Choosing To Be Unbusy

I’ve joked about being “island busy.” That is, my days stay full of activity, but I’m cognizant that it’s not the same stressful levels as when I lived in the States.

Lately, however, I’ve been feeling the press of those old “hectic” feelings creeping into my island bliss. You know the ones I mean:

  • I’m so busy.
  • I can’t get through everything on my To Do List.
  • I can’t seem to get caught up.
  • There’s not enough time to do the things I want to do.
  • I’m turning down fun offers for the tasks I feel I “should” be doing.


I live on an island for heaven’s sake! I walked away from a “big career”; and left the City so I could enjoy the things in life that were more important to me. I made a conscious choice to Better my Life in big and small ways every day. I don’t even have a freakin’ job – how can I be too busy?!

How did this happen? Slowly, over time, I’ve allowed my commitments and my own tendencies to crowd the relaxed island pace I’d been enjoying.

Some of it is an increase in responsibilities: running a summer kids’ program, house issues popping up that need addressed, spending more time developing blog and writing opportunities, etc.

Some of it stems from my own personality traits: conscientious list-maker with a strong work ethic. Even my 86-year-old grandmother rarely sits down – though she certainly should! – in the course of any given day. Always busy, busy, busy. In the work world, those traits masquerade as ambition and reliability and good things to help us advance. But we just get busier.

Part of my Better Life has been letting go of Type A tendencies and being more flexible. While I’ve managed to sustain that, I’ve let my penchant for being busy accumulate into a way that I’m no longer liking.

Perhaps that’s why I relished that French Toast and my pseduo “day off” earlier this week. It was my first attempt at slowing things back down, relieving myself of the drive to be “productive,” and a reclaiming of some simple happiness.

After reading that post, my mother emailed me a link to an article about being too busy. (Mom suffers from this malady as well – we are a direct line of descendents from the aforementioned busy grandmother!) I promptly emailed her back, but said – no kidding – that I was too busy to read it until later! Well, I finally read this wonderful article, and it gave me great pause.

On the New York Times Opinion Pages, Tim Kreider posted “The ‘Busy’ Trap.”

I thought he was spot-on in his descriptions of, and musings about, the busy-ness that pervades our lives. And what wonderful timing for me to be reading his article!

I’ve decided that, before I slide down that busy slope any more, I’m calling a halt and making some little changes. I’m choosing to be less busy! It means a shift in priorities. It means giving myself permission (again) to not be “productive” every minute of the day, or even every day. It means saying yes to fun offers and letting other things wait.

In law school, and then later in law firm life, my best friend and I had a mantra that we would use to remind each other and ourselves not to freak out in trying to manage a seemingly impossible amount of work on tight deadlines – IT ALL GETS DONE. IT ALL ALWAYS GETS DONE.

While I am thankfully no longer working or living at that pace, I can apply the same mantra to my “island busy.” How have I implemented this specifically so far?

  • For the past two mornings, I’ve spent over an hour exercising with friends. Now, if you know me or if you’ve been reading this blog for a while, you’ll recall that I am a morning person. I’m most productive in the early hours of the day and I get lots done then! Moreover, if I don’t get a jump on it then, I tend to lose momentum and it takes me longer – or not at all – to get to certain things. HOWEVER, morning is when my friends exercise. Morning is when it’s less sweltering on the island so it makes sense to exercise then. So I’ve been exercising in the morning, instead of not at all!
  • For the past two days, I have, in fact, felt the gap in productivity since I’m using my mornings differently. BUT, I feel good about exercising. I like how I feel physically. I enjoy the time with friends. I’m not missing any deadlines or postponing important stuff TOO long, so I just let any potential angst about not being as productive as I could/should be roll right off.
  • After this morning’s exercise, I was on my way home when I saw a few friends hanging out on their front porch. Normally, I’d wave and head on home to get to work. This morning, I stopped. We chatted about last night’s fireworks and festivities. We traded tips on gardening and recipes related to the pumpkins and watermelons that our kids’ camp children have planted. We laughed. It was worth every minute.
  • Eventually, I headed home. However, along the way, I noticed some of the children sailing just offshore in small Sunfish as part of a sailing lesson by one of my friends. Again, I decided to make time and stop. I walked out to the dock and cheered each of the kids by name as they rounded the buoy on a successful tack. I called out to my friend and traded quick pleasantries. I chatted with one of the boys who was still ashore. I smiled, inhaled the fresh air, enjoyed the pretty view, and just breathed a little easier.
  • Now, instead of tackling house projects, I am drafting this blog. I confess, partly it’s because of those old “shoulds” creeping in. Bloggers must post regularly to keep readers interested, blah, blah, blah. But also, I just felt like it, and I wanted to share this mini-revelation and The ‘Busy’ Trap article with you all.
  • I haven’t been carrying my camera around and thinking about blog shots at every opportunity. No worries, I’ll get back to pictures because they are fun. But, for now, this is one little nod to just going about my day in a slower, simpler, just-for-me kind of way.

And there you have it! I’m back to Choosing a Better Life by choosing to be unbusy! Or, well, at least LESS busy. Baby steps, people. :) How are you going to extricate yourself from your own busy trap?

2 Responses to Choosing To Be Unbusy

  • Remember my friend, being "un-busy" is as much a deliberate, conscious and strategic choice as being busy. You're experiencing guilt, is all, left over from your former career, like some kind residual effect from a past drug habit! Or, perhaps you were raised Catholic…another kind of "drug habit" altogether, but the end result is the same.There are several good stories about choosing to be un-busy in "Chocolate Cows and Purple Cheese". From "This is What God Meant When He First Said 'Blue'":"In a world where progress is often measured by the ever-increasing complexity of the system polluting our minds, sapping our bodies and corrupting our spirits, we need the simplicity of spending real time, doing simple things, together."Dawn, you now have that gift. Take advantage of it openly, gladly and aggressively.Best wishes.

  • Dawn says:

    Thank you for your comment, Tom. Definitely, being unbusy is a choice. And you're right that I let the "shoulds" and guilt over not being "productive" chip away at me some days. But for now, I'm nursing a cup of coffee before I don exercise clothes and continue my unbusy path toward the weekend! I so enjoyed your book "Chocolate Cows and Purple Cheese" when I first read it. I'd love to go back and check out the stories through these new-phase-in-life eyes. Alas, it is currently in storage! At least it made the purge of the move! 😉 Cheers to simplicity!

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