When you’re starting out, working hard is a badge of honour. It’s a way of showing the world you are serious. You mean business. You aren't just passing through. While other interns are taking long lunches and ducking out early on Fridays, you’re cramming your schedule with meetings, training sessions, background reading, and extra work. You respond to emails promptly, no matter what time or day they arrive.
Working hard is a brilliant strategy. You learn more, accomplish more, and stand out. You become be better at what you do because you work hard at it. It’s extra important in the charity world, where resources are few and far between. Your willingness to work hard is often your only advantage.
At some point, the word “busy” becomes a proxy for “working hard”. It’s just faster and simpler to say “I’m busy” than it is to actually explain to people what you’re doing. Not long after that, “busy” stops meaning “working hard” and starts to mean “important”. The world demands time from important people. It ignores unimportant people. To be busy is to be special. To be un-busy is to be invisible.
This is how “busy” becomes a problem. Let’s call it the Vortex of Busy.
So many promising talents get sucked into the Vortex of Busy. They’re amazing, dedicated, inspirational people when they start their careers. Then Busy takes over. The world’s demands for their time and their attention slowly erode their core. They don’t get to think about why they do what they do. They don’t get to think about how to do it well. They don’t get to love or appreciate the richness of their lives. “Success” starts to mean “survival”. “Busy” takes on an ominous tone.
You don’t escape the Vortex of Busy by freeing up your schedule. It’s not about how much you plan or don’t plan. It’s about your attitude. After all, you are responsible for how your time is spent. Life doesn’t happen to you. Busy isn’t an affliction. Go head. Book every minute of every day if that keeps you focused or motivated. Just remember that you're make choices and that choices are a sign of freedom, not captivity.
You worked hard all those years to prove yourself. You wanted people to take you seriously. It worked. Now it’s time to recognize that “busy” is a stupid word that just means “has several options for how one spends one’s time”. Choice is a privilege. Busy is a cop-out.