Being Busy Isn’t All It’s Cracked Up To Be

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Prior to this year, just thinking about all of the things on my to-do list would have made me nervous, but accomplished. Like I was doing important things. And, because I had chosen the majority of these projects myself I was compelled to follow through and complete them. Getting involved with yet another project seemed exciting and like I was doing something important. However, if I’m honest with myself, it was all about #FOMO or Fear of Missing Out. I never stopped long enough to think about all of the time I would need to spend on each new project or the not-so-glamorous parts of each project I had to complete.

Sometimes I wished I hadn’t committed to so much because when it came time to deliver, I was always running against the clock and feeling like I wasn’t focusing on what was truly important to me; instead I was simply staying busy. At other times, I wondered what I could be doing with all of my “free time” if I were to let everything, or some things, go. I couldn’t even imagine that – both the free time or letting go of anything!

I used to think that I loved my busy life, precisely because I was busy. And, on some level, I guess I did like parts of what I was doing. No #FOMO, but lots of anxiety. Being busy is supposed to be a sign of success, but is it really? I deluded myself into thinking that I was making progress in my life goals because of what I got involved in. But progress towards what? That’s what I never stopped long enough to figure out. Was I gaining anything really important by volunteering for yet another activity? Was I any closer to any of my professional or personal goals? And…what were/are my personal/professional goals, anyway?

In my heart, I knew it could do better if I could say, “No,” once in a while. Not everything is worth doing or will get me further along my goal of writing a book, finishing my doctorate, becoming a more effective, joyful teacher, or finding much needed work-life balance. Even though I know this in my heart, old habits are hard to break. And, while I have been moderately successful at saying, “No” on occasion, I am still trying to figure out what I want to say, “Yes” to that will make a difference to me and others.

Since I’ve been on medical leave, I’ve had to reassess my priorities. I’ve had to drop out of a few commitments when I realized, sometimes too late, that I wasn’t feeling well enough to do them. I’ve been learning to say, “No” to more things, though I have to admit it hasn’t been easy. Along the way I am realizing that being busy isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.

In the New Year I am committing to a few important activities that will uplift me and keep me engaged because they bring value and joy to my life. I will stop doing those things that just don’t do that so I can truly focus my energies on what matters.

Recently, I read a blog post where I was reminded that elementary school teachers are expected to be experts in a lot of subject areas. The truth is that none of us can be experts in everything, yet we flit from one thing to the other as if we can do it all. That gave me pause. Although there are many worthwhile projects out there, not all of them are worthwhile for me, or even fit me as an educator or as a person. I’m learning to be discriminating in my tastes and that’s helping me pick and choose more wisely.

Here’s to a New Year of fewer, but better involvements.

Cross posted to the Two Writing Teachers Tuesday Slice of Life Challenge.

5 thoughts on “Being Busy Isn’t All It’s Cracked Up To Be

  1. Hi Elisa! I hear you on being busy as a badge of success. I feel like I take on so much and it all seems do-able, but then the last thing I take on makes it all seem impossible if that makes sense. I want to follow your lead and pick the things that align with my purpose and bring me joy. Wishing you good health and peace in the new year!

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    • Thanks for your comment, Kathleen. I get what you mean about the last thing just putting you over – like the last straw that breaks the camels back, right? We just don’t know when to say, “No”. It’s a learning curve for sure. Happy holidays to you, too.

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  2. Fewer, but better. I like the sound of that. And these words: “…a few important activities that will uplift me and keep me engaged because they bring value and joy to my life.” Great post!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you for commenting, Ramona. Yes. I have been reading some self-help/productivity books lately and they all basically say the same thing: find your passion – that which motivates you intrinsically and go for it. Figure out what you need to let go of so that you can do your life’s work well and put in time for personal relationships, too. I think we’re only as good as our fears.

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