A beautifully oxymoronic question was posed at a talk I recently attended by the wonderful Jess Huon (click here for more).
"Is busyness actually laziness?"
Well that caught my attention. In a continuously connected, hugely demanding world it's easy to be busy. Ask anyone how they are they'll be sure to slip the B word in somewhere. Busy on the weekend, busy looking after the children, busy at work, busy renovating their house, just busy, busy, busy. The sense of being busy is not unfounded, according to an article in the Economist (click here to read) it is the first time in history that white collar professionals work longer hours than blue collar. In fact professionals everywhere are twice as likely to work long hours as their blue collar peers. And, wowsers, look at this excerpt from a recent Guardian article (click for full article),
"Today’s top executives are devoted work-worshippers, nearly to the point of perversity. Apple CEO Tim Cook told Time that he begins his day at 3.45am. General Electric CEO Jeff Immelt told Fortune that he has worked 100-hour workweeks for 24 years. Not to be outdone, Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer told Bloomberg News that she used to work 130-hour workweeks."
The same Guardian article declares that a public display of productivity is the new symbol of class power. Fascinating. Of course, like all ostentatious class displays there there has been an uprising in the last few years urging us to stop with the busyness game. Easy in theory but harder to implement - a kind of 'don't buy into it' philosophy which feels a little over-simplified against the societal tsunami of expectation and demands. Don't dare say you're busy they say (feels akin to the poor naked and deluded Emporer for me!).
So is being busy, lazy? Well, yes according to Tim Ferriss, author of the 4- Hour Work Week, "indiscriminate activity is a form of laziness.It's very easy to confuse activity with productivity."
I've considered this over the last few days and I'm starting to get my head around it. It takes effort to work through and schedule your priorities and even more tenacity to maintain them. It takes courage to say no to the relentless demands that aren't your focus right now. It takes discipline not to waste hours on social media numbing out. It takes self-love to decide that down-time is crucial. And it most certainly takes a form of modern radicalness to not be generally just sucked up into and whirled around aimlessly in the modern, exhausting world.
Perhaps it is easier just to wake up and get yanked around by the priorities of others as each new email hits your inbox, or with each client's call and their next emergency, or each Facebook notification that grabs your attention. To essentially rescind all responsibility of achieving what moves you forward, grows your business, increases your skillset, maintains your health and contributes to your wellness because there never was a plan to focus on. To have priorities and a plan implies accountability and this is a hard time to be accountable.
I'm still not sure 'lazy' is the right word. Unskilled, unwise or naive might be better, less loaded words in this new frenetic frontier (we're dealing with enough already, right?!), but I understand the sentiment. We do need to be equipped to navigate the hurly-burly of modern life and there's no doubt relentless busyness is a sure-fire recipe for burnout in the long run. I think it's worth some contemplation. So maybe it's time to pull on your runners, lace up and work on your un-busyness.