“Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work.”
— Thomas A. Edison
There’s being busy. Then there’s feeling busy.
And they are two entirely different things.
I have a theory that our level of actual “busy-ness” changes, but the “feeling of busy-ness” is more or less constant. Except in one temporary set of circumstances.
Assuming that we are working, going to school, raising children or generally a part of western society, we probably feel fairly overwhelmed at times. No matter what we’re actually doing, it feels like we have too much to do, and too little time.
That’s the feeling.
What we do varies from day to day and person to person. On any given day, I do certain things. Somedays more than others. That’s my “busy-ness.” What someone else does is their “busy-ness.” (Pun intended.)
That’s what we actually do.
Here’s the theory part – We always feel busy, but what we actually do doesn’t vary much over the long haul except when we take on a new task or opportunity.
The reason is that we always continue to do about the same amount each day, no matter what we do. And because we always have a long list of things we’d like to do, we must do, or we’d rather do, we always feel busy…
… except when we take on a new task. Then both the “busy-ness” and the “feeling of busy-ness” both go up. We feel overwhelmed. Yet, we pretty quickly revert to the same level of both “busy-ness” and the “feeling of busy-ness”.
Why? Because we drop other less important things as we pick up new tasks. That way we can retain our comfort level. Over the long haul, we may learn to do more or we may choose to do less. But the “feeling of busy-ness” always stays about the same. If we truly do start doing more, such as in the case of new parents, we adapt to a new level of busy-ness so our “feeling of busy-ness” reverts to the prior levels.
The end result is that no matter what we do, we’ll probably always feel busy.
Why is this interesting?
Because it should give us insight into taking on new opportunities. As we take on a new challenge, no matter how rewarding or disgusting, we’re going to feel overwhelmed because our “busy-ness” and our “feeling of busy-ness” go up. Yet, over a relatively short time, we’ll probably drop things in order to return to our normal “feeling of busy-ness.” Or, we’ll adapt and learn to become comfortable with the new “feeling of busy-ness” so we won’t feel any more busy than we were before.
The upshot is that we’re going to feel overwhelmed for a little while as we take on new tasks but it only is a temporary feeling. Very quickly, we’ll adapt by dropping less important things and returning to our comfort level.
Here’s a personal example. Over the past 450 days, I’ve been taking the challenge to give my time everyday to help someone. Even though I haven’t written about it, one of those ways was to help my wife with the dishes (especially after our daughter reached her goal by doing dishes). I haven’t written about it much, but gradually I’ve been doing the dishes more and more. Not everyday, but most days. Now, it’s almost automatic. I’ve become an automatic dishwasher. (Pun intended.)
Yet, my “feeling of busy-ness” is about the same as it was when I started this challenge. I don’t feel any busier. Still, I’m doing more around the house and hopefully it gives my wife more time to do more.
It’s only a small example but if my theory is correct, we really don’t need to fear extra work when taking on a new opportunity to improve our lives or the lives of those around us. In the long run, we’re not going to be any more busy than we are now. And we won’t feel any busier.
We’ll just be doing something more important with our time.
Today’s “gift of time” – Did the dishes. Stayed busy. Didn’t feel busy.
Yet again I feel enlightened after reading your blog post. I hadn’t thought about my “busy-ness” (pun intended) in quite this way before but I suppose I agree with this concept!
Thanks Linda. You are in the business of mitzvahs, and that’s always a good “busy-ness.” 🙂
I agree as well that our priorities are shown by what we are busy doing. And that is a constantly shifting paradigm in my world.
“… our priorities are shown by what we are busy doing.”
I could be persuaded to take this a step farther and say that the clearest measure of our values is what we spend our time doing.