Busyness: What's the Payoff?

Busyness: What’s the Payoff?

When someone asks us how we are, I’ve noticed that oftentimes, our initial response is “Good — busy” or “Ugh…busy.”

Not out of the ordinary, right?  Our lives get scheduled with work commitments, meetings, family time, after school activities, church, friends and the list goes on.  And with nearly 61% of the world’s population working, society accepts and almost demands we are busy.  Especially in the world of business, busyness (AKA productivity) is oftentimes linked with success

Take a look at YouTuber Casey Neistat for example, and note how much free time he has in his day.

The Value of Busyness

While busyness weighs heavily on some, others pride ourselves and wear busyness as a badge of honor.  If I’m truly honest about it, I get a rush from busyness.  It says, “Look how much I’m able to accomplish.”  And when we knock something off our to-do list, we eagerly look to fill in that gap with more.  More tasks.  More meetings.  More, more, more.

So, what exactly do we gain from busyness?

Busyness makes you a somebody.  When we’re busy, we are recognized for our work.  Just think back to your school days, where we are encouraged to take part in extracurricular activities and are rewarded for that through recommendation letters, awards, scholarships and so on.  As we grow up, this continues into our work life, where our busyness continues to get use recognition.  This time, through things like a promotion, compliments from your boss or co-workers or bigger paychecks.

Busyness gives you power.  Power can come in many forms — power in influence, knowledge, skillsets and more.  But in order to achieve this, it oftentimes takes a lot of dedication and commitment.  And what better way to show you’re dedicated to your organization than being busy?  After all, the more you accomplish, the more the company succeeds, meaning you succeed.

Overall, busyness gives you credibility, and that credibility provides a sense of influence  and authority.

Busyness makes us feel good.  There’s just something satisfying about crossing things off your to-do list.  I, for one, love being able to juggle a ton of stuff and knock them out one by one.  It brings a sense of accomplishment, and oftentimes, if you become efficient at it, you gain power and recognition.  Especially in the workplace, this helps to better our work experience because we become a person others look up to and appreciate.  We get to do special things like manage projects, are invited to leadership meetings or represent the organization at events.  For many people, receiving these rewards boosts their “Feel Good” meters and encourages them to remain busy.

The cycle of busyness

Behind the Busyness

When we’re busy, we feel important.  And when we’re important, we feel valued.  Because of this, we condition ourselves to do more so we can gain more.  Whether this be recognition from our friends, family or coworkers, in order to make more money, or simply to occupy our time, we’re always searching for more ways to fill our schedules.

But why?  While we’re so busy being busy, what aren’t we experiencing?

Our emotions.

We are composed of emotions; it’s what we feel, drives how we act, and explains why we do what we do.  But in the business world, emotions are oftentimes seen as a hassle and something that prevents work from being accomplished.  Many of the clients we worked with have this mentality that if they focused on emotions, things aren’t going to get done.  As a result of this, people continue to fill their plates with tasks so that they don’t reach the bottom and see those not-so-appetizing emotions.

For example, when I have downtime at the office, I find myself wondering what my coworkers think of me because I’m not busy.  Do they think I’m lazy?  Am I pulling my weight?  Why aren’t I as busy as them?  What can I do to keep my plate full?

When I stop and take a moment to reflect on these questions, however, I realize that my coworkers’ perception of me isn’t the real issue. Without busyness, I have time to dig into those things that are easy to push aside — my emotions, fears, limiting beliefs and insecurities about myself.  The real questions I’m asking myself in these moments are:  Am I good enough and am I important? What am I avoiding?

Our busyness acts as a barrier that prevents us from dealing with whatever is brewing beneath the surface.  What I’ve notice is that people — including myself — use busyness as an excuse to not deal with our emotions.  We’re too busy with our tasks to sit down and dive into the ambiguousness of our emotions and discover why we’re feeling what we feel.  But do you really want to be someone who is defined by their busyness?  Is that really the kind of connection you want with people — this “I’m busier than you” competition?

I would argue no.  So the next time someone asks how you are doing and you answer is “Busy,” take a moment to explore why busyness is your first response.  And if you find yourself saying that often, reflect on what busyness is helping you to avoid.

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