You’re busy. I’m busy. We’re busy. Everyone at this school and in this world is busy. But it’s time to start questioning our approach to being busy and our motivations behind it.
A few weeks ago, I was sitting in a meeting for BOS Lady Project, a non-profit organization that puts on networking events for women in the Boston area. Though it’s an organization that welcomes all ages, most of our members are twenty-something young urban professionals looking to get inspired by other twenty-something young urban professionals in the Boston area. At this meeting, where we introduced our two new city managers, one of them said that she was looking forward to taking on this new role because she “works better” when she’s busy. She also added, “I don’t know what it is about Millennials, but I feel like we have this constant need to overwork ourselves. We can’t be productive unless we’re busy.”
And, as a Millennial, I sympathized with that. I equate being “involved” with “doing everything.” And I work well when I have a deadline. But freshman year, I made a vow to myself that I wouldn’t become overwhelmed like I was in high school when I was focused on building up my resumé and impressing prospective colleges. This time around, I’d only do things I was actually passionate about.
Of course, I didn’t keep my promise. I found that there were a lot of things that I was passionate about, and that’s okay, I told myself. So I kept on doing more and pushing myself to do better and here I am, busy again.
It’s not that I don’t enjoy what I do. It’s that I don’t feel satisfied with myself or feel like I’m using my potential unless I have three scheduled meetings a night and two papers due Friday and lectures to attend and parties lined up for Friday and Saturday and… could I overload next semester?
Recently, there’s been a push against this millennial mentality that “glorifies” busy. The movement urges us to be more present, say “no” to opportunities and put away our phones. This isn’t bad advice, per se. I think we all could benefit from a little more presence of mind, but who has time for that?
In fact, reflection can often seem like another activity that we have to add to our to-do list, and it’s easy to get overwhelmed when you realize that you don’t have time to take care of your body and mind like you know you should.
There are benefits to keeping yourself busy by doing things that you’re passionate about, and I think that, especially at this stage in our lives, it makes sense to take advantage of our youth and flexibility by exploring our options.
In a way, that type of mentality should be glorified. If you’re taking on that research position because you’re interested in the project and think you could benefit from the experience, then go for it! You’re going to be stressed, but it might be worth it.
However, if you’re constantly blaming your shortcomings on “being too busy,” maybe it’s not.
I think that this push against glorifying busy really is a push to stop redefining success solely through how filled your planner is and to be honest with yourself about your limits. “Busy” isn’t bad; it’s how we think about it that’s dangerous.
So, if you find yourself constantly complaining about how busy you are, reconsider the types of things you’ve committed yourself to. Reflect on how you use your time when you’re not busy and note what level of stress best motivates you. Sometimes, it helps to raise the stakes in order to feel motivated to work harder, and for some people, that might mean working on overdrive for a time.
(And if this post sounds like rambling self-reassurance, that’s partly because it is. I’m busy, all right?)