Think back to the last time you met up with a friend or exchanged pleasantries with somebody on WhatsApp. You told them you were ‘just SO busy’, didn’t you? I did just the other day when making plans with a friend and then I realised that I was kind of lying.
Because when I made the leap into the world of freelancing, I vowed to let that be the end of romanticising being busy and simply getting on with it. Society today calls upon millennials to be some sort of superwoman-level busy. You’re expected to have a huge group of very fulfilling friendships, a perfect relationship that is steering imminently towards engagement and marriage, an action-packed career with a job that is directly related to the degree you slaved over AND you’re supposed to have a fully stocked fridge at all times, a blindingly colourful social life. Where does the time come from? It simply doesn’t match up.
When I graduated University, I leapt straight into work. I had roughly 9 days off (during which I unpacked badly and flounced off to several blog events) before getting down to the daily grind of gruelling 9-6 office hours plus a 3-hour round commute. I’d tack in dinner dates with friends and post-work blog events, getting home at 11pm each night before getting up at 6am to make sure I’d get on that 7.42am train. I felt grown-up. I felt busy. I felt like I belonged in many places. I felt, frankly, exhausted.
Blogging, my numero uno love and only hobby, fell to the kerb during this time. I regret it sorely because it was my passion project and I had so much to give but I just had no time. And if you have no time for your passion, well, what is the point? It’s a shame that the norm is being incredibly busy and having a number of hours spent at the office to boast about. ’I was at work until 9pm lol’
I began to see the potential in smarter working when I worked in Hong Kong. My commute to the south side of Hong Kong Island took almost an hour and it was tedious as hell. I’d often complete my daily duties and additional tasks by 2pm after starting work at 9am and the norm was to stay as long as you could handle after 5pm, our official finishing time. Bearing in mind that online, your duty is over once new products are circulated online at 4pm, I saw absolutely no point in this mundane behaviour. Being busy is such an odd social construct. Why do we have to be busy with work? Can’t we be efficient and complete work and then be busy for the rest of the day spending precious time with loved ones?
I’ve mentioned before that I was signed off with acute stress and even today I struggle with stress and work-related anxiety, plus the health complications (a magnesium and iron deficiency, anxiety and mild alopecia). Hand on heart? Forging a lifestyle based on the romanticised idea of being busy isn’t worth it. Listen to your brain and your body. What is great for Derek in IT might not be your kinda deal. It isn’t mine.
Working as my own boss means that I can enjoy being work-free by 2pm on an average day. Of course I also have meeting commitments and am essentially ‘on-call’ at all hours, but my oh my, I love having time to myself, to watch a little TV, paint my nails, run errands and hang out with my Dad. No, I’m not busy, I’ve had an enjoyable afternoon doing some of my favourite things and I’ve done much more than I would’ve 5 years ago. If I had a pound every time somebody sneered at me for not being chained to a desk for 9 hours a day, I’d be able to build a forte in pound coins. Totally wouldn’t be able to buy a YouTube mansion, dammit.
The next time somebody asks me how I’ve been and how work is going, I’ll be saying: ‘It’s great actually, business is booming and I’ve had a coffee date, practiced yoga, been shopping on my own and it’s all really quite chill,’ How about you?
Things You Can Also Be Busy With:
- Preparing nutritious homemade meals
- Making sure those bills are paid and snail mail up to date
- Filing important receipts away – properly
- Painting your nails and taking time for self-care
- Spring cleaning the house with lovely Method products
- 3 hours of Netflix to really make best use of that subscription fee
- Spending quality time with pets – it’s definitely not cool to pretend like the dog walk is a massive chore
- Taking family members out for a lengthy lunchtime and having a real catch-up
- Planning special occasions for loved ones
- Reading and getting lost in an entirely fictional world
- Maintaining the WhatsApp group chat
- Finishing up those little household ‘to-do’s’ that never seem to be complete, like putting cookbooks in a working order, rehoming batteries and lightbulbs
- And other nonsensical mundanities that really help a day/week/month go smoother!