When did being busy become a measure of success?

For one reason or another there’s one thing I can’t get off my mind. I’ve been thinking about it for a while now but not yet been able to translate my thoughts into a coherent blog post on the topic. Today I decided to let the keyboard do the talking and see where my thoughts took me when left to just type. 

The work day has come to a close and I’ve been sat on my bed for the last hour watching fitness videos on YouTube, adding fitness YouTubers on snapchat and thinking about when I should next go to the gym. While I’ve ticked off all of the work related things that needed done, there are still at least three more tasks on my life admin and blog work list that need done before I can afford some real down time. Therefore, now is not the time to be binge watching YouTube. 

The list contains editing something I put into motion last week. No, it’s not a YouTube video and no, I’m not going to tell you what it is just yet – although if you stick around until the weekend I just might spill the beans. It also contains writing a blog post, contacting and pitching to several people to bring a new project to life, re-arranging a meeting and prepping for a meeting tomorrow. Things that haven’t been completed today have already been shifted into tomorrow’s task list and before I know it, a previously empty weekend has turned into one filled with more to-do lists which as an introvert, isn’t the best news as I need my own space to recharge – something I try to leave weekends free to do. 

See, usually I revel in free time at the weekend. I’m not someone who likes to go out and party the weekend away. Don’t get me wrong, I definitely enjoy a good night out and having a laugh with friends but don’t enjoy hangovers (lol who does) – both the kind induced by alcohol consumption and the hangover like experience I have when I’ve spent too much time with other people – I promise I’m not a COMPLETE weirdo, I just know my boundaries. These boundaries mean that yes, I definitely like to have socialising factored into my free time but I also like to have some me time slotted in there too otherwise I feel exhausted and the grumpiness that ensues just isn’t worth it for anyone. Even if it’s just a few hours in the evening where I can read a book, binge watch some netflix, catch up on the latest magazine I’ve been hoarding or scroll through my Instagram until I’ve completely lost track of time and forgotten the reason I lifted my phone in the first place. 


While I’m aware that these are the kind of boundaries I need in my life and the kind of lifestyle that brings me the most happiness, I can’t help but feel embarrassed when someone asks me my weekend plans, my Friday night plans and somedays even my plans for the rest of that day. I remember while interning lunch time felt so sacred. I’d been sat in an office all morning, surrounded by people and chatter and while I enjoyed the company of my employees, lunch time was my time. It was my time to escape and disappear into the pages of my book, scroll through social media and catch up with friends at home or just go for a walk and clear my head. I needed that time to recharge alone in order to remain productive for the rest of the day. Once a week the other interns and I would go for lunch together. It was a definite highlight of my week and I miss those lunches together all of the time but as far as I could tell, they got it that we all needed time away from being on our best behaviour (as interns are expected to be) and needed time alone most days. On the days we weren’t spending lunch together I used to dread any one else asking about my lunch plans. I also dreaded bumping into anyone on my lunch plans. The thought of telling someone I was spending my lunch alone by choice felt embarrassing and shameful. 

When I moved back home and tried to settle back into a routine I also had to adapt to the already established routines of my friends and family. I was the one who had left and returned while they had new friends, new circles, new routines and new hobbies. Initially, in my usual state of panic upon an internship finishing up and not knowing my next move, I felt the need to have everyday planned out and filled to the brim with activities. So that’s what I did. I tried to make as many plans as possible with friends, probably tortured them beyond belief and when I was met with their intensely busy schedules in response I felt like the world’s biggest loser. Why was I the only one without a life? Why did everyone else have so much to do? How come they were so busy and had so many friends to hang out with and I didn’t? 

