I preface this post by saying there’s nothing wrong with being busy or productive. Having a healthy balance of productivity and relaxation is key for maintaining both mental and physical health. However, busy-ness can be a cult of sorts when it’s used to make someone look better or more successful than other people. It can also be used as a guilt trip for people who don’t seem as outwardly successful as they want them to be. The cult of busy-ness can lead to personal issues as well as interpersonal issues.
I think one of the most abrasive things about a self-proclaimed hustler or busy person is that they’re claiming to be so much busier than their peers. We are all busy to some degree. Yes, I recognize that some people work longer hours or have a few side gigs going on. There’s nothing wrong with doing more work if that’s what you want to do. A lot of times, you need to work a little harder to start a business or to get ahead in a company. The problem is some people create this weird competition with others in an effort to show how much more ambitious and successful they are. I spoke to a guy recently who asked how my year’s been so far, so I said “It’s been a nice mix of chill and productive.” I say this to gauge if people will be on the same page as me. I want a guy who values relaxation time as much as productivity. He replied with “I was all productive with no relaxing. Life is a race against time.” He started to lecture me on other reasons why he keeps busy, but I didn’t listen. I’d heard enough. Some people don’t understand balance.
Relaxation Is Not Laziness
Most people work full time hours and have a hobby on the side. We usually have a friend (or a few friends) we like to hang out with or a partner/date we go out with. There’s nothing wrong with doing absolutely nothing – whether that’s having a nap, sitting on a bench watching a sunset, binging a TV show, watch a Youtube video, or whatever “doing nothing” means to you. It’s those moments you allow yourself to relax that recharge your mind and body. You will actually be more productive in your work/art/side hustle/hobby tasks if you balance it out with rest. We are not machines or gods who never get tired, so we shouldn’t try to act like we are.
Multi-tasking Is Shown To Reduce Productivity
This is probably good news for people who have always had problems multi-tasking, but it might be an annoying truth for those who enjoy doing several things at once. Of course, do whatever makes you happy and if you have an above average ability to multi-task, go you! That’s great. Generally speaking, many people who multi-task in life are forcing themselves to do so and it’s hindering their life more than they realize. You don’t need to juggle loads of projects at once. It’s okay to lighten the burden and delegate tasks to other people. If you prefer to tackle one task at a time, that is totally okay.
The Cult Of Busy-ness Guilt Trips Anyone Who Isn’t Constantly Productive
Much like the gentleman I mentioned earlier from the dating app, some chronically busy people think they are better than others who don’t put in the same high workload as them. Guilt, shame, and pity are the hallmarks of abusive relationships, so you might want to steer clear of anyone who shames you for sleeping in on a Sunday or who thinks you always need to be up doing something when you’re awake. It’s one thing to acknowledge you have loads of energy and need to keep busy – it’s another thing to look down on others because they aren’t as busy as you.
Some People Lie About Being Busy
More often than not, a lot of of the people who claim to be hustling and working so much harder than others might not be as busy as they let on. Some people give off a vibe that they’re very chill and have a lot of downtime, yet they’re actually quite productive. The opposite can be true for the “always so busy” people. Working full time and having a few activities you do in a week doesn’t qualify you as being so much busier than other people. I had one date tell me he didn’t have time for a relationship, because he was focusing on work – this was at a time that I had recently published a new book (while working full time) and was working on another yet I didn’t claim to be overly busy or a hustler. It was ironic.
There are also times when we say we’re busy as a way to get out of being around someone or to get out of doing an activity we don’t want to do. It’s better to set a clear boundary than lie. We’ve all done this before without really thinking about it – like that annoying random guy on Instagram who wants to have a full conversation with you, so you say “Sorry I’m really busy.” You’re not trying to play mind games and you’re not asking him to wait for you until your busy-ness ends, it’s just a nice way of saying you don’t want to talk to him. It’s always better to clarify your intentions so that a) the person knows you’re not interested and they can move on and b) you won’t have to deal with them bugging you anymore. If you don’t want to go to an event with someone, you can simply say “No, I’m not interested in going to that” or if someone you’re not interested in wants to chat or date you, it’s kinder to say “Hey, just letting you know I’m not interested in dating/talking to you further. I’m seeing someone else/I don’t think we’re compatible.” Some people’s jaws drop when you get to the point like that, but it’s much nicer to let people off the hook than keep them waiting for you because they think you’re just busy.
