Here I am sitting at my computer, anxiously looking at the clock. I know that I only have a short amount of time to get this blog done because there are a million other things that I really need to get done today. Just like anyone else, I have BBS–Busy Bee Syndrome. What is it about us Americans that we feel that we must jam pack every day with activities that we know we can’t possibly get done? Even when we vacation, we pack our vacation to the hilt with sightseeing, dinners, walks, museum visits, and such that we need a vacation from our vacation by the time we get home!
Why has our culture become so dependent on the need to feel overwhelmingly busy? Why have so many people developed “planner envy?” We all know that our culture is one that rose from nothing. Our families are full of immigrants who came here for better lives. Our great grandparents taught their children who taught their children and so on that in order to be successful, one had to work incredibly hard. Hard work showed in the amount of success a person achieved. With the advent of technological “toys” that help us manage our time wisely, we allowed ourselves the free time to enjoy our families, go fishing, or simply read a book.
However, that is not how our culture has treated its free time. The Busy Bee Syndrome is still present. We are so used to running around that we don’t know what to do with free time…so we’ve added more items to our to-do lists. We learned the mentality of the Busy Bee, and we’ve kept that mentality. Look what this has done to our country. I see students every day who don’t know how to relax and be kids because they are too busy doing sports and cheer and studying and working. Fast food chains are popping up like crazy because people no longer have time to cook. We are one of the fattest nations in the world because we don’t give ourselves time to go to the gym.
What do we do about this? The first thing we need to do is learn to say “no.” It’s a magical word that gives us power that we don’t think we have. It also gives us time to say yes to things that really matter. Everyone knows that you can’t help others until you learn to help yourself. In his best-selling novel <em>The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People,</em> Stephen R. Covey discusses his four dimensions of renewal: physical (exercise, nutrition, and stress management), spiritual (value clarification and commitment, and study and meditation), mental (reading, visualizing, planning, and writing), and social/emotional (service, empathy, synergy, and intrinsic security). In his physical dimension, Covey explains the importance of taking care of our bodies by exercising, eating right, and watching stress levels. The spiritual dimension focuses on our individual value systems. The mental dimension focuses on making sure we are educating our minds and keeping them sharp. The final dimension is the social/emotional dimension, which focuses on our everyday relationships with the people in our lives.
Do you see what he is saying? He is telling us that we can be effective and happy in our lives if we strive for balance. Instead, we load our lives with activities that prevent us from being our very best. Americans are overworked (some underpaid) and underappreciated. We should be working hard to play hard. However, many of us are just working hard, making us too tired to play at all. Sadly, many of us don’t even know how to truly play. The imagination of our childhood has become stagnant or, in some cases, nonexistent.
It is important to step back and look at what really makes us happy. Do the extra cell phones, cars, shoes, DVDs, and computers really make us happy? Sure, we know that we need some of these things in this day and age, but are we working so hard to have the “comforts” that we’ve forgotten what really makes us comfortable?
Here is my advice. Find one hour each week to turn off the television, the computer, and the cell phone. Do something that allows your mind and body to relax in your own way. Take a warm bath. Play a board game with your children. Go for a walk or run. While you are doing this, clear your mind of the have-to-do-now thoughts. Give yourself one hour just to enjoy what you are doing. You will love how you feel and how much more focused you will be when you are done.