Do you wear busyness as a badge of honor?

by Daniel Batten on November 2, 2010

How many times have you said “I’m really busy right now”?

Here’s another question (be honest) … Did you feel that your busyness was a badge of honor? – something to feel secretly a little proud of. Afterall if I am busy then what I am doing must be important and so must I right?

Busyness means “no breathing space”. In this state, “non-essential” activities such as planning life outside work, or thinking creatively or strategically inside work stop happening.

But that’s not what a business is. A business can only thrive when there is a balance between activity and creative / strategic contemplation (just ask Steve Jobs). Most people do not run or work in a business, they run or work in a busyness: all activity and no room to think about or do the unplanned things you dream up in the unbusy spaces that grow you and your business – the things that can only happen when you are not busy.

The Chinese understood this. Creativity comes from the heart: action is lead from the head. The Chinese character for “busy” (mang) is made of two characters: heart + death. “Busy” literally means the heart is no longer alive.

So the next time you are about to say to your friend, family, creative impulses, or yourself “I’d love to but I’m too busy”, ask whether you would say “I’d love to but my heart is too dead”

People who are doing what they love never feel too busy. “Busy” happens when events control you rather than you controlling events, and you sign off this state of affairs as though it can be no other way.

A busy life is like a book without punctuation. Slightly more space efficient, but off-putting and uninviting for anyone else.

Decide from tomorrow to schedule in space each day, each week, and each month, and see what magic unfolds.

May you spend with much business and little busyness.

{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

juliet November 3, 2010 at 4:13 pm

Wow! the Chinese are so wise. Thank you for this perspective.

James Samuel November 4, 2010 at 7:59 am

Beautifully succinct and pertinent… just as well cos I’m so busy I wouldn’t have read it otherwise. 🙂

Uma Chopra November 9, 2010 at 5:29 pm

Daniel-Thanks for your insights and the sharing- it is sexy!!

Suzanne Masefield January 21, 2011 at 4:39 pm

Great article Daniel, straight to the heart of the matter. Allowing our mind & ego to run the show dimishes the opportunity for real fulfilment. A good lesson, finally taken time to read this!

Dr. Brad Semp January 26, 2011 at 8:39 am

Hi Daniel –

Well put. As I always say, “Take control of your actions or your actions will take control of you.” As you point out, the norm of today’s society is to allow our actions to control us. The result is engaging in meaningless action ==> busyness.

The question is…..”are you in BUSYNESS or in business?”

Dr. Brad Semp

James Samuel February 3, 2011 at 4:30 pm

Since I left my first comment above, I’ve taken on a whole new approach to my work and personal life. It’s been in the form of implementing a GTD style of work/life management, and I’ve written about it here: http://www.jamessamuel.co.nz/zen-office/

What a difference!

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