“I wish I could” she said, “I never have time for lunch. It’s crazy-busy here. Always.”
“Oh I hear ya! This is the first time I’ve come up for air in weeks!” I replied, feeling like I had to somehow justify the unfilled gap in my day.
As a culture we wear our overwhelm like a badge of honor – leaving remnants of our busy lives littered in our brief email replies and social media posts, like breadcrumbs, leading us back to…to what? Ourselves? I think not.
This “busyness” thing has been a topic of discussion at my house for the last few months, as I’ve noticed a surge in weary-looking friends and participants who are burned-out to the core, yet continue to send emails at 11:30 pm (to which I, admittedly, feel weirdly compelled to reply). A connection made – another thing off the list – or, as one of my dearest friends likes to say, “moving the dial forward” – right? I imagine a hamster thinks the same thing.
My husband was telling me about an article examining the busy-epidemic in our culture last week, and in my effort to find the article he was telling me about I found at least 20 other posts talking about the same thing. The New York Times, Inc., Forbes, HBR, Huffington Post, Fast Company, and a dozen “influencers” on Linkedin and bloggers all agree – as a culture we have hit the height of busyness and it’s not pretty. To sum them all up: “Look at how busy we all are! Look at how much we all hate it! Look at how bad it is for us! But look at how we keep on doing it anyway!”
Ironically, at the same time, the market is flooded with hard evidence of the physiological and psychological price we pay for stress. While scanning the daily posts about “Mindfulness” we nod in agreement, armed with good intentions, and continue to forge ahead as usual thinking we’re somehow impervious. That we can take care of ourselves “later” – assuming that our health, our family, and the relationships that make our businesses (and lives) work, can wait.
We all know it to be a problem and yet, like the big elephant in the room that nobody can ignore, who amongst us will have the courage to do something about it?
Now even as I type this I can feel my anxiety mounting. Oh good. As if it’s not enough to feel like I’m carrying the world on my shoulders, trying desperately to balance it all yet knowing full-well that I’ll never get everything done – now I get to reprimand myself for my overly-busy-tendencies, and try to save everyone else from theirs? Yay. Like that’s going to happen.
Do we really need another reason to beat ourselves up?
The thing is, no matter how good our intentions, no matter how hard we try to manage our schedules, I’m not confident that this something that we can take-on alone and win, as the cultural-tides of busyness are too strong. Even swimming our hardest we’re bound to be pulled under, dragged back out into the sea of overwhelm. Treading water with the rest of the world, hoping to be saved but waiting to drown.
It seems to me that summer camps have the right idea. No respectable summer camp would allow a kid to venture into the water alone, they always have a buddy. Buddies look out for each other. Buddies can get help if one of them is in trouble. Buddies make sure that both make it to shore safely.
I think we all need a buddy. Or two.
Someone to remind us that we don’t have to do it all. Someone to tear us away from our email to have a real life conversation (that’s not in a meeting). Someone to reinforce that eating a meal during the day (especially one that’s not consumed in front of a computer) is a good thing. Someone to help us set and maintain our own boundaries. Someone who cares less about the glorification of being busy, and more about the glorification of being our best and making an impact.
Which can’t happen if we’re so tapped out that we have nothing great to give.
And isn’t better to deal with what’s real than not?
So tonight, I encourage you to identify yourself an anti-busy-buddy. Someone who will cheer on your commitment to exercise, or to make it home in time to tuck your kids into bed at night, or who will refuse to let you text during lunch, or suggest that you give yourself a much needed break to recharge, or ask you to mute your calls during your off-site-training (that hopefully you weren’t too busy to attend). Somebody who cares enough about you to not buy your excuses and to support you to find a healthy way to get what you need-to-get-done done. Because one day you may wake up to find that the unhealthy way of doing things has taken a bigger toll than you expected.
Maybe it’s time to step off the wheel and get real.
(with a little help from a friend – or two)
©OnStage Leadership, 2013; Kimberly Davis is the Founder/Director of OnStage Leadership, a full-day experiential leadership workshop. If you found this helpful, interesting, thought-provoking, or inspiring please “recommend”, “Like” and share. It is only through your generosity that we can reach those who may find it valuable too.