A while back I was sitting at a big conference table amongst other colleagues without any work to do. I mean, legitimately – no work to do. I’d been brought in for a project and while normally I was run off my feet busy, there was this weird stage in which I had nothing to do. I did as much prep work and as much organising as I could do until the next wave of crazy came through, but in that moment, I had nothing to do. So I reverted to my default position when I have nothing to do ‘Look Busy’. This involves a lot of shuffling of papers, ensuring things are typed at realistic speeds and intervals, keeping certain documents open so you can move and re-move things around when you need to ‘look busy’ for the sake of other people.
I had this moment though, where I felt a little convicted about whether or not this was the right thing to do. Not so much morally, because when you actually know that you have zero work that you can do, and your role doesn’t entail ongoing catch up work, then I don’t think you’re in moral trouble. But I just don’t know whether it’s the smart move. Sure, it shows that you’re a hard worker, and that you’re busy and that encourages them to keep you and think you’re indispensable, which in this economy, seems wise. But here’s the trouble with ‘looking busy’ when you’re not.. while I’m busy “typing” away and “shuffling” papers, my team thinks I am incredibly busy (nailed it!) and they then hesitate when approaching me for new work. I could potentially be helping out a team member who was going to ask if I was free, but all of my movement and scurrying has caused her to carry on in her own stress, when I could have helped and been busy for real. The trouble with looking busy is that it ties you up when potential work comes along. It actually makes you unapproachable.
The same goes in life. I think sometimes we get so insecure and busy fighting the constant need to prove ourselves that we set about making ourselves “look busy”. We fill our day with meaningless “appointments” and “meetings” so that everyone will think that we are busy. We spend a whole lot of unnecessary time projecting an image of a full social calendar, when actually, we’re pretty quiet and pretty lonely. Resting, or taking a break is not only “unproductive” but for some, it feels like a weakness. That if we aren’t out every single night of the week then somehow, we’ve failed. We live in a world that screams “I’m so, so, SO busy” that we compute this as the norm and as the expected, when it’s not reality for all.
The problem with projecting success or projecting busy or projecting popular is that it ties us up for potential greatness or relationships. It actually makes you unapproachable in life. It screams “I don’t have time for you” or “I don’t need anyone” when in actual fact, you might. There should be no shame or embarrassment in sitting back at your desk and admitting ‘I currently, don’t have any work to do’ just like there should be no shame or embarrassment in sitting back in your life and admitting ‘I don’t have anything on this weekend and I could do with a new friend’.
I don’t know about you but I need become better at recognising and accepting reality. For it is only from this place that we can make any real decision to change it.