BALANCE: Break the Cycle of Busy

“I’m Busy!” 

Ask someone how they are doing, and it’s the response you consistently hear. Over the past few years, piles of articles have been written and read on the ubiquitous rise of ‘busy-ness’. Culturally, it has become a badge of honour: Busy is what we need to be to keep ahead, proving we are functioning members of our family, our workplace, and our society.

In the not-for-profit world, where arts administrators have to juggle multiple roles and responsibilities, being ‘Busy” is an accepted reality of the industry (and is contributing to a dramatically rising burnout rate). Amidst this bustle, idle activities like reading or going for a walk can feel like a waste of time.

Break The Cycle of Busy

This is especially problematic for individuals working in the arts because activities perceived as ‘time wasters’ are actually essential in maintaining our brain’s creativity!

When we are at our busiest, we benefit the most from allowing ourselves small breaks: Whether it is a small moment with our partner, a quiet Skytrain ride with a book, or leaving our desks for a post-lunch walk.

These moments grant our mind a respite that allows it to get ready for the next volley of busy activity. Rather than committing ourselves to working in a constant, ‘heads-down’ manner – we can be much more effective and creative by committing ourselves to ‘bursts of busy-ness’, punctuated by recuperative activities. The key to this is committing specific times throughout the day to such activities.

This creativity-nurturing strategy was employed by some of history’s greatest (and busiest) minds: Beethoven went for a two-hour walk every day; Flaubert and Mann spent at least five hours a day reading; and Vonnegut punctuated his writing with all manner of daily activities. Such routines directly fed, nurtured, and supported their creative output.

The hardest part about adopting such an approach is training ourselves not to think about these activities as being time wasters – and to stop the glorification of ‘busy’.

One way to get us out of the cycle is to make a firm commitment to activities that fall outside our ‘productive’ work lives. The list of possibilities is endless, but here are a few MPMG staff favourites to help you get started:

  • Engage in 10 minutes of free writing every day
  • Go outside for a 20-minute walk after lunch
  • Keep a notepad handy and doodle when you are on the phone
  • Organize a “crafternoon” with friends
  • Spend a weekend afternoon cooking up a huge batch of food for the week
  • Take a painting or music class
  • Start taking pictures of anything that catches your eyes
  • Listen to an entire album instead of just one single or playlist
  • Pick up a book from the library and commit to finishing it during the checkout window

So set an alarm, write it in your day planner, add it in your iCal, and make sure you set aside time for creativity-nurturing activities.  Your productivity will only increase – and you’ll have something to say (other than ‘busy!’) the next time someone asks you how you are.

Categories: MPMG