This thought process continued for quite a while as I settled back into life at home, began working with freelance clients and then landed my current job. As working life got busier and weekends became a time of recuperation, I somehow forgot to worry about my lack of social life in comparison to others. I started spending Saturday nights with my sister watching Strictly and honestly, those Saturday nights spent together were and still are a massive highlight of my week and whether she likes it or not she’s probably one of my most favourite people to spend time with. I spent time with my boyfriend, I spent more time with my best friends and those whose company built me up, made me laugh and helped me out when times seemed tough. They listened to my rants. They answered silly questions I was too embarrassed to ask anyone else. They let me dream. They called me out when I was being stupid or cruel. They made me see that having a fully booked social life doesn’t equate to being successful, kinder or happier. They taught me that I would much rather spend time with the people that make me happiest once a month thAn spend my weekends with others for the sake of seeming busy. 

Less obvious characters taught me a lot too, even if they didn’t realise it. I’m very lucky to have the flexibility to work from home. I work where I want and to an extent when I want so long as I get the work done. It definitely has it’s difficulties and takes a lot of discipline but one way or another, I always get the work done and so far have never missed a deadline. Sometimes my work is really creative and fun, other times it’s more sales driven – an area that doesn’t come naturally to me and so takes much more concentration and dedication to hours. When we get a new client, there’s a lot of organising and launching to do. These launches mean putting in the hours when others may not have to. But it’s part of the job. There are pros and cons. I manage my time in a way that means I don’t have to work late every night when it isn’t necessary. The nature of my job allows me to do this and while I appreciate that not everyone is in this position, no job should equate to working late every single night. This ties in with the idea of being busy making you more successful. There’s a common misconception that working late every night is impressive. You know what’s not impressive? Letting your own health suffer as a result. Letting your business suffer. Not spending enough time with your family. Not spending any time with friends. Not giving yourself a break. Driving yourself nuts for the sake of meeting a deadline and letting the quality of your work suffer. Sorry, I’m not buying it. 

Serious question. When did being insanely busy become so cool? 

What’s cool about spending your life rushing around from appointment to appointment, the occasional social gathering that’s then spent totally rushed and had any enjoyment sucked out of it because surprise, surprise, you have another appointment to get to? Why do people get such a kick out of complaining about how busy they are? I mean, I only asked you for a coffee to catch up because I haven’t seen you for months, I didn’t ask for a run down of your entire week’s agenda. Yeah, ok it’s pretty cool that you have so many meetings to attend and organise because you’re just so in demand and yeah I’m happy for you that your career is taking off, your social life is through the roof because people can’t get enough of you and you’ve been so busy you cant remember the last time you logged on to Netflix (something I do on the reg) but I only asked if you were free for lunch this weekend. While I’m gutted you can’t make it, a date with my dog, sofa and Netflix is a fairly appealing back up plan. 

Once I got over the envy/self-doubt/massively self-absorbed comparison game it got me thinking on a more logistic level, how the hell do these people fit everything in? That’s when I realised they don’t. Did they tell you that they’re working late because they spent most of day procrastinating before realising just how quickly their deadline was approaching? Did they tell you that they spent Monday morning regretting how much time they’d spent their days off rushing around? Did they tell you that of the list of 20 things they told you they had on they ended up bailing on about 50% of them? Probably not. People like to seem busy. They like to seem in demand. We’re insecure by nature and if appearing busy makes someone feel better, who am I to judge. After all I know the guilt all too well when someone asks me how I spent my weekend and my answer was “at home.” The thing is, for the most part none of us care. Yeah we might be momentarily impressed by your work ethic, extensive circle of friends and your commitment to volunteering during your every spare moment but for the most part, we’ll have forgotten about the conversation within 5 minutes of settling down into our comfortable, back up plan. Meanwhile, you’ll be stressed to the max keeping up appearances and attending every commitment you slotted in for yourself in one day. 

Maybe it’s just me. Maybe you can think of nothing better than being flat out busy all of the time and because of my introverted, quieter ways I just don’t get it and therefore, can think of nothing worse. If that’s the case for you, feel free to tell me where to go.

You do you, boo and next time you feel guilty about having no plans other than with yourself, just remember how much joy those plans brought you.

Photos by Lucy Curran
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Niamh ♥


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