You’re not that busy: What your constant hurry really means

Q:

I am a Type A queer. My fingers are always in multiple pies, from LGBTQ non-profits to my own work and social calendars. I enjoy applying myself to everything, and organizing other people is kind of my superpower, even if they don’t always appreciate it.

I’m proud of what I’m able to accomplish, even though with such a tight schedule, some things fall through the cracks. Dating is one of them, and even friendships seem to get caught in the wind and fly away before I have a chance to nail them down.

I figure it’s the cost of having so many fingers in so many pies, but someone recently told me that people actually hold it against me. Until recently, I thought that others were jealous of my ability to multi-task when they rolled their eyes behind my back. Now I find out they think I’m obnoxious.

When it comes to queer causes, I know I can’t handle it all sometimes, but there’s a lot to be done. No one else seems to be as busy as me or care as much, yet here I am trying. Someone has to do it.

Dear Control Freak:

Take a deep breath. Now take another. And another. It’s going to be OK. 

This column has run into the glorification of being busy before, but never with quite so much sanctimony and contradiction as yours. Ease the burden you’ve taken on yourself by realizing that even if you got hit by the proverbial bus tomorrow, the world would keep spinning and worthy causes would progress without you.

For starters, no one is busier than anyone else. We all have the same 24 hours and pack them with our priorities. The things that get done are the most important to you. Maybe a person you think is ignoring your pet issues is caring for a terminally ill loved one. Perhaps someone you deem lazy faces trouble at home, work, school, or even within themselves, that you know nothing about. Bragging about a long to-do list minimizes their priorities, and that’s annoying in addition to being incorrect.

Secondly, busy isn’t the same as productive. Busy is just the amount of time doing something; productive means there are results. You are placing too much of your personal value on being busy instead of the work you purport to get done. People who glorify busyness find their self-worth through tasks and performance, but those things aren’t fulfilling, even when you are successful at finishing them.

Speaking of important things falling through the cracks, other people is a big one. You ostracize them by your standards, your agenda and your priorities, then you treat lost relationships as simple collateral damage. That’s worth some serious self-examination.

When we overextend ourselves, it's bad for us and for the people around us. When our plate is full, we are anxious and overwhelmed. We don’t take time to think things through, and we feel both flustered over the harried schedule and guilty for the way we pushed through it without regard to more important matters.

Humans need to value ourselves in the wide view of life as a whole — not in tasks, calendars or even our accomplishments. Those things will happen, or not, without us. What we can affect in a lasting way is our friendships and our great loves. That’s done by taking time in our schedules to hear the music, dance with our moms, ask what is going on with someone else, enjoy leisure time and learn new things.

The hardest part may be owning the reasons why you are scheduled to the teeth. Are you trying to block out shortcomings in other areas? To avoid hard questions? Avert being alone with your thoughts?

With some reflection, balance is better than busy. When we find it, we sleep better, our health improves, and our relationships improve. That means life is better, deeper and more rewarding.

The Q is for entertainment purposes and not professional counseling. Send your burning Qs to [email protected]

Illustration by Brad Gibson

This column originally appeared in Q magazine. Find past editions of The Q advice colum here, and read the full issue online here:

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