Busy-ness & The Scarcity Mentality
Much like the guy who told me that “Life is a race against time”, some people truly believe that time flies and they need to do as much as humanly possible while they can. While I totally understand managing your time so it doesn’t fly away from you, some people look at time from a scarcity mindset rather than from an abundance mindset. When you feel that time is scarce, it triggers the same mental alarms as when you run out of food or other needs. This type of mindset can actually lead people into survival mode. There is enough time in the day. You either need to edit and shorten your to-do list or manage your time more realistically. As someone who has published 16 books while working full time, I can tell you there is enough time in the day – and my days tend to feel very free and relaxed. Balance is key.
Busy Is The New High Status
Whether the self-proclaimed hustler is truly busy or they’re lying, these people like to announce how busy they are because it indicates a higher status. For decades, society has told us that the harder someone works, the more money they will have and the more successful they will be. Hard work is associated with being rich (Even though this is often false). Some people believe that those who skip out on leisurely activities like nature walks, beach days, spa days, movie nights, or hobbies are more successful and valuable. Busy-ness can be seen as high status, so that is why some people like to associate themselves with it. It could also be an excuse for a person to avoid having close or meaningful relationships with others. In reality, being busy may not lead to success, nor are all successful people always busy.
Being Too Busy Can Be An Excuse To Avoid Healthy Habits
Some busy people believe they don’t have time for a 20 minute workout before or after their job, or they always order fast food rather than cook a healthy meal at home. If someone has a scarcity mindset with time, their health will often suffer for it. It’s not just about how much time you have, but the quality of your time. If you’re burnt out, feeling drained, or can’t walk 5 minutes without getting winded, any monetary success you’ve gained from being busy isn’t going to matter too much in the long run. Taking time for self-care such as stretching, working out, getting massages, going to a doctor/chiropractor/dentist, taking a walk, or eating healthy food is so important to balance out those busy moments.
Women Often Need More Rest Than Men
On average, women usually need 8-9 hours of sleep per night, as opposed to most men only needing about 7 hours. Women also experience monthly hormonal fluctuations during their childbearing years, which can impact their energy levels dramatically. I’ve noticed as a single woman dating that some men expect women to function the same as they do in all things. While a woman is just as capable to be in any field she chooses, she may need more rest time. A man shouldn’t begrudge a woman for needing more sleep or for needing to take a few days off from the gym while she’s on her period. While every woman is unique, in general she won’t function in the same way as a man. Often, this balance of self-care and hard work can make women very efficient workers.
If you’ve ever felt that you need to create a “busy person” image or you’ve felt guilty/shamed for not doing enough, please don’t blame yourself. Hustle culture and modern society can sometimes put a lot of pressure on everyone – women and men – to reach a certain level of success by a certain age. If you happen to enjoy keeping busy and it makes you happy, then by all means keep doing what you’re doing – as long as you’re not guilt tripping others to be like you. Success means different things to different people. I happen to be in the group who appreciates leisure time as much as productive time.
Thank you so much for reading my blog today!
I had a job that kept me busy… too busy. The quality of my work and relationships suffered. You need time to process life, not just occupy it. I’m glad I’m not as busy as I used to be.
That’s so true. Like it makes sense for a time, but it’s the way some people try to compete with others on the busyness scale. I don’t like being guilt tripped when I do enough.
Also I’m glad you’ve found some balance since.
Yes hoping all goes well..so busy. Anita
Wow, Sara! This blog post is spot on, and I’m a true believer in the importance of balance in one’s life. Got to have it. It’s very difficult to run on all cylinders all the time and never stop to do some maintenance on a regular basis. Burnout is real. So, I definitely agree that a healthy balance of productivity with leisure is a MUST. And you know I’ve been pretty vocal about “simplifying life” and trying to focus in on a few things (doing them as best as you can) instead of trying to do ALL THE THINGS and not doing any one of them justice. Just as I’ve been an advocate for having the right balance between the personal and professional sides of one’s life. So, there’s definitely an artistic flair to getting one’s life right, but it’s worth the experimentation to find the right mix. Thanks for this great post in reminding us to be careful about how we throw our busyness around in our own lives and in the lives of others.
Yay! Thank you so much for your comment. 🙂 I’m really glad this resonated with you. I like how you put it – Instead of trying to do all the things, focus on just a few that are important. It’s definitely an art to find that special balance in life – and it takes some experimentation/trial & error to find the right way for us.
What a detailed blog post Sara. It is well articulated and yes “Cult busyness lifestyle” differs from person to person.
Thank you so much! It’s not an issue to be busy, it’s a problem when people use their busy lifestyle to lord over others.