Taking off the busy badge

Have you ever witnessed those workplace conversations where two colleagues one-up each other about who is more busy, more stressed, more in-demand and more unhappy? These conversations are oddly inverted, as if the worse your lot is, the more validated you feel. It’s a badge of honour. A busy badge.

God forbid, maybe you’ve even worn that badge with pride. I know I have at times, although it’s hard to imagine what ever possessed me to think it was a good idea.

In the last few years, workaholism has seemed to reach somewhere near fever pitch in my working world. I’ve watched colleagues drawing their self-identity from how early they started, from how late they stayed, how many emails accumulated whilst they slaved away at meetings, how much leave they’d accumulated because they were simply too needed to stay away. It made them who they were. And in years past, that kind of crazy game made me who I was too.

And it’s not just in the places where I work. A few years ago, The Australia Institute reported that in Australia each year, employees collectively work 2.14 billion hours of unpaid overtime. This number is hard to wrap my brain around. The Australia Institute puts it another way. These overtime hours equate to 1.16 million full time jobs and they are three times what we give in community-based volunteering*. Holy moly. That’s a whole lot of busy-ness, keeping us from living simply, from living well and from making a difference.

My promise to myself is to not pick up that badge of busy-ness. I promise to remember that a life of simple abundance includes time to just breathe. I vow to be proud of more worthwhile attributes than my overtime hours or my supposed indispensability. I will never gauge my value by how many times the message light flashes on my phone or how many unread emails lurk in my inbox. I strive to be way more interesting than my overblown workload, and to cultivate proper busy-ness (the kind that makes the world a little better), not just be the busiest one in the office.

What’s going to keep you properly busy in 2013?

*Source: Fear, J & Denniss, R. (2009) Something for nothing: unpaid overtime in Australia. The Australia Institute: Canberra. Accessed online 9/1/13 <https://www.tai.org.au/index.php?q=node%2F19&pubid=702&act=display&gt;

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