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Cartoon: busy, running office workers

Unbusy Yourself, Now

By Jeffrey Baumgartner

Back in the old days, if you asked a person, "How are you?" the generic answer was, "Fine, thank you. How are you?" Today, of course, if you ask the same question, the answer is usually, "Busy." Everyone is busy and even  people who are not busy feel they must claim to be busy. Indeed, busy seems to be a badge of prestige: the busier you are, the more important you are.

This is all very good except for one small matter: it is terrible! Busy is not a good thing. No one, least of all you, should take pride in being busy. No one should aspire to being even busier.

No One Ever Regrets Not Being Busy Enough

In 2012, Bonnie Ware a nurse in a palliative care unit in Australia wrote a book called The Top Five Regrets of the Dying: A Life Transformed by the Dearly Departing based on her conversations with people at the end of their lives. One regret Ms Ware absolutely never heard was: "I regret that I was not busier during my younger and healthier years."

On the contrary, Ms Ware wrote that every man she ever nursed said "I wish I had not worked so hard" She further wrote that these men "missed their children's youth and their partner's companionship." (Ms Ware was speaking to a generation in which it was the norm for men to work and women to look after the family, hence she heard this regret mostly from men. But with more and more women working even harder than men, we can expect the next generation of elderly women to have the same regret.)

Being Busy Is Nothing to Be Proud Of

Many people believe that being busy is something to be proud of, that it implies they are important and doing important things. But it could also imply that the person is a poor delegator with lousy time management skills and an inability to say "no". Important people do not waste their time on unimportant, busy-making tasks. Important people make others busy, not themselves.

Ban "Busy" From Your Vocabulary

You need to ban the word, "busy" from your vocabulary, at least when talking about yourself. When someone asks, "How are you?" do not, absolutely do not, answer "busy". Instead, answer with statements like,

"I'm taking it easy. I've decided not to overwork myself any more."

"I've got a handful of interesting projects going on. But I am not going to let them overwhelm me."

"I'm enjoying life, work, family. Thanks. How about you?"

"I've got a task I'd like you to do."

Stop Accepting Tasks that Make You Busy

Once you've stopped wanting to be busy and banned the word from your vocabulary, you need to stop accepting tasks that make you busy.

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Before long, you will be less busy, less stressed and more relaxed. Busy people may pretend to look down on you, but they will really envy you.

A Relaxed Life Is a Happier Life

Soon, you will be less busy, yet probably as productive as you are now. Moreover, you will he happier, healthier and have more time for important things in life, like family, friends, travel and enjoying life.