Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Getting Down to Busyness

I’ve been delinquent in writing, but it certainly is not because I’ve been lazy.  Or maybe I have.  A saying I ponder often is: busyness is a form of laziness.

I know it is true for me.  There is a never ending stream of “things to do.”  Email, chores, family duties, email, paying bills, keeping in touch with people, articles to both read and write, shopping, email, books  to read, videos to watch, facebook, email… If I spelled it all out the list would be endless, like my email. When I’m caught up in “git-r-done” mode (sorry, I’m originally from the south), it feels like I’m on an endless treadmill of doing.

As you know, I’m someone who advocates for mindfulness and self-awareness, and I do my best to walk the walk too.  So each night I sit for at least 5-15 minutes to “do nothing.”  To just sit and let my mind slow down and check in to see where I’m at on this day.  But I notice when I’m caught up in my periods of busyness, it is so much harder to actually drop in.  My mind wants to just keep going, “don’t stop now,” it says, “you’ve got much more to do on your list.”  It’s like my system wants to stay in motion. As Newton taught us, “an object in motion tends to stay in motion.” I guess the laws of physics apply to us too!

It really does feel like that to me, like when I’m in the “git-r-done” mode I have momentum on my side, which helps propel me through my tasks and with momentum, I’m able to get more done.  I’ve also noticed though, that staying in this mode of busyness comes at a price.  I know I lose a level of quality, precision, and depth.  The focus is more on the checking things off the list than it is on doing things well.  I tend to cut corners.  And I don’t really give myself into the richness of each moment that I have with the people that are involved in my interactions.  (But that is a topic for my next article on relationship coming soon!)

But here is the most important consequence in my opinion. By staying in motion, it is like we are on plane on a boat.  We are skimming along the surface not really sinking into the water. We lose touch with ourselves.  I know when I’m in busyness, I’m less available to my feelings, my empathy, my intuition, and I’m less available to connect with other people.  I lose touch with how “I’m” doing and I’m just “doing.”  I start to feel like the cog in the wheel.  I’m less available to myself and to the people in my life that matter most.  Any of these sound familiar?

Losing touch with ourselves and our close relationships is a big problem.  It reminds me of the Rwandan proverb: “You can out-distance that which is running after you, but not what is running inside you.” Eventually there comes a time when we can’t ignore what is inside of us any longer.  In our culture, because we ignore it for so long, it builds like a volcano and comes out in  the form of a crisis – in our relationships, jobs, or mental health (depression or anxiety anyone?).  But the problem with this is we are then doing crisis work rather than health and growth work.  We have less of our resources available to healing and being able to really change because we are too busy trying to put out the fire. 

By staying in busyness all the time, we are really being lazy and neglectful in tending to our humanness and it causes problems in our personal lives.  It causes disconnect within ourselves and in our close relationships.  Further, it decreases our availability to each other and decreases the quality of our work when our focus is on just getting things done rather than getting things done well and learning from the experience. 

So how do we change this?  Well, it requires a shift in values and change in our expectations.  Is our priority our humanness or our business?  There is the cliché, "No one on their deathbed ever said, 'I wish I spent more time at work,'” so I know where we say our values are, but we don’t actually do it.  We need to slow down and give ourselves permission to not get as much done in this moment.  We need to re-prioritize and put our relationships with ourselves and the people in our life first. 

Ironically, as I write this my 2 year old daughter climbs on my lap.  At first, it was easy for me to set the computer aside and play with her. I’d let her climb on me, flip her upside down, give her some tickles, we laugh and I put her down and pick the computer back up and keep writing.  Then she climbs up again, we repeat.  After the 3rd time I realized I was starting to get a little annoyed, because I just wanted to get this article finished! I had momentum! Luckily, I am writing about this exact thing at the moment, so I was able to close the computer and play with her until she was done playing.  We laugh together, I laugh at myself, I learn.  It is a constant practice.

It also helps to check in with ourselves from time to time throughout the day.  Take a pause and a few deep breaths whenever switching tasks.  Get outside and take a slow walk over lunch trying to notice as much as you can about your internal and external environment.  At each red light, take a few deep breaths, check in with yourself and see how many beautiful things you can identify.  Or maybe even do a quick 2-5 minute meditation once or twice in the middle of the day.  I always sit for at least 1 minute and just breathe and settle before starting a session with a client.  These things help to be sure we don’t get too far away from ourselves.  Make sure we don’t get so swept away on the “git-r-done” train that we get carried too far from ourselves and what is really important to us.  Because when we get too far carried away, often it takes a huge leap, an expensive ride, or a crisis to get back.

I realize that even these suggestions on how to stay in touch with ourselves are more things to do and can easily be viewed as one more task to add to the list.  If we look at our practice as another task in our busyness, we will still only slow the boat down, never really resting back in the water.  So let’s try to remember that staying in touch with ourselves and the people in our lives is our primary job.  All the rest is extra credit.  Let’s not be lazy by doing so much that we lose touch with our real work.  Will you help remind me? 


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