On being busy versus being bored
We spend a lot of time being busy.
I'm so busy.
I was busy at work today.
Today? It was busy.
We’re always some variation of ‘busy’ to the point that it is part of our identity, a weird sense of worth or value because we are busy busy busy.
Being busy helps keep us occupied, right, helps us focus on doing more, accomplishing more, being growth-oriented. Progress, improvement, and growth give us energy.
That is (mostly) good—it means we are inclined to deploy our resources on activities that compound towards a better future. Great.
Unfortunately, that "mostly" qualifier is very real. Our growth orientation also means that we are predisposed to fall into a trap—the Busy Trap.
Think about it, though:
Why do we say we are busy? Why do we feel we are busy?
We say we are busy because being busy means you are a worker, and you are showing you add value to society. Important. We are busy so therefore we are valuable.
If we continue to say we are busy, our supervisors will not question our output or work ethic, and we will continue to climb the proverbial ladder in our workplace, gaining greater responsibility and worth in our work environment. Excellent: now we are even more valuable.
We do we feel we are busy?
We are – especially after COVID – constantly connected. Virtually, personally, in many different aspects, constantly in touch. Your phone is connected to your smart watch which is connected to your computer. You can be reached by anyone at any time of day. You fill your life with movement, possibly to the point of lack of progress.
We spend too much time on the urgent. While focusing on the urgent, we are not paying attention to the important.
Being perpetually busy, we:
· Don’t have the time to prioritize the important
· We give ourselves excuses to cut corners on the things that take time away from our busyness (eating, sleeping, exercise)
· We ignore the negative impact being busy has on our mental health and wellbeing
· We don’t take time to be grateful or enjoy the moment. We rush from one task to the next with no sense of accomplishment.
Our being busy creates drag, and does not allow us to actually reach our potential.
The answer is not a straight and direct line, but one way to get out of that state of frantic busyness is to embrace boredom.
“All of humanity's problems stem from man's inability to sit quietly in a room alone.” - Blaise Pascal
Be bored a little more often
A bored mind can be the canvas upon which innovation is painted, and the womb in which novelty is nourished.
The human mind thrives on novelty. What was once a source of pleasure can become tedious after a time. Though our lives are full, boredom lurks around every corner because we innately long for new experiences.
In Hindu and Buddhist traditions, boredom is perceived as a pathway to self-awareness. Boredom itself is not detrimental to the soul -- it is the manner in which we respond to it that determines whether it becomes a positive or a negative influence in our lives. When you respond by actively filling the emptiness you feel lurking in yourself, you cultivate creativity and innovation. If, when in the grip of boredom, you have difficulty acknowledging the merits of any activities you might otherwise enjoy, generate your own inspiration. Before you find yourself beset by boredom, create a list of tasks you can consult when it feels like there is simply nothing to do. Referring to a list of topics you want to learn more about, projects you've yet to begin, or even pending chores can spark your creative energy and reawaken a zest for life. When we are troubled by boredom, it is not that there is nothing to do but rather that we are not stimulated by the options before us. A bored mind can be the canvas upon which innovation is painted and the womb in which novelty is nourished. When you identify boredom as a signal that you need to test your boundaries, it can be the force that presses you to strive for opportunities you thought were beyond your reach and to indulge your desire for adventure.
When we are bored, it can be tempting to immediately reach for some sort of screen as a distraction. Rather than mindlessly scrolling, why not spend some time being 'unbusy.' We often use the excuse of not having enough time, rushing around, rather than taking the time to slow down and developing an understanding of our own inner insights. Do you let yourself be bored? Do you spend time just being and experiencing what life flows around you? Do you make the effort to see past the obvious: is it just a tree, or is it the scores of green leaves, masses of branches, and all of the life that lives in and around it? Do you see the insects, spiders and birds thriving in it? There is a lot of wonder in the appreciation of all of it, of what is around you. Noticing the finer details is as important as getting all of your to-do tasks accomplished.
In boredom exists the spark of a new creative solution for your current situation. Don't fix your boredom, don't turn on a screen. Boredom is a gift, because it means there is nothing planned, and in that moment of freedom, you can do what you choose. You can take that unscheduled moment and do a small they wish with it. You can choose to follow a curiosity or explore a new idea. You can do nothing and appreciate the stillness. You can just be. You can give that gift of stillness, that moment of being ‘unbusy’ and relish the ability to not be doing something. When your mind and heart are ready, you will know what you can do next.