Last week my coaching sessions with various clients covered these topics:
- Navigating office politics
- Creating and shaping critical work relationships
- Managing competing priorities
- Recovering from disappointment and frustration
- Career planning
- Owning and claiming success
- Making a plan for the future
Know what the solution to each of these things is?
It’s having the time and space to step back, reflect, understand and plan.
Know what else? Everyone in the world thinks they are too busy to step back, even for a moment, to reflect, understand and plan.
I guess that’s why coaching was invented, amIright?
The Cult of Busyness has billions of adherents. Members drink the Kool-Aid, which is flavored with a heavy dose of If-I’m-Not-Busy-I-Don’t-Matter (which tastes a little like Mylanta, if you were wondering).
Busyness is too many meetings where nothing gets done.
Busyness is where nothing gets done because there are too many meetings.
Busyness is exhaustion.
Busyness is snapping at others because you’re exhausted.
Busyness is the illusion that you matter, that what you do matters, that you’re making a difference – but only if you’re busy enough.
But you really aren’t sure because you’re often too busy to assess whether or not what you’re doing is actually working.
The famous theologian Henri Nouwen wrote:
“Why are people so busy? Perhaps they want to have success in their life or they want to be popular or they want to have some influence. If you want to be successful, you have to do a lot of things; if you want to be popular, you have to meet a lot of people; if you want to have influence, you have to make a lot of connections. The problem is that your identity is hooked up with your busyness: ‘I am what I do; I am what people say about me; I am what influence I have.’ As soon as you fail, you get depressed; as soon as people start talking negatively about you, or as soon as you feel you have no influence whatsoever, you feel low…
“Solitude is listening to the voice who calls you the beloved. It is being alone with the One who says, ‘You are my beloved, I want to be with you. Don’t go running around, don’t start to prove to everybody that you are beloved. You are already beloved.’ That is what God says to us. Solitude is the place where we go to hear the truth about ourselves.”
Becoming UnBusy is hard work. Because it requires solitude. And solitude requires boundaries.
You have to have limits, and limits are hard to establish and harder to enforce. We live in a world where having boundaries and standards seems counter-cultural and weird.
A couple of clients asked me this week about my work and my boundaries. “How,” they asked, “do you do it?” The “Miss Smarty Pants” part was fully implied.
Here are some of the ways I do what I do:
- I only attend meetings or events if my presence makes a difference
- I only attend meetings where something gets done
- I always know who’s accountable for what
- I know I’m a morning person so I front-load my day – meaning, I don’t work after sundown
- I also don’t look at my phone after 9pm
- I have a maximum of five client sessions a day
- I create systems and procedures and stick to them
- I go to sleep at the same time-ish every night and wake about the same time-ish every morning
- I honor my priorities around my health, my need for learning, and my desire to be connected with my closest loved ones – these things I attend to first
What does these boundaries do for me? Why, each of these things allow me to have the time and space to reflect, to understand, to plan.
To be UnBusy.
To be strong, effective, focused, balanced and unstressed. To have time to do things other than work.
To live a life fully – fully engaged, fully curious, fully in love.
Being UnBusy, though, does make it difficult at social occasions where everyone says “Gosh, I’m so busy!”, and I say, “I’m not! I’m totally engaged with my work and having a blast!”
You should see the expressions on their faces.
Who could have known that disruption was this much fun?