Glorifying Busy: Why We Should Loosen Up the “To Do” List

For years I was a yoga teacher in my community. My students ranged from stay-at-home moms to medical doctors and from high school teachers to big rig truck drivers, just to name a few. Considering the vast differences in their occupations and personalities, there was one thing most students who walked through my door had in common. They were all seeking peace. Sure, plenty of people wanted to focus on healing their physical ailments, but for every student who came to class complaining of lower back pain or sciatica issues, tight muscles or achy joints, there were five others who simply wanted to find effective ways to cope with anxiety, to calm his or her overworked, over stressed and over stimulated mind. After reflecting on the array of diversified people I’ve met, all singing the same sad song over and again, I considered my own lifestyle demands. In the end, I formed somewhat of a theory.

The “glorification of busy” in our society causes great suffering. Somewhere along the way, we adopted the misconception that a demanding schedule validates our level of success in some way. We have learned to love our agendas more than we love ourselves and we have become more committed to our “to do” list than our own mental wellness. If you don’t believe me, look to social media for confirmation. Almost daily, someone on my newsfeed is posting about how there’s “just not enough hours in the day” to accomplish all of the tasks at hand. Often times friends will actually list all of the day’s accomplishments as their status update. “Dance class, piano lessons and soccer practice for the kids, full day of meetings at the office for me, now it’s time to hit the grocery, clean the house, cook dinner and pack lunches for tomorrow!” It’s like we are nothing if we do not prove our productivity to the world at large.

I’m not judging. Honestly, I’m not. I’ve been guilty of it too! And quite frankly, parents are the worst offenders. It’s almost as though extreme scheduling has become a sport. Object of the game? Cram as many hobbies, practices, projects, appointments and social affairs into our children’s existence as humanly possible. If you are seeking a sure fire means of waltzing your way into a state of clinical exhaustion, I highly recommend micromanaging the heck out of your offspring’s daily lives. Dragging our kids around to every extra curricular class & practice under the sun physically wears everyone out, and it sends the false message that quantity trumps quality, and a hectic life equates to a fulfilling life.

Spending time with loved ones and hanging out with friends is important and absolutely brings joy to our lives. Penciling in that hour at the gym or the yoga studio is not only good for our health, it helps us slow down in some ways, and regroup after a long day. And of course, it goes without saying that having a career and watching our children succeed in their own hobbies and sports is incredibly satisfying. But adopting an airtight agenda, leaving little or no wiggle room for some good, old-fashioned, unscheduled “existing in the universe” is downright unhealthy. We need more than one week of vacation per year to give our brains a rest.

When we are burned out on responsibility, drained emotionally and physically, we might still be able to make it to every event on time. Heck, many of us can still accomplish every task on the “to do” list no matter how thin we spread ourselves. But are we truly living in the moment? Are we truly embracing life and enjoying our existence? There are a great number of individuals in this world who can probably answer that question with an unequivocal YES. Lots of folks thrive on busy and genuinely feel at their best emotionally when they are engaged in something at all times. A “sense of urgency” works well for lots of humans out there in the big, wide world. But for the vast majority of us, when our day revolves around getting from point A to point B on time, we are left feeling more anxiety and exhaustion than accomplishment at the end of the week.

Occasionally we just need to pause and reevaluate the demands we have created for ourselves. Are we truly grateful for our responsibilities because they bring joy and enrich our relationships with the ones we love most? Or are we so busy bitching at our kids for not being able to find their shin guards in our mess of a neglected home (a home that is seldom filled with love and laughter these days because we’re all so busy feeling obligated to attend every function under the sun,) that we don’t even realize how little time we actually spend doing the things we love, or enjoying one another’s presence?

It’s okay to just say no. The PTA won’t crash and burn because you don’t spearhead the “Donut Appreciation Day” committee. Skipping out on attending happy hour with coworkers every once in a while won’t likely impede your race up the corporate ladder, and curling up on the couch to read a book for the afternoon instead of catching up on laundry and scrubbing the toilet will not likely cause the entire family to spiral into an anguished state of neglect.

Staying busy is not vital. Busy does not promise success. Busy should not be worn as a badge of honor. And most importantly, busy does not offer up any victorious validation of our human existence.

About the author: Kristin Mauer is a self-proclaimed yogini, gardening, chicken-keeping, artist, soccer mom who loves all things earthy. She and her husband, along with their teen, tween & toddler children recently decided to sell it all & ditch the city life to embark on their very own modern day homesteading adventure among the breathtaking beauty of the back bay country of Pungo, Virginia. Visit her blog to learn about their home at Wildwood Acres & to laugh along with them as they attempt to navigate this new life.