Why Is Busy The New Normal?

Why Is Busy The New Normal? Hero Image

Hectic, whirlwind, consumed, crazy, hard to keep up, overwhelmed, and just plain old busy: how often do you use these words and phrases to describe your day?

When someone asks, "Hey, how are you doing?" do you find that "busy" seems to be the go-to answer of choice? But why? Is there more we actually have to do? Is there no such thing as down time anymore?

In trying to shed light on this, I've explored three questions:

1. Why has busy become the new normal?

2. What is the down side of all this busy-ness?

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3. How can we stop glorifying the state of being busy?

Disclaimer: Before I begin, I'll note that there are times of genuine busy-ness — sometimes you just have a lot (and perhaps even too much) on your plate. Take, for example, a mom of six kids who has to work three jobs to support them, and also has elderly parents that she cares for at home. She is almost always busy.

But that person is not who or what I'm talking about here today. Today I'm talking about why the answer "busy" has become the new normal, and perhaps even a fashionable, answer in our culture.

1. Why has busy become the new normal?

Busy has become go-to, normal and even glorified, because we use it as an excuse to avoid other things.

Constantly convincing ourselves how busy we are is a convenient way to avoid the things we don't want to push ourselves to do. Think about it: "I can't exercise because I'm just too busy," "I can't eat healthy because I have no time to cook!" "No sorry, grandma, I can't come to your birthday party because I am just way too busy."

We also use the "busy" explanation because our culture socializes us (and mothers in particular, I think) to feel a need to please, to be needed by others, and to feel important.

And especially given that we are living in the age of social media, our culture has become obsessed with status and competition. Busy can be part of that: it's a defense mechanism, a go-to "status symbol" to indicate your importance. By being busy all the time, we are trying to demonstrate to ourselves that we have full and worthy lives, that we are needed and wanted.

2. What is the down side of being busy all the time?

There are reasons why exercise, eating healthy and keeping close personal connections are so important. They are all different facets of self-care, a surefire method to get on the fast train to happy town. All aboard?!

On the flip-side, checking our email 1,000 times a day, browsing social media for hours and even multi-tasking are all way to keep ourselves from being genuinely productive. Making up this state of constant busy-ness is self-sabotaging.

What we are really doing is contaminating the most valuable resource we have: TIME. And in the process we create stress, anxiety and dissatisfaction. Above all, constantly telling ourselves and others about how much we have to do can create the feeling of low self-confidence and self-worth.

How? Essentially, we create a mismatch between what we expect of ourselves and what we really get done. We believe that if we are not always doing and achieving that we are not enough. If we're not busy, we may start to feel vulnerable, like nobody wants us, like we are unimportant, like we are unproductive or unworthy.

3. So, how do we overcome the glorification of "busy"?

Stop telling yourself and those around you how busy you are all the time.

"Busy" is a self-fulfilling prophecy. The more you say it, the more you believe it, the more you feel the stress and other negative emotions associated with a constant state of busy-ness.

Instead of telling people how busy you are, tell them what's going on in your life. You will have better connection and better conversation. The people who love you most don't love you for WHAT YOU DO they love you for WHO YOU ARE.

Photo Credit: Getty Images


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