Busy

Being busy is easy.

So easy that you can live in a perpetual state of busyness without actually doing a whole lot. To stay feeling busy, just make sure that you’re always focussed on at least two tasks.

Productivity requires the opposite. It doesn’t feel as good to tell people how little you’ve been focussing on, but focussing purely on a few important things, one at a time, will get you much further.

When people ask how I’ve been, I’m often guilty of responding with, “Busy, but good.”

“Oh, that’s good.” Is what people usually say. But it’s not good. Being ‘busy’ is a waste of the two most valuable assets we have; our time and our attention.

Protect them from the distractions which would prey on your productivity and feed your sense of busy at all costs.

Our attention is even more valuable than our time, and we trade it every day.

We live in an attention economy.

Businesses bid for it constantly. On billboards, backs of busses, and through buzzes in your pocket.

How frugal we are with our attention influences every aspect of our lives.

Where can you see your attention seeping through the gaps of things which don’t matter?

Good time management means nothing without good attention management.

Fail to focus your attention, and all that time you saved is waste.

Now’s the time to stocktake and trim the fat.

How often do you have moments when you look at someone and think,

“They’re just not aware, are they?”

Like when someone’s staring at you but they don’t realise. Or domineering a conversation, totally unaware that they’re denying you the chance to speak because they’re so focussed on what they need to say.

We all have these blind spots.

I especially struggle with identifying when I’m getting close to overwhelm.

The people around me can usually tell when I’m trending towards overcommitting myself.

Even when they warn me, I rarely act on their advice before it’s too late.

Our minds are tricky that way. We reinforce our own defaults.

Even when told outright that I’m doing something stupid which is bothering those I care about, my mind finds a way to trick itself.

I’m okay. I can manage. They don’t understand. It’s not that bad.

But of course they understand. And if they’ve mustered the courage to initiate that awkward conversation, it is that bad.

We’re hardwired to trust our own thoughts almost blindly, while scrutinising the observations of others at every step. Even those we trust.

This process functions as a form of self defence, protecting us from the deceptions of others.

Unfortunately, it also insulates our own self deceptions; the things we tell ourselves are true not because they are, but because they’re less painful than what’s actually true.

Self deception is a viscous, malignant thing.

We must become aware of what we choose not to see.

Maybe your boss wasn’t being totally unreasonable when she called you out on your performance.

Maybe you’re not too tired to get the exercise you need.

Maybe you haven’t earned that break yet.

And maybe I ought to listen to the people closest to me more often.

If multiple people are shining a light on something which you can’t see, and it also makes you uncomfortable, you’re probably the one with the blind spot.

Ask yourself: Do these people have reason to deceive me?

If, like with my overwhelm, the people shining lights are those who love and care, how does tricking you benefit them?

It doesn’t.

Statistically speaking, they probably aren’t conspiring against you. If it feels like they are, perhaps you’re conspiring against yourself.

When the people who love you rally together to shine a light and you’re the only one who can’t see it, chances are you’re looking in the wrong direction.

Fail to turn around for long enough, and the lights might stop shining.

Try not to risk it.

The music of awkward English folk-pop legend Tom Rosenthal is very close to my heart.

His song range from the stunning and serious (About the Weather) to the absurd and hilarious (P.A.S.T.A).

My first introduction to Tom was this hidden gem among his earlier work, Don’t You Know How Bust & Important I Am?

It’s a joyous critique of the over-working, hyper-productivity mindset, and I find it grounds me when I start taking things (or myself) too seriously.

‘Don’t you know how busy and Important I am? I’ve got so much to do.’

Is the repeated chorus throughout the song. But his sarcastic jab at self importance takes darker turn;

‘Too busy to cry, too busy to die, too busy to see my chance.’

The music video, filmed in the same town as the original UK version of the office, features a trio of awkward office workers progressively losing their shit dancing as they let themselves go to the tune of;

‘Maybe I’m just trying to distract myself from my mortality.
Maybe I’m just trying to distract myself from my mortality.’

Tom’s message is subversive but clear; slow down, enjoy the little things, and don’t die dejected and busy.

This kind of absurdly beautiful clever nonsense jives with me greatly.

Tom’s music is at times a breath of fresh air, at others a reality check and on occasion, a soul churning experience.

He’s the artist I recommend most often.

Put him on shuffle until you find something you love, because he’s almost certainly made something that you will.