Recently, I did a little internet research to try to find advice for navigating my hectic life as a mother, wife, full-time career woman, nonprofit board member (times two), member of a service/leadership development organization, daughter, sister, friend, kid-chauffeur, occasional school volunteer and monthly columnist.
I’ve been feeling a bit at my wits’ end lately, and I thought perhaps there was a life hack out there that could help. An ad for a cloning service, maybe? Or, better, one for a sister-wife!
Instead, I found many “helpful” articles.
“Stop Saying ‘I’m Busy’” one article said, going on to advise what “successful people” say instead. I only skimmed the piece, because I got to a part where it said when turning down a task, I should reference my available “energy” and not my time — and I didn’t have the energy to keep reading after that. (See what I did there?)
I did read all the way through the article “When People Ask How You Are, Stop Saying ‘I’m Busy,’” because I was struck by one line in particular: “Busyness … doesn’t make us happier, and it doesn’t make us more productive.”
I have to agree. I am the kind of person who likes to do things. I like to have places to go, people to see. I like to be in the mix, learning, growing, experiencing, living. But it is true: I am not happier now that I am the busiest I have ever been.
I am exhausted. My house is a total disaster (seriously, folks; it has gone from “lived-in” to “rave aftermath”). I’m behind on everything. I’ve sometimes hurt the feelings of people I love by being unavailable. I’ve been sick twice since September (including right now).
This is not living my best life!
The article goes on to say I’m supposed to prioritize “important” vs. “urgent” items on my list.
That’s interesting, but I’m not so sure I fully agree. Anyone who has been in a long-term relationship knows what a slippery slope playing the “important” vs. “urgent” game is. Maybe sitting and listening to that story about the work-project-from-hell doesn’t feel urgent when your husband wants to tell it for the 27th time, but it is surely important to the overall health of your union to tune in, intently, and co-sign every curse word, when he does.
This may come at the expense of scrubbing the shower or replying to an email from a friend from a week ago — or even something seemingly frivolous, like hate-reading a Vanity Fair article about “momfluencers” with perfect lives and spotless houses, just so you can seethe and judge them — but in choosing one important activity over another, something has to give. It’s just math.
People who have it all together, however, don’t seem to agree.
That same article says, “When an important task doesn't get done, it is vital to acknowledge that you have chosen to use your time doing something less productive. Instead of saying ‘I ran out of time,’ try saying ‘I chose to do X today instead of Y’ or ‘I'm focusing on the wrong things.’ Once you acknowledge that you control your time, you can hold yourself accountable for misusing it and decide to improve.”
I’m reading that passage again now while I’m writing this column, instead of reading to my children, putting the laundry away, cleaning up the kitchen from the hastily thrown-together dinner I made, washing my hair, re-organizing my closet, spending time with my (also super-busy) husband, finishing a newsletter for the organization of which I’m a member, or any number of other things that all need to be done right now.
I don’t know what the wrong things were that I focused on today, but maybe making chocolate-chip pancakes for the kids, or going to the grocery store, or attending an event at a school for which I serve on the board was one of them.
None of those things were especially urgent, but each is so very, very important. So, I guess I’ll just be busy (and tired) until I “decide to improve” by letting something go. Or, even better, until some productive, unbusy scientist clones me a sister-wife.
Tanika Davis is a former Baltimore Sun reporter who works in communications at Constellation. She and her husband have twin 9-year-old sons, a 7-year-old daughter, a perpetually messy house and rapidly appearing gray hairs. She also needs a nap. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Her column appears monthly.