardrobe. What if we refreshed our closet, tossing out busy and replacing it with balance?
Busy seems the fashionable hallmark of today. Busy families have umpteen kids’ activities, busy professionals have jam-packed schedules of meetings, travel and conference calls, small business owners are busy navigating network events between business hours, and students are busy with extra-curriculars and beefing up their resume with experiences. Let’s face it, the pace of life has outdistanced our capacity to be involved. While some place the blame on our fascination with screen time, the real culprit is our own lack of prioritizing what is truly important to us. Setting priorities and articulating a few key values helps us keep balanced when the scale of life starts to tip to one side.
For some of us, our schedules are too packed to even think about what is important to us, yet doing so actually helps us realize we are spending time doing everything but those things! By thinking about and, (gasp!) actually listing out what is really important to us, the top 5, we can then use our stated values as a litmus test for those pesky timewasters and commitments which constantly battle for our attention. That litmus test is the start of going from busy to balanced. For example, say my list was:
Training for the half-marathon
Working extra to save for that vacation
Weekly lunch with girlfriends
Planting my garden
Then my friend asks me to start a new cooking class with her on Wednesdays. The BUSY me would impulsively accept (it does sound fun) and then scramble to make it there every week, darting out of work early, leaving the kids sour, wallet lighter, and garden full of weeds. The busy me would not consult ‘the list’, responding quickly without considering the implications. The busy me has not posted that infamous ‘list’ on computer screen, calendar, bathroom mirror and refrigerator, as constant reminders of what I value and keeping me on the track I set for myself.
The new balanced me, however, would first check the list, which acts as a continuous reminder as my screensaver, phone wallpaper, and fridge note. I see that ‘develop cooking skills’ is not there! The balanced me would decline, saying something like ‘ Thanks, that sounds fun if I were free. Wednesdays are my distance run days and in March I’m using Wednesdays for starting the garden. I definitely want to hear all about it when we have lunch together though.’ (Notice no buts about it).
What is the impact of that response?
- a) your friend feels validated,
- b) your priorities (the half-marathon and garden) are maintained
- c) you have allowed yourself flexibility to work late or help with homework those nights if needed, by not adding another thing
- d) you remind her (and yourself) that you’ll see each other at the weekly lunch,
- e) you realize you can control how you spend your time!
With this newly exercised freedom of choice and values mindset, we see that it is possible to make better choices with our time, for ourselves, to allow us to really live the kind of life we envision. By intentionally choosing what we do, we empower ourselves to be less busy and yet more productive, in a way that brings less stress and more satisfaction, and in this case, more flowers!