At first, busyness is seductive. It’s the satisfaction we get from furiously shooting off email replies until our inbox is blessedly empty or the sense of accomplishment as we squeeze in extra commitments into our already overpacked schedules.
All of this keeps us craving more—until the busyness becomes too much. Things start slipping through the cracks. Productivity wanes. Performance falters. The God of Busyness is fickle.
This thankless cycle happens to everyone, everywhere, regardless of country or culture. In fact, I’ve witnessed the universal struggle with busyness firsthand from interactions with hardworking Italian B&B hosts to an active retiree from Texas.
As you may have noticed, my past few newsletters have featured excerpts of my new book, A Minute to Think. In celebration of the upcoming book launch this August, I plan to continue sharing these sneak peeks with you over the next two months. Here’s the latest excerpt, which looks at the pervasive pull of busyness.
Busyness is Everywhere—excerpted from A Minute to Think
Motrone, Italy, has 30 inhabitants—35 on the week we visited. You arrive there through the medieval town of Lucca, winding up a steep eight-kilometer road cut into the side of a wooded mountain. It is a two-way road that is the width of one car. When you meet another driver, one of you needs to ever-so-gingerly inch over into the foliage to let the other pass. The ice truck comes twice a day, and you better pray not to meet it.
There we met our B&B hosts Geoff and Jenny. Geoff was adopted by parents who then separated, with Dad heading to New Zealand and Mum staying with him in England. When he turned 11, Geoff left to go live with Dad, on a seven-week trip by ship. Standing on the deck and so alone, he felt the hot tears start, and one of the passengers firmly said to him, “Boy don’t cry. Eat this apple.” And he did—and grew up in that singular moment.
A fierce self-protective drive to have money in his pocket led him to many jobs. He learned to trap possums at two shillings per and was soon the only boy his age who could afford a chocolate milkshake at the corner store. (The girls soon realized he was also the only boy who could buy them one.) He worked in many industries but found his true calling when he fell in love with Italy on a visit and became a farmer in Motrone, where he and Jenny raise sheep, geese, and bees.
In this microscopic village without a single store or restaurant, Geoff and Jenny are blisteringly, screamingly busy from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. In fact, when he drove me down the perilous hill to buy some prosciutto and cheese, he kept checking his phone (yes, while driving on that road) and muttering, “It’s a busy day. It’s a busy day. Whew! What a busy day!”
Busyness is everywhere.
Busyness is overseas and in our backyard. It’s felt by the young and old, working and not. In Houston after a speaking engagement, a radiant older woman approached me. Her perfume cloud was like being passed over by a Chanel crop duster, but her manner was instantly appealing. She said my message was a gift because she’d been trying to slow down for years. I asked what on earth keeps her so busy, and with a huge smile and a little ironic laugh, she said, “Oh, I’m retired!”
There is no “they” doing it to us anymore. From corporate executive to sheep farmer to retiree, our driving pace and pressure have become fully internalized. But as indoctrinated as most are to the white-water rush of busyness, a small yearning lurks within us. It’s a little whisper we can hardly hear that says an element is missing in our work and in our lives. That we just want a minute to think. A minute to breathe.
As been exhausted by Juliet Funt above, intense or extreme 'busyness' can render us to encounter stagnancy rather than producing us with a lucrative outcome. A breather can be the refreshment you needed in order to advance; it can be the birth of a new innovative idea. We are human beings; ergo, it is only reasonable for us to replenish and rejuvenate from the constant grinding hours—even machines are built to rest. A piece of sage advice that resonates deeply with every occasion is how prevention is always better than cure. Listen to your body; heed to what it craves and desires. A Minute to Think will not take away an eternity from your lifetime. Check out Juliet Funt's new upcoming book "A Minute to Think" out this August to enlighten yourself more on the essence of our subject matter.
[Link to Juliet Funt original post]
In the meantime, why not view this fascinating podcast touching on the subject of 'mindfulness' in the workplace: