The Rockwood Files: Are you addicted to being busy?

rockwoodfiles2-205x300By Gwen Rockwood, newspaper columnist and mama of 3

I’ve always been a sucker for great quotes, and I usually find them when I’m surfing around on Pinterest – a website where people “pin” or keep photos, articles and other interesting tidbits they find online. One of the best things I’ve ever found on Pinterest was this quote: “Stop the glorification of busy.”

Those five little words reached right off the computer screen and pinned the word “hypocrite” right across my chest. Because I talk a good game about how much I like and need “down time” free of appointments and expectations. Sometimes I write about the need to slow down and enjoy the kids and stop rushing around all the time. But the ugly truth is that – like so many people (and you know who you are) – I’m a busy junkie.

No matter how much I get done during a day or how many things I cross off my “to do” list, it’s never enough. I never say, “Wow. I’ve done a lot today so I’ll just relax now and do nothing for a while.” Because in our society, productivity is a virtue. Doing nothing feels like a waste or a sin.

Any time I get close to finishing a “to do” list, I think of at least three or four more things that should be added to it. The chores, errands and projects are like gremlins that multiply when I’m not looking. I whine and complain about the length of that endless “to do” list, but yet I never let it get crossed out of existence. I keep feeding it more “must do” projects and it, in turn, keeps running me ragged.

So perhaps the real gremlin is me. Maybe on some level, I like being too busy. Mothers in particular have turned busyness into an art form. Sometimes we use our crazy schedules to reassure ourselves and to prove to others that we’re important and needed and not the least bit lazy.

Sometimes we even try to “keep up with the Joneses” by making sure we’re as busy or busier than they are – more work, more travel, more school events, more emails, more Facebook updates, more accomplishments, more sports, more home improvements. “More, more, more” has become an American mantra, and it seems to be leaving us with less of what really matters.

Even new technology designed to make us more efficient often contributes to this barrage of busy. I’ve got more productivity apps on my iPhone than I have time in the day to use. Ridiculous, I know. But show me an app or a gadget designed to make me less busy and I’ll download it faster than you can say “multitask.”

But we can’t just chuck it all and spend all our time doing nothing, nor should we. There’s a difference between being anti-busy and being anti-work. Work is good and necessary and meets the basic need we have as humans to create. Good work can even be energizing and exhilarating. Busyness is different. It’s the annoying, goody-two-shoes cousin of work who needs to feel and look important even when nothing important is actually getting done.

It’s a difficult line to walk – the one between valuable work and busyness. But I hope I figure out how to walk it. From now on, when people ask in casual conversation how I’ve been, I’m going to stop saying “Busy!” because it glorifies and perpetuates the myth that busyness is what we should all aspire to. Busy is for hamsters in running wheels. Life should be so much better than that.

gwen rockwoodGwen Rockwood is a mom to three great kids, wife to one cool guy, a newspaper columnist and co-owner of To read previously published installments of The Rockwood Files, click here. To check out Gwen’s new book, “Reporting Live from the Laundry Pile: The Rockwood Files Collection,” click HERE.

Author Photo credit: Lisa Mac Photography



  1. “Busy” seems to be my canned answer, and you’re right, it’s a terrible description of how I really am. In truth, aren’t we all some sort of busy.

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