Posts Tagged ‘busyness’

Just when I was thinking that I had said all I could about the demon busyness, and that everyone was bored stiff with me going on and on about it, I meet someone for whom the whole ‘Beyond Busyness’  thing is a revelation. And more than that, a liberation.

It happened this morning as I was talking to someone with a similar job to mine – but who is on sabbatical from the far side of the world.

‘That’s right’ she said. ‘People use “I am busy” as an excuse all the time. And the clergy are the worst…’

‘And it undermines their ministry’ I added.

‘Absolutely’ she replied.

And so it went on. I gave her a book and two ‘I’M NOT BUSY’ wristbands when she left.

It sees like the demon busyness is alive and well down-under.

And that makes me wonder whether this is a global problem or whether some places are worse than others.  I’d be interested to know what you think. .

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Giving Up Busyness for Lent

For the last couple of days I have been giving people red wrist bands which say ‘I’M NOT BUSY’. With one exception they have been delighted.  (The one exception is a Newcastle United fan who won’t wear anything red).

I thought it would have been a harder sell. People seem to wear their busyness with pride, albeit anxious pride. But offered a wristband many seem to be saying, ‘yes, you’re right, not-busy is better’.

One person at the Cathedral where I am based said, ‘I can’t wear that, I am on pastoral duty.’

I said, ‘If you are on pastoral duty you can’t be busy.’

He got the point and put it on.

A friend put it on with delight, She was planning a winter dip the North Sea: ‘but I’m not taking this off,’ she said. ‘It’s so liberating.’

Another friend, a nun, has just sent out a message to the community’s associates inviting them to join her in giving up ‘haste and busyness’.  We naively think that a convent or monastery would never be busy, but busyness gets everywhere.  Too many institutions and lives have fallen into what an article in the Harvard Business Review called ‘The Acceleration Trap’.

I wish I had thought up the ‘Give Up Busyness for Lent’ idea.  I didn’t. But it’s a good one and I am delighted to be promoting it – even if it has generated a bit of work and made me a bit busier than expected this last fortnight, as I have prepared content for the website and written a very short book, Beyond Busyness: Time Wisdom in an Hour.

So giving up busyness for Lent very timely for me.

Maybe it is for you too.

See also:

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There’s no time like the present for sorting out your relationship with time, so why not choose one or two of the NYR ideas below to help you avoid the perils of excessive busyness in 2013?

  1. Commit to making a two-column to-do list at least once a week, if not every day.
    The two columns are headed ‘must’ and ‘may’ respectively. They require you to distinguish between essential tasks and desirable ones. Many people who are too busy never make that distinction.
  2. Disappoint someone regularly. Sometimes yourself.
    People who are too busy are often attempting the impossible. Guess what! You don’t have to do the impossible. To achieve the extremely difficult is more than enough.
  3. Get your holidays booked into your diary by the end of January.
    This might be difficult and involve a permissions process but where there’s a will there’s a way. Get it sorted. Knowing when your breaks are coming, having ‘Predictable Time Off’ – PTO – makes a real difference. People study this stuff and have proved it.
  4. Trim the length of regular appointments.
    If you normally see people for 90 mins make it 75. If it is usually 60 mins in 2013 make it 50. It sounds mean but, be honest, if you knew you had less time you would use it better.
  5. Use the timer on your phone a lot more.
    Be disciplined in how much time you give to both essential and desirable tasks. When the time runs out, stop. If the work is not finished, book another session into your diary to complete it. Sometimes be extra generous in your time allocation, especially if it is tasks that needs extended concentration – or if you just enjoy it.
  6. Have a clear-out of the meetings you attend.
    If you don’t know what the meeting is achieving, or don’t feel it is very efficient, then tell the chair. If they don’t care – resign. If you are the chair – get it sorted.
  7. Make a vow never to censor yourself when a really simple question bubbles up in your mind.
    Those questions – the ones that feel stupid – are often the key that needs to be inserted into the lock of some problem that no one has yet properly spotted. Asking it of yourself, or of others, could free up hours and hours of time by creating a new way forward. The little question ‘must we?’ has revolutionary potential, as do ‘why?’ or ‘why now?’, as kids know. (Sometimes, of course your question might actually be stupid, but who cares. It might give everyone a laugh and that is always energizing.
  8. Invest yourself deeply in something that can only be done slowly.
    One of the best ways to de-bug your busyness is to step aside from the time management mania into something slow. Playing or listening to music is good (don’t speed it up) so too is cooking or gardening, as are most things that come under the heading ‘spirituality’. (Use that timer to ensure you give these things long enough.)
  9. Limit the amount of time you spend on social media.
    They can easily become anti-social media and remove you from contact with the people around you. Like everything modern, they can easily drag you out of the present moment or even become addictive. Speaking of which, let me stop right there.

Happy New Year!

P.S For a load more ideas about how to grow in time wisdom and get out of the busyness trap have a quick look at my book Beyond Busyness

P.P.S. If you liked any of that you might also like this from the Digital Nun.

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It has been a few years in the making, but this week my book about ‘Time Wisdom’ was published.

It has been fun to work on and it is great that it is out there. It is based on 28 very short ‘sessions’ (one for each day of the month) and is my attempt to blend some of the things that the best time-management gurus say with the spirituality and theology of time.

Until recently my favorite time saying was the Irish proverb which runs, ‘when God made time, he made plenty’. But the thought going round in my mind now is, ‘Complaining that there are not enough hours in the day is as sensible as grumbling about the temperature of the sun or the diameter of plant earth’.  Time is a fundamental aspect of the universe. There can be neither not enough nor too much.

Towards the end of the book I mention the Corpus Clock in Cambridge, which is shown in the illustration. This is one of the few clocks in the world designed to highlight some of the subjective features of time: the strange-looking grasshopper is what the inventor John Taylor calls a ‘Chronophage’, literally a time-eater which winks at you as it gobbles up the seconds of your life. Also, the Corpus Clock is only accurate once every five minutes; reflecting our experience that time speeds up and slows down.

English: Corpus Clock at Corpus Christi Colleg...

English: Corpus Clock at Corpus Christi College, Cambridge (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

To help me write this book – and indeed to help me get through life – I am using the idea not of time management but time wisdom. I suggest that it is only by being aware of many dimensions of the reality and experience of time that we can be comfortable and effective.  We can’t manage time, but we can be wise about it.

The book is intended for clergy and the illustrations are taken from ministerial life. That is deliberate, as it seems to me (and I should know) that ordinary time management often does not work in that context. But there is plenty in it for anyone who has a lot of choices to face and who is tempted to feel that there are not enough hours in the day. Anyone who wants to get beyond busyness.

So, if you are not too busy – check out the book.

And if you are too busy – check out the book.

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