A Better Way To Think About ‘Busy’

This is not a post of productivity tips. If you're looking for advice on scheduling or how to be less busy, this is not the post for you. I'm just suggesting you change your mindset.

“Wait. What about a weeknight? Maybe a Tuesday? I could move some stuff around and if we eat early, we could make it work!”

My friend and I have been trying to schedule dinner for three months.

It started as a “I want to see your new house!” dinner. Then it became a “I haven’t met your baby yet!” hangout. Now, as she’s wrapping up her maternity leave and her son has a full head of hair, we’ve found time.

We’re seeing each other on a weeknight. I’m sure we’ll show up with a dessert plucked from the bakery section of the grocery store, but 90 days later, it’s finally happening.

If you’re an adult human, this is probably your reality, too. Your calendar and inbox and heart and mind are full.

It’s easy to look at these tasks and obligations and feel overwhelmed or over-busy. It’s easy to look at our full, messy lives and believe that we can pare down and lifehack our way to simpler, happier selves.

And sometimes we can! It’s important to figure out what makes you happy and then edit and eliminate accordingly. Whenever possible, it’s wise to automate decisions.

It’s also important to remember that The things that make you happy + the things that make you stressed are often one and the same. Share on X

I’ve worked incredibly hard to experience the honor of a full inbox

I’ve spent 15+ years honing my writing skills and building a solid reputation. I can choose to see the emails asking for advice, requesting interviews, and pitching guest posts as an honor.

I spent 20 years dating in order to bicker with my husband about the placement of our pillows

Dozens of dates, hundreds of dollars, broken hearts on both sides – that’s what it took to meet my husband and become a stepmom. Is it super easy to become a wife and step parent after building an adult life around your own desires and needs? Nope! Would I want to go back to my two-bedroom-apartment-all-to-myself single life? Also (usually) nope.

I devoted months to searching for our house full of wiggly doorknobs and drafty windows

This uneven sidewalk? This magazine-mangling mail slot? The farm sink that looks sooooo much cooler than it is? I creeped Craigslist for months so I could complain about these things. I got a money order on a weekend and met a real estate agent at 11 am on a Tuesday so I can grumble about the bathroom doorknob. 

Many of us picture happiness as an imaginary future state, somehow free from daily struggles and annoyances. Our Future Happy Selves won’t ever forget to pack a lunch. We’ll always be wearing the right outfit. Our cars will always run smoothly, our health will be perfect, and our homes will be well-run and spotless.

But that’s not how life works. Not now and probably not in our imaginary, perfect future.

In fact, I think an ancient Greek word better encapsulates what we really mean when we say “I’m busy.”

Eudaimonia is often translated as ‘happiness.’ It really means the deepest kind of fulfillment, often comprising a flourishing work and love life. It’s accepted that eudaimonia can go hand in hand with lots of day-to-day frustration and pain. You could be correctly described as possessing eudaimonia even though you are periodically really rather grumpy.

Are there stressors we can and should remove from our lives? Yes! Of course.

Should we maintain polite, professional boundaries with our clients? Yes.
Should we do our best to create daily habits that dial down the crazy? Uh-huh.
Should we just buy three pairs of the same jeans and be done with it? DUR.

But it’s important know that our lives will never be completely free from busy or stress.

Sometimes the place where stress lives is in the same zip code as our happiness. Maybe it’s time to get comfortable with that.

P.S. Do you have a bad habit of over-committing and over-filling your calendar? This might help. And it’s free!

photo by kyle meck // cc

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  1. Christine Li

    Beautiful! Happy Day to you. Shared this one already. xo

  2. Katharine

    I love this! So necessary to remember that often things take up a lot of our time and energy because they should! Important things require work and extra effort, and that’s okay.

    • Sarah Von Bargen

      Thanks so much for the shout out, Samantha!

  3. Heidi

    I was recently bickering with my roommate/best-friend about finding hairs in the bathroom. I interrupted his interjection of, “Is it so hard for you to clean the shower after you use it?” with, “I am so glad we live together.”

    He was (naturally) startled.

    It feels good to have someone to argue with about little annoyances that don’t really matter.

    • Sarah Von Bargen

      Yes! Yes. <3

  4. Angie

    Just last night I thanked my husband for helping me build such a fortunate life, where so much of the “big” things are taken care of that I get to spend my worry and stress on the tiniest little things that are really insignificant in the grand scheme of things (like drafty windows and loose door knobs!). Even though it can seem like complaining about little things, I realize it’s the amount of blessings I do have that afford me the luxury to even notice those things.

    This was a great reminder in the same vein. Love it 🙂

  5. Maria Mosca

    This is such an important reminder. Thank you.

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