I am, like so many of us in the modern age, worried that others will think I’m lazy if my schedule isn’t totally full. I go back and forth between hating being busy and getting giddy when I schedule new appointments in my planner. As a freelance consultant, I don’t really have boundaries to my schedule, which is a blessing and a curse all at the same time, especially for someone who can’t decide if she wants to be busy or not.
This is no news to you, I’m sure, but most of us in the West are addicted to this notion that being busy = being important. My life might be totally empty and devoid of meaning, but if my calendar is full, I won’t have time to think about it (until I have a nervous breakdown and am forced to).
I keep coming across articles and anecdotes that challenge this idea that the pathway to success is a busy one. Many, many successful scientists, writers, and creative thinkers work a diligent 4-5 hours every day and then build in time for rest and leisure. Many of our corporate cultures expect to squeeze as many hours from us as is possible every day despite evidence that this leads to burnout, increased mistakes, and poor work. For those of us in fields that require high-level thinking and creativity, rest and leisure are critical to our performance. As Tim Kreider wrote in his awesome article on the ‘Busy Trap’:
The space and quiet that idleness provides is a necessary condition for standing back from life and seeing it whole, for making unexpected connections and waiting for the wild summer lightning strikes of inspiration — it is, paradoxically, necessary to getting any work done.
I wonder what kind of lightning strikes of inspiration I’d receive if I traded in obligations for leisure. What would I find out if I only really worked for 4 or 5 hours every day? What would I realize if I got enough sleep? I don’t know about you, but these questions excite me. I’m sure it will feel uncomfortable at first, but I’m going to start trading in my “busy” identity for one that is a lot more interesting. Today I’m going to work diligently for 4 hours in the morning, eat lunch, take a nap, maybe go for a walk, and see if my world falls apart. I’ll let you know what I find out.