Is It Better To Always Be Busy?

The glorification of being busy needs to stop. These days, we tend to think that if we’re not constantly rushing around then we’re not really achieving anything. We’re not successful or sought-after. We’re not pushing ourselves hard enough. We’re not doing anything of value. I feel it myself every time I take a break — “I should be writing”, “I should be scrubbing the floors”, “I should be putting on a wash load”, “I should be painting the kitchen”… But the idea that the people pulling all-nighters are somehow more productive is fuelling the sort of frenzy that leads to deep unhappiness and total burnout.

Stimulation is all around us, whether it be in the form of TV, advertising, video games, social media, text messaging, email… It’s too easy to always be “on”. It’s true that certain periods of your life will be busier than others (shoutout to all the other parents with young kids), and there are times when you’ll have to (or want to) pull an all-nighter. But these things need to be the exception to the rule rather than a regular occurrence. It’s fine to be a hard worker, but being so busy that you often have to work through the night is not a badge of honour.

I recently heard a YouTuber say that she stays up into the small hours because she has “a great work ethic”. My initial reaction was, “Shit, I’m such a lazy slob for lying here watching YouTube videos.” But then I thought, “Let’s pause a cotton-pickin’ minute — working longer hours doesn’t mean you’re better than I am. In fact, it probably just means that you’re an incredibly inefficient worker who’s about to burn out very quickly and very badly.” And with that, I rolled over and got my recommended eight hours. Because getting some shut-eye is my idea of success.

The fact is that the person who spends 18 hours working on a report is not necessarily going to churn out better work than someone who spends 4 hours on it. (And, let’s face it, if you’re still working into the a.m., your brain probably isn’t firing on all cylinders anyway.) It’s OK to finish your work at 5 and clock off for the rest of the day. It’s OK to clear your task list early and treat yourself to an hour in the tub. It’s OK to spend your evening eating pizza in your pyjamas. (Ahem.) Don’t feel bad that someone else worked late to finish a project while you were tucked up in bed by 10.

Success is not defined by how hard you work or for how long. Rather, success is defined by how happy you make yourself and others.

Success is taking the time to step back and evaluate and appreciate your life so that you can steer it in the right direction.

Success is seeking to plug the leaks in life rather than just frantically bailing water.

No-one’s better just because they’re “busy”, so never feel bad that you’re not burning the midnight oil; you just have a different definition of success. Maybe it’s getting the kids in bed by 9. Maybe it’s preparing a home-cooked meal. Maybe it’s beating the rush hour traffic. Maybe it’s regularly meeting up with friends and family. Some of the most important work you can do is on yourself, and some of the best time you can spend is with loved ones.

Success is subjective, and busy-ness alone doesn’t breed it.

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10 Comments

  1. I wholeheartedly agree with this. There is such a difference between being busy and being productive & efficient.

  2. A really great post! It has me reexamining why I am so busy. I shouldn’t be, by any measure.

    • Thanks Kristy. =) I think “busy” has become the default answer when people ask us how we’re doing, or how work is going. My greatest admiration goes to the people who say they got some work done and then spent time focusing on a hobby, or playing with the kids, or reading a book or whatever. And not in a “oh, I binge-watched some show on Netflix” way, but in a “I did something that is of value to me” way. We’ve put output ahead of input, and then wonder why we’re so tired all the time, or why we feel like we’re never really achieving anything. I hope to change that!

  3. Great post. I don’t know when ‘busy’ became synonymous with ‘work ethic’. Time management, perhaps. And if you’re so busy that you need to work until 3 in the morning, then I would think you need to re-evaluate how you manage your time

    Oh, and I’m in bed by nine (don’t shoot me -I’m up @ 5:30 and need my sleep ).

    • No shootings here. Ha ha. I’m usually in bed pretty much as soon as my daughter is, but I like to watch YouTube videos and read while I’m all snuggled up. =) Thanks for the kind words. 😀

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  6. Laura, I so agree! I’ve been thinking about this myself a lot lately and comparing myself incessantly to those “busy” people and thinking WOW I must be a slob! But, I realized that my priorities are such: fulfill my obligations, foster my relationships, and take care of/ enjoy myself. My priority is not to throw busywork on my day just so I can say how busy I’ve been. In fact, I hate being busy because being busy makes me incredibly stressed and that’s not good for me or for my family. Thanks for sharing this post – I always appreciate hearing your perspective on issues that have been weighing on me.

    • Yes, being “busy” doesn’t mean the person is actually getting anything of value done. I get a lot done in a day, but I also have a lot of downtime. It doesn’t mean I’m lazy, it just means I’m not spinning my wheels, getting nowhere fast. I make progress on the things that matter to me and cut out everything else.

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