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Winning The “I’m Busy” Game

 

If you’ve ever asked me to do something for you, chances are I’ve told you that I’m too busy. And I hate to brag, but I am.

I know you want me to volunteer for that thing, but I can’t. I need to go for a long run. I keep signing up for races like an idiot, and I don’t want to die before I get to the finish line. So I’m sorry I can’t be there, but I’m busy (running).

You asked me to do that thing, that same thing I did for you last year and the year before that, but this time I just have to say no. I’ve scheduled in a nap for around 1pm, because I was up late last night and if I don’t get a nap I will yell at my kids at some point this evening. So I’m sorry that I can’t do that thing for you, but I’m busy (napping).

That thing you wanted me to go to Monday night? Sorry, I’m busy. I’ll be walking my daughter to dance class, and sitting in the waiting room reading for an hour (bliss!) or running some errands (less blissful, but I’m happy to have a free hour to get them done), and then walking back with her. Sure, I could probably get someone else to pick her up as I race over to your event, but I like our Monday and Thursday walks to Mark Morris (so does my FitBit). We talk on those twenty-five-minute walks in a way that we don’t on a seven-minute car ride, so sorry, but I’m busy (walking with my daughter).

The article you’d like me to write, the one you swear will only take me an hour tops and you’d really really appreciate it and you’ll owe me one? Can’t, I’m busy. I’ll be watching The Good Wife and eating popcorn. There aren’t too many shows that I really watch without multi-tasking these days. Most of the time when I’m watching something I’m also washing dishes, or folding laundry, or wandering around Facebook, or working, or putting stuff away (this is why I have TVs everywhere – I can move and watch, move and watch!). But for three or four shows a week, I like to sit down and just watch, when the acting is so good that I need to see every glance and expression. So I wish I could do it, but I’m busy (watching TV).

That other thing you wanted me to help with? I regret to inform you that I can’t. I’ll be having brunch with friends. Friends that I don’t get to see as often as I’d like so I make sure to take the time to get together with them once in a while. Friends I actually would do the same favor for that you’re asking me to do, if they were to ask me. I wish I could help you, but I’m busy (brunching).

That job you wanted to hire me for that could only be done in the late afternoon? I’m busy being in the same space as my kids as they get snacks, do their homework, tell me about their day (well, Fiona will tell me about her day; Jake’s day was “Fine.” Always. Every day.) I’m figuring out what to make for dinner and prepping it (or finding it on Seamless), I’m washing the dinner dishes, I’m throwing in a load of laundry, I’m catching up on emails, I’m running out to the store. Sure, my kids would be fine if I headed out for an event, but frankly I don’t want to. If you want me, schedule something during the day (and pay me for my time), when my kids are in school. In the late afternoon and evening I’m busy doing…stuff. Home, family, evening stuff.

OK, so, often I’m busy with definite stuff. Work stuff (writing deadlines, conference calls, events, trips, paperwork, etc.), and home/family stuff, stuff that I have to do if I want to get paid, want my kids to thrive, want my husband to stay with me, and want to live a reasonably organized and productive life (and keep in mind, I define “organized” as “able to find something in half an hour or less; I would like to improve that, but ugh, finding the time…).

But I’m also busy with the stuff that is just for me, the activities that keep me sane and happy. Pedicures and massages. Baking yummy things. Catching up with my friends online. Making sure I get enough sleep (I mean, yes, sometimes I stay up working until after midnight, but you can bet your ass I’m making up for it the next day). Reading. Watching TV.

I don’t want to hear about how you’re too busy to make time for yourself, because you’re too busy working/taking care of your kids/volunteering/cleaning/being a better person than I am. That’s you. You do what works for you (and you’re the only one who gets to judge if it is working for you). I know people who truly seem to thrive by being super-duper-never-sit-down busy, and that’s great (for THEM). If I tried to do their schedule I would last about three days and then be admitted to a hospital for exhaustion (not that fake exhaustion that starlets go in for when they’re actually addicted to something, but actual-can’t-stand-up exhaustion).

And you know? At other times in my life I’ve been that person. I was the first one in and last one out for a dozen school fundraisers. I was on the go and showing up to everything and getting my name out there and networking and building something. I was doing too much and I was exhausted and really overweight and not healthy and not all that happy. I had to learn how to say no. And I say no by saying I’m busy.

I get to do what’s right for me. I get to take time for me and not feel a shred of guilt about it.

There are, of course, trade offs.

Most of the laundry in the house is actually washed, but practically none of it is folded or put away. I’ll get to it eventually. Everybody has to spend a few extra minutes in the morning hunting on the couch for something to wear, but nobody’s leaving the house naked.

There are still some dishes on the counter from last night’s dinner. I did manage to get most of them done last night, but the pots and pans are still dirty. And I didn’t lose any sleep knowing that they weren’t clean.

And our sheets could really use a wash because I just might have run a 10K the other day and then napped right after, without taking a shower first. Yeah. That I should really find the time for sooner rather than later.

I have a lot of stuff piled up that needs to be done. I have a couple of work-related things due today and I have two trips coming up that I have to pack for and a long to-do list of small things that never really get done. But I’ve managed to do the big stuff, the stuff that absolutely needs to get done. I’ve gotten really good at triage, and if those things at the bottom of the to-do list never happen, it will all still be OK.

The reason it’s all OK is that I’ve given myself permission not to get it all done. I haven’t given myself permission to let things go completely to shit, so I’m still waging that battle. Would I be happier if my house was spotless and my to-do list was empty? Honestly, I’d probably be too exhausted and cranky to enjoy it at all. I’d need a nap.

Know what else? I’ll never be as popular or get paid as much as I probably could be getting, because I’m just not willing to work 24/7 to make it happen. I’m doing well enough, and I’m enjoying myself, and that’s just going to have to do.

But enough of the trade offs, back to the good part of scheduling in the “me time.” I’m not stressed. I’m not regretting things. I’m not giving away my time to people who are in turn making money off of me. I’m not missing things I want to do in favor of things other people tell me I really should be doing. 

So if I tell you I’m too busy to do something, and then you see me talking about all of the naps I took or the books I read or the time I spent running or out with friends, know that I didn’t lie to you. I just didn’t specify what I was busy doing. And frankly, it’s none of  your business.

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