Here is a little thought experiment…
How do you feel about somebody who fills their house to overflowing with stuff, shuffling clutter from one room to another just in time as each space is needed during the day, leaving no spare room to take in anything new?
How do you feel about somebody who manages their finances right on the edge, spending every last cent of their credit card limit, transferring money from one account to another just in time to cover repayments, never quite sure if their next purchase will tip them into the red?
Neither of those sound ideal, right?
What about somebody who manages their time like this – i.e. fills their days with work, constantly juggles their to-do list as urgent tasks come and go, and leaves no spare time to do things well?
That’s also not great.
So, why do we romanticise our busyness?
Them: How have you been?
Us (said with pride): Oh, you know, busy busy!
I’ve caught myself replying like that a lot, over the last few months especially. I’ve been keeping an unsustainable number of plates spinning, and often finding myself lacking the time to do as good a job as I can and should on any one plate without exhausting myself. And, it’s clearly irrational when I put it like that, but people are generally impressed when I explain how I fill my days, rather than asking why I would possibly want or need so many plates.
Why do we do that?
Maybe it’s what we expect each other to say? Like the exhausted and knowing nods exchanged between two parents of newborns, safe in the knowledge that neither is getting enough sleep, perhaps we take comfort from connecting with others in the same situation.
Maybe it’s just easier to measure inputs, than to look for evidence of outputs? It’s easy to assume that if lots of work is being done then lots of things must be getting completed and completed well. It’s even easier to confuse activity for progress.
But, the cake is a lie.
Doing a good job nearly always means focus, and focus means saying no.
What do you choose?