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Too Busy - What's Busy Anyway?

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Lots of people have said similar and I'm not sure where it originally came to be a popular thing to say, but being busy does not equal success.

Seth Godin wrote a nice piece today on the subject (http://sethgodin.typepad.com/seths_blog/2015/12/is-it-too-little-butter-or-too-much-bread.html) and it brought to mind a recent exchange I had with a family member.

This particular family member is very headstrong and a little, OK a lot, old-fashioned. He asked me if I am busy. A simple enough and innocent question that meant nothing other than "Is work going well?"  and was certainly well-intentioned. I have been busy and work has been going well, so I answered "yes, thank you very much". But what is interesting is that this person, of a slightly older generation than me, equates hard work with success, and the particular flavour of hard work, for him, is lots and lots of that work, filling days and hours.

It struck me because I am in the process of making myself LESS BUSY - streamlining processes, outsourcing work to free up time to snooze and watch YouTube and draw and sip tea staring out the window at the leaves flapping in the wind. It reveals an interesting distinction between how different people see and do work: work hard or work smart. Sometimes they overlap, yes, but for the most part I think it is split between different generations and how we were brought up thinking about work. Of course, making this distinction based on age is crude, but let's keep it simple and run with that. My parents and certainly their parents felt that you had to put in the hours, you had to slog away at a job, nice-to-five and all that. This says much about the culture I was raised in and western mentality, the dogma of the work-ethic and idea of climbing the ladder. Me, I love the idea of NOT putting in a nice-to-five, of working out ways I can shape my own day and schedule and structure my life. This is one of the attractions and amazing advantages of working for yourself, something that makes more and more sense for a lot of people today, what with the hyper-connected world we live in. Why send an email to someone down on the 3rd floor in the sprawling office-park you have to spend 2 hours commuting to and from every day when you can send that email from your couch at home? Some people just don't get the distinction, some totally do. This will be the subject of another article...

Anyway, back to busy.

All of this is striking a nerve with me because I wasted a large portion of the year not focusing on working smarter. I had a client who pulled me astray from the life I have spent a long, hard time building. That was a mistake, but unfortunately one of those mistakes that is painfully obvious after the fact and very hard to see when he you're in the midst of it all. I am focused on addressing this this coming year and making significant changes. Luckily I have another client that is a near-perfect fit for me and how I actually want, and need, to live. Great clients are out there people, just keep swimming to paraphrase from Finding Nemo.

I want to be really very busy this year. But not busy doing just work. I want to be busy working, obviously (and it helps that I love what I do) but I also want to be busy making art (the image at the top of this post is a drawing I made on my iPad a few months ago, part of my never-ending cityscape drawings...), busy eating amazing food with friends at lunchtime in the sun and discovering new wines. I want to be busy hanging out with my fiancé on the couch discussing our wedding plans. I want to be busy reading and expanding my ideas. I want to be busy making, thinking, staring off into space (an overlooked and most important time and activity for the creative person that gets squashed by big business who watch the clock, not the quality of the product). It should be noted that giving yourself the freedom to chase other things you love and spend time nurturing them, really lets you focus on working hard and better when it's time to knuckle down. When I am working, I'm busting my ass... This is not a manifesto for laziness, quite the opposite - it is a way of life that lets you do as much as you can of what actually important...

All I'm getting at, really, is that we should change how we think about our time and our work and see being busy as more than work. The word business is from what you are literally busy with. But let's take back what business is. Yes, it's our work and our main form of how we keep ourselves busy making money to pay the bills and live but it also needs to be the act of living itself. And that needs to be nurtured and cherished.

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