Busy is a Decision

2 min read

clock in a train station

I was listening to an audiobook called Tribe of Mentors, a book by Tim Ferris in which many inspirational people answered 11 questions to give insight to readers on lifelong living.

Questions like:

  • What purchase of $100 or less has significantly impacted your life in 6 months or less?

  • What is an unusual habit or an absurd thing that you love?

  • What are the bad recommendations you hear in your profession or area of expertise?

One of the mentors who spoke, Debbie Millman, quoted something, that hits really hard.

Busy is a decision.

Now I’m not sure about you, but going through high school and college, I felt like busy was my default mode. It was something I had to go through.

Additionally, busyness was something to boast about. As a student, being able to boast busyness with fewer hours of sleep was a badge to wear on the sleeve.

And the world seemed to thrive off of busyness.

  • Lawyers and doctors who put in the most hours seemed to achieve high accolades, during and after school.

  • Students stayed up late for tests, multi-tasking “Chill beats” or Youtube/Netflix in the background.

  • Parents spent restless hours keeping their house clean and family orderly.

But while busyness can seem to make life feel more meaningful, and there are times when busyness is necessary, the truth is that busyness is a choice.

Countless friends have called me out for being “busy”, because my focus was not on quality time with friends, but on other tasks I had at hand. Because I didn’t know how to say no, my plate was too full to even give an inch of time to spend with them.

I even remember a time in January when a specific group of friends asked if I wanted to watch Ip Man together (a great way to reconnect outside of work hours), and when I pulled out my calendar, I asked if we could set up a time in mid/end of March.

Two. Months. Later.

You can imagine their response was not the best, and even though I’ve gotten better with making time since then, I’ve never heard the end of that incident from them.

In the end, busyness is a choice, and we make time for the things we care about.

Rather than letting busy be a default response to people, I recognize the only way to be less busy is to say no to more things, to prioritize and execute on what actually matters, and to learn to make time.

Questions to ponder: 🤔

  • Do you tend to say you’re busy and not be able to partake in what really matters?

  • What are things you can say no to in order to make time for what matters?