Is leisure your guilty pleasure?

Let’s say, you are asked to sit for 10 minutes in the room without doing anything. Not check your phone, not think of things you need to do, not plan. Just sit back and relax.

Some will find this easy to do.

But my guess is that there are many who won’t be able to sit still for 10 minutes. Just sitting idle for 10 minutes may probably seem like a stupid idea to some especially when they have so many things to get done. Many of us would love to sit and relax if only they had the time!

We live in a world where our to-do lists are long and our time and energy are limited. It is not surprising then, that many of us feel that we are constantly running against the clock.

Keeping busy.

Trying to get more done.

And constantly struggling to do so.

I have many clients tell me that they have too much on their plate. Some feel that the time they have is not enough and they are frequently overwhelmed by what they need to get done.

Unfortunately, the bad news is that busyness is now a global epidemic.

The even more unfortunate news is that most of us believe that this is the only way to be. That we have no choice if we want to be successful. We constantly keep working hard hoping that one day we will get it all finished and have time to relax. Clients tell me about how they work hard the whole day, often without a minute to spare and at the end of the day they still feel like a failure because they did not accomplish anything worthwhile.  

And in all of this taking time for leisure is unthinkable!

We sometimes manage a short vacation only to return to even more chaos.

For some people the very idea of sitting around doing nothing is toxic. They are so averse to not doing something all the time that they avoid taking time for leisure because they feel guilty about doing so.

What keeps us busy?

Short answer; just the sheer number of things that need to get done. As a full-time working mother, nobody knows this better than me.
In a world where we feel the need to win, we start believing that we need to constantly keep working and doing new things to stay ahead and achieve more.

Or do we?

Why are we really busy?

  • We take pride in being busy. For many of us sitting idle is a negative trait which more or less means being lazy. Many of us strongly associate our  identity as someone who works hard and is very occupied with important things. We revel in the fact that others respect this about us. We find it difficult to not be busy because we may not even remember what that feels like. This doesn’t stop us from complaining about our busy lives through!
  • We use busyness to avoid focussing on what is really important: Sometimes if we are busy we can give ourselves the excuse to not do stuff. I know of business leaders who are so busy managing their day-to-day “important” activities that they have no time to grow their business or their people.
  • We think being busy leads to being an achiever: Most of us have bought into the myth that super achievers are busy, stressed out people. We find it difficult to believe that success can happen without rushing through our day at breakneck speed. Contrary to what most people believe being busy is not the same as being an achiever. Yes, some achievers are busy people but they are focussed on doing only things that are a priority. Long term success is also strongly linked to being able to think clearly and deeply about your plans and ideas. It is not enough to be busy, so are the ants. What are we busy about? – Henry David Thoreau
  • Being busy makes us feel useful: Some of us find it difficult to sit down and take a break because if we are not doing something we feel we are not being useful. This, in turn, is often linked with feeling important or significant.
  • Wanting it all: When we see others around us do something we start to believe we need to do it too. Because it is the right thing or the “in” thing,  or the appropriate thing to do. I know of parents who cram their child’s day with so many extracurricular activities because they believe it is important without even judging the if their child really needs it. We also do things to keep up with society, friends, and family even if it involves doing things that hold no meaning for us or give us any satisfaction.We refuse to prioritize, let go and accept things and mostly live off others beliefs of what we need/want.

Leisure is good for your success

When we are constantly running from one task to another we do not give time to the mind to rest. A tired mind is one of the worst enemies of creativity and will stop the flow of great ideas. Mindfulness and meditation are increasingly becoming the norm for leadership development for the simple reason, they allow the mind to empty itself of thoughts allowing for new ideas and energies to flow. Leisure and allowing yourself time to do nothing accomplishes similar benefits.

One super busy executive I work with learned that when he reached back home instead of going inside and carrying his day’s stress with him into his family and home if he took 10minutes to just sit in his car and listen to a favorite song, catch his breath and reconnect with himself he went in feeling much better. His family, in turn, got a better father and husband even if for a slightly shorter time.

Similarly, another client of mine found that if he took the time to sit silently for short intervals in his day his productivity in the rest of the day went up drastically.

For all of us, time and your energy are limited resources. We try to focus these on what we believe are the most important things. And silent time with nothing to do should become one of these. Leisure allows you to connect with who you really are. 

Stay with what is important and set aside time to do nothing;so that you may achieve much more. 

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