As a self-described “chronic over-preparer,” most of my life is scheduled and color-coded in 30-minute increments. I don’t say that to be an adorably cliché vision of the obsessive-compulsive mind. And if I don’t plan nearly everything explicitly, it’s hard for me to feel like I’m giving my obligations the attention they deserve.
Moreover, the industry I have selected (and likely not by coincidence) tends to glamorize a busy lifestyle. Within the small circle of APR overachievers in the College of Communication & Information Sciences, people wear overcommitment like a badge of honor—I am no exception. I remember going into the Capstone Agency directors’ office as a sophomore and observing the older students rushing around, checking email, pulling all-nighters and crafting communication plans. Everyone seemed so… important. I remember thinking, Wow, these people are doing stuff! Big things are happening here! I was so enamored with the optics of frenzied success.
Now that I can actually relate to their urge to rush around completing tasks, answering emails and feeling generally flustered by a relatively busy schedule for a college student, I realize it’s a little bit of a trap.
I should make a disclaimer here that I realize my schedule is nothing like that of an actual working adult—I don’t have to be in an office from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. every day. I don’t have to be dressed in business professional wear; at least, not all of the time. But for a college kid, I feel I’m spread pretty thin.
All that to say, it struck me two weeks ago as I was rushing from a “personal branding” presentation for the C&IS ambassadors to a separate presentation for UA’s Strategic Communication team that I kept thinking things like, “Once this is over, I’ll be so happy,” or “I’ll be able to relax as soon as this is over.”
The little voice in my head snapped back: Girl, your life is about to be hectic for the next 40 years. You better buckle up and start loving the feeling of rushing from a presentation to a meeting and back again.
I’ve had the honor and good fortune to work alongside other leaders at UA who embody nothing but tact, grace and good humor in their leadership styles. It’s hard not to be impressed by someone who seems to be running an organization without being stressed or otherwise adversely affected by his or her prominent role.
One such individual is my friend Ben. Ben is unflappable in his positivity. You know those people who seem to balance the weight of the world on their shoulders effortlessly? That’s Ben. He’s far more overcommitted than just about anybody I know, but I’ve never seen him falter. I don’t think I’ve ever heard him utter the phrase, “Man, I’m so busy.” And he’s loved for it. (He also happens to constantly be toting around a venti black coffee—again, likely not a coincidence.)
Working to abolish the word “busy” from your vocabulary (both internal and verbal) is more powerful than it may seem. Lately, I’ve tried devoting 100% of my attention to whatever I’m doing in that moment. If that’s a meeting, I’m collaborating whole-heartedly. If it’s an email, I’m focusing on each word. If it’s class, I’m taking notes diligently. (Again, this is a new thing—standby to find out whether it’s sustainable.)
It’s definitely tempting to check email on my phone under the table mid-meeting and work on another assignment at the same time. I won’t dispute that. But there’s something to be said for unadulterated focus. Somehow, it sucks the “busy” out of each task and makes each obligation more enjoyable.
I hope you feel empowered to chase your passion and do something great with every day. I love going to sleep at night excited for the next day. It makes me feel like I’m on the right path.
If you focus on that energy—that passion and drive—the "busy" can be exciting. It's all about perspective, right?