COVID and lockdown in 2020 was incredibly stressful and frustrating – but there was one thing I didn’t miss – the sense of always being in a rush. Since coming back to work and other commitments re-opening, I suddenly felt like I didn’t have time for that hour a day of exercise, or to keep up all my lockdown hobbies like puzzles and cooking and so on. And I know many of you feel the same – as you went back to running the children around to their various classes and activities after school and on the weekend.
So why do we fill our lives with so much?
I think sometimes it is the pressure to be it all or to have it all. We want our children to have the best opportunities they can, so we schedule them into after school activities, sports, extra tuition and so on. We too want to be the best version of ourselves, and so we schedule ourselves into opportunities to be physically active, to spend quality time, to clean, to work more, to get ahead. We answer emails at all hours of the night and are “always available” to employers and clients.
But what if all of this does us, and our children, a disservice?
Young people need time to just – be young. Little children need time to play and they even need time to be bored. They need to learn to use their imaginations and to entertain themselves. They need to delve into one or two things deeply and develop a passion for them instead of feeling scheduled to within an inch of their lives. Angela Duckworth, psychologist and expert in Grit, asks her children to choose one extra-curricular activity per year – and to stick with it. She maintains this is where the real learning lies… not just with the activity itself, but with learning to cope with the ebbs and troughs of motivation.
And for us… as we get older I think we come to appreciate the value of down time. I can no longer go at the pace I used to – I need time to be quiet and reflective and time to engage with more mindful pursuits like reading and meditation. By filling up our lives in doing what we feel we are expected to, we perhaps miss the opportunities to do what we really should. These are the moments when we get in touch with ourselves, where we experience not only peace, but our most creative capacity. The quieter our minds, the more innovative they have the potential to be.
Busyness does not equal productiveness, nor even fulfillment. And we should not expect it to. Fulfilment comes from feeling you are in the right space at the right time – and you have to be present in that moment to know this.
I have used this last quick “circuit breaker” lockdown as a chance to revisit again my simpler lifestyle with less on my to-do list. I got an hour’s extra sleep, more exercise and closed the computer more often. And I feel better for it.
The challenge now is to resist the lure of the cult of busyness now that life has resumed as normal.
Interested in this topic? You might enjoy some of these further readings: