I’m not sure how it started. Maybe when I got into my 30s? Maybe when I moved into a place of my own? I’m not sure. But what I wanted to talk about today was a case for being anti-busy.
When I moved to New York I nearly burned myself out by making so many plans. From sun up to sun down I had my days packed full. I found it fulfilling at the time. I was in a new city and trying to soak up as much as possible. I was also putting efforts into making new friends and trying out loads of spots I’d heard about.
But something recently has changed. Do you remember when we started talking about a few years ago how everyone would reply “busy” to the question “how are you?” The “B word” was on the tip of everyone’s tongue. And the growth of social media hasn’t helped. It’s made us feel as though we must always be seeing and be being seen. And somewhere along the lines it grew exhausting! I vividly remember reading this NYT article several years ago and being like “Yes, yes, yes.”
“Busyness serves as a kind of existential reassurance, a hedge against emptiness; obviously your life cannot possibly be silly or trivial or meaningless if you are so busy, completely booked, in demand every hour of the day. “
I know so many people who get self-assurance by talking about how busy they are. And it is certainly something that some New Yorkers in particular associate with status.
Earlier this year when I began penning this post I had started leaving my weekends open as much as possible. It allowed me the bliss of saying yes to last minute plans, allowing for an early morning walk in my neighborhood or having an evening to myself to do something I normally wouldn’t do. (Read nearly an entire book in one sitting! Watch a lot of Planet Earth! Cook an indulgent meal!) The practice has made me more peaceful and less anxious.
Nowadays I am extra purposeful with my time. I think more critically about the things I say “yes” to and I’m more indulgent in dolling out a polite “no, thank you.” I also make less excuses when it comes to saying no or politely declining an invite. I guard my evenings carefully and I am extremely thoughtful with where I spend my time and with whom I spend it. As a result I am less “busy,” but more fulfilled. The openness on my schedule has allowed me to fill my days with more rewarding activities and opportunities. Certainly my self-employment has helped with this flexibility in my schedule, too. That I can’t deny.
While this summer has been an exception because of my travel schedule, several of the trips I am taking are because I hadn’t overbooked myself far in advance. Being less busy has allowed me to flex my spontaneity muscle that was sorely underused.
So what do you guys think? Thoughts on being too busy?
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A quick note on this outfit! I snagged this sweater blazer immediately at J.Crew last week because it sold out last season and I am sure it will again. I am going to wear it so much in the coming months. It’s also perfect for a cooler summer morning or evening. I sized down to a Small as it definitely runs big. (It also comes in several other color options.) I paired it with these sneakers I can’t stop wearing, my new go-to denim shorts (love that they are high-waisted), a silk cami (I have it in black, too!) and this bag that I’ve gotten WAY more use out of than I ever thought possible.
A few other great J.Crew new arrivals I spotted: This top with the prettiest back, this top (just added it to my cart – who are we kidding – it is so my style!), this pretty eyelet top and this perfect rain jacket.
J.Crew Sweater Blazer // Cami NYC Tank // Topshop Shorts (on sale; last seen here) // Sneakers (less expensive version here) // Circle Bag
p.s. more ways to transition your wardrobe for Fall & another casual look for summer.
What a gift to discover this at your age! I am 50 and just found this treasure called ” content”. I had a hard time expressing this to a lot of people after the constant “what are you doing with yourself these days?” questions. Saying “not much” or “just hanging out” was received as sad or lonely. So I’ve started saying “just enjoying a pause in life” and faces soften and often the next expression is envy : )
YES YES YES to contentment! “A pause in life” in also such a lovely way to put things. I love this framing of it. Thank you for sharing, Cassie!!
I love this. I have been trying very hard lately to leave room in my life for non-plans. Especially now that I’m back in school part time, it has been extremely important to make myself available for the things I need to get done alone.
It’s such an important thing to do! Good on you for focusing on your priorities & congrats on being back in school!
Good for you! I wholeheartedly agree that Busy needs to stop being some weird badge of honor, when really it’s can just be a proxy for a life lived without intention and meaning (that’s not always the case of course). Outside of my job, my summer has been filled with time at the pool, trail runs with my dogs, naps and books and movies, all done at my own pace and without pressure. When people ask what I’ve been up to, it can be hard to say “Nothing” but I’m trying to take pride in my unplanned life. I still work hard, but I love feeling rested and content and at ease with my life, and I especially love knowing I have the energy to give my loved one the attention they deserve.
It really is so strange that it became this boasting phenomenon. I feel like the movement of self care is helping to finally diminish it but it’s still somewhat rampant. Your summer sounds BLISSFUL. And doing all those things definitely does not equate to “nothing” more so it equates to contentment (see Cassie’s comment!)
And honestly, the plans I make to relax are still plans. I still feel busy. Whether I’m getting my nails done or have planned to explore the city. I still consider myself “busy” even though it may not be work-related or a super important commitment in the eyes of others. It’s still an important commitment to myself to unwind.
I TOTALLY agree with this post. I, too, have been making an active effort to have less things on my calendar, and have more time for “off-the-calendar” activities, like reading, cooking, unscheduled exploring and so on. It makes me happier instead of always tiring me! Loved reading this post today!
YESSS! So glad you feel me. It really does make a huge impact on my mental state!
LOVE the sentiment of this post. Someone once said to me that “busyness” is like currency in NYC and that is in the same vein as what you said here. And it took me a while to figure out that I was not driven by that, I always liked the idea of it but truly hate it in actuality. I like having time to myself, time to make last minute plans or binge an entire season of a new show in a weekend. And it makes me savor that time that is filled even more, I try to honor it and value it. I feel like especially in New York, this is such a true feeling, thank you for sharing!
SO much truth in this!! Love how you said you “honor and value” the time – brilliant way of putting it! Thank you for weighing in.
Such a wonderful and needed perspective. I love this post. Keep these coming, lady!! ?
Aw, thanks Kelly!! So glad you liked it!
Yes, yes, yes! Nodded along to this entire post because I relate so much. I am a fellow former busy addict (I didn’t think I had a purpose unless I was constantly in demand and doing 100 things – which left me zero time to actually relax or have fun – and I would just go and go until I burned out). I remember hearing Arianna Huffington speak to us in Parliament about how we needed to stop valuing busyness as a status symbol. Something clicked; I didn’t know how to stop depending on that cycle, but I vowed to try to slow down. It’s one of the main reasons I went freelance myself, and I think I’ve finally broken the habit. I now have space to say yes to things that make me happy, to be impulsive, or to just do nothing but be cozy and lazy at home if I want to. And it feels SO good!
“Busy addict” is SO accurate! I think Freelance life definitely helped me too since there are less formal office hours! I’m so glad to hear you’re embracing this less busy lifestyle, too 🙂
I pushed & pushed for years until my body responded with chronic fatigue & fibro myalgia. Learning to relax & go slow was not easy but it’s been a worthwhile endeavor. I now love lots of time at home. I love unstructured time. I have projects but I do them at a sane pace mixed with lots of breaks. Congratulations to everyone who is relishing slowing down!