Thursday, 14 March 2013

Busy is a Four Letter Word

“Hello, how are you?”
“Busy! Busy, busy, busy. I don’t even have time to go to the loo. I’d hate not to be busy though, wouldn’t you?”

Erm, well, no actually. I’d love it. Love it more than the invention of a calorie-free Cadbury’s Crème egg, or being a contestant on a Supermarket Sweep in Waitrose. You know this is clearly a big deal - I love Waitrose. Busyness may be the new moral virtue, but I’d in fact much rather work about six and a half hours a day and spend the rest of the time staring out the window, going for a walk, working my way through my unread bookshelves, and drinking bottomless pots of tea with my mates. Who wouldn’t? Fact is, we can’t. For a start that would be ‘lazy’ and being lazy is BAD. And then of course, we need to earn money so that we can buy stuff and do stuff, and then when all that stuff has worn us down so we can just about update our FB status with the word ‘Ugh’, we can then maybe afford a few days holiday during which we can try to forget all that stuff for a while.

I’ve never really had time to think about it before, but isn't this just totally bonkers? Surely the meaning of life isn't diarising yourself in to exhaustion? I thought all this technology was supposed to make our lives easier. But I guess that’s exactly it; computers can do it all for us, which means we are no longer valued for our skills, but in fact paid for our proficiency at multi-tasking an unending barrage of stuff. Oh, and on top of that, most of us have a sneaking suspicion that what we do makes absolutely no meaningful difference whatsoever, and we therefore cram the scrap of life we have leftover with as much as possible so we have no time to think about how stupid it all is. Basically, if you’re not so stressed you put the cat in the cot and the baby out the cat flap, you’re not trying hard enough.

But I now know that this is not only crazy stressful, but that being lazy is actually good for you. I don’t mean the stuff your face with leftover kebab while watching Jeremy Kyle lazy. I mean allowing lazy to become an acceptable part of everyday, and not a dirty word. Because we need it. I’m not making this up just because I want an excuse to finish Mr Penumbra’s 24-hour Bookshop which I started a month a go and am not even half way through despite being desperate to know what it’s all about. There are actual scientific facts here that tell us that all this doing and never being is wrong. I mean catastrophically wrong – unless you want to be an anxious, psychologically imbalanced, heart attack prone, intolerant maniac, with a toxic soup of stress hormones bubbling away inside of you. Personally, I have enough of those in my life already. So this is how I propose to introduce a bit more calm and contemplation to my everyday life:

Daydream more Some would say this isn’t possible, but there is a difference between an overactive imagination and a lovely daydream. It’s also the only way I’m going to figure out the novel I’m writing so I’m going to allow myself at least 10 minutes daydreaming a day. Daydreaming is also supposed to dampen down cortisol and enhance your problem-solving skills, so I’ll have a bit of that too thank you.

Whistle Tom Hodgkinson of The Idler Academy suggested taking up the ukulele to strum your stresses away. Musical instruments cost money though even teeny tiny ones, so I think whistling is the next best thing. I mean, have you ever heard of an unhappy whistler? I rest my case.

Buy less I have this terrible habit of whenever I feel stressed or unhappy I buy things. It could be anything from a small box of coloured mini bulldog clips (yesterday), to a cashmere granddad top from Hush (which I’ll inevitably return and therefore have to pay £8 in p&p for the pleasure). I’m going to stop that. Because spending money, involves having to work stupid hours and not getting to see the people you love.

Go for more walks… I do walk quite a lot as it happens, but usually just to the shops which only serves me to feel a little more miserable and stressed because of all the things I’ve bought/ decide I need but can’t afford. But walking is so good for the soul. If you have an obliging companion it's also particularly good for talking about some pretty natty issue (like in the car where it’s easier to say stuff you’d never dream of saying otherwise, because eye contact is not possible). It also means I should probably get a dog. Which leads me to…

Get a pet… Because I can't remember being happier than when i used to lay on the floor with my dog Bessie and rub her silky ears over my mouth. Gross isn't it. But true. So my pet of choice would be a dog. But I guess you could get a cat instead, or a house rabbit (although I’ve heard some pretty disturbing ejaculation stories). Just don’t get anything that lives in a cage because if you’re anything like me you’ll feel sorry for it, let it wander freely around the house, and then you will have a hamster stuck somewhere behind the living room wall chewing up the electrics.

Read proper books… I know every woman’s magazine says this (I’ve probably written it a million times myself, sorry), but I need to stop using technology every waking moment. When I started relaying this advice in just about every health piece I wrote about three years ago, it made me aware of the fact that when I spend all day plugged in, I feel this little walnut-sized ball of anxiety in my chest. So switch off. Read a book. Write stuff with a proper pen and paper.  Have a snooze on the settee. Sew (since that's what everyone's doing these days). Just don’t look at a screen every waking moment.

I think that's enough to be getting along with. Although if you have any top calming ideas i'd love to hear them.


  1. Oh God, yes, yes and YES again. It's totally bonkers. I hate it and yet I can't seem to change it because then I can't fit all the things I want to do around all the things I have to do. My theory is that I could drop my hobbies and be less 'busy' but then I wouldn't be as happy. But then if I wasn't as busy, I'd sit down more, spend more time with friends and family and that would make me happy. If I... Ahh, I'm too busy to work it out :) I do manage to read proper books though - but it's in the bath or on the turbo trainer because my vain attempt at a strategy to pack the things I want to do around the things I must do is to... multi-task. Or, in other words, do two or more things not as well. Sigh.
    Great post as ever! And I've nominated you for an award :)

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