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

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Busy, Busy. Or is it overextended and self-important? This week’s Q Advice.

Q:

I am Type A. My fingers are 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 my accomplishments, but with such a tight schedule, things like dating can fall through the cracks. Even friendships get caught in the wind and fly away before I have a chance to nail them down. Is that just the cost of being so busy?

Someone recently told me that people actually hold my organized qualities against me. When they rolled their eyes behind my back, I thought they were just jealous of my ability to multi-task. Come to find out they think I’m obnoxious.

I know I can’t handle it all, but there’s a lot to do. No one else seems to care as much, yet here I am trying despite being busier than most people. 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 quite like the burden you put on yourself. Even if the proverbial bus hits you tomorrow, the world would spin and 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. What’s most important to you gets done. Maybe a person you think is ignoring your pet issues cares for a terminally ill loved one. Perhaps someone you deem lazy faces trouble at home, work, school, or even within themselves.

Bragging about your long to-do list minimizes their priorities, and that’s incorrect as well as annoying.

Secondly, busy isn’t the same as productive. Busy is just the amount of time doing something; productive means there are results. You place too much value on a packed schedule over the work you purport to get done. People who glorify busyness find their self-worth through tasks and performance, but those things aren’t ultimately 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 then you treat lost relationships as collateral damage. That’s worth some 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 flustered over the schedule and guilty for rushing through it.

Humans are more valuable than tasks, calendars or even accomplishments. Those things will happen, or not, without us. What we can affect in a lasting way is our relationships. We must take time in your schedules to hear the music, dance with our moms, ask about 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?

Balance is better than busy. Find it and find a deeper and more rewarding life.

The Q is for entertainment, not counseling. Send your Qs to [email protected].

Illustration by Brad Gibson

This column also appeared in Q ATLus Magazine. Read the full issue online here:

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