Commentary

Pandemic Opens My Eyes To New Definition Of 'Busy'

I like being busy. I’ve always tried to keep myself busy at work, and thought I knew what that looked like and what it meant. But, like so many other things, COVID-19 has turned my notion of “busy” on its head. 

Being busy has always made me feel as if I’m contributing and that I matter.  When I worked in an office surrounded by people, I knew what being busy looked like. It looked like someone immersed in a spreadsheet. It looked like someone who was anxious. It looked like people sitting in meetings or huddled together talking furiously and seriously.

There was something gratifying about other people seeing me look busy.  But just because I thought I knew how it looked and felt didn’t make it productive. Working from home has forced me to rethink what it means to be busy, what busy feels like and how to maintain productivity while preserving some semblance of routine and well-being. 

Those frequent and serious personal interactions I’ve grown accustomed to don’t necessarily translate to WFH. I’ve found it’s hard to do tons of video calls. On one hand, I like them because I get to see everyone and feel closer and more connected to people. But I also find them emotionally draining and exhausting. When I would walk around the office to talk to people, it wasn't draining in the same way, but usually just the opposite. It was energizing.

I’ve found I can show up for video calls when I balance them with breaks. But tking breaks makes me feel guilty.  If I have time for breaks, I’m tempted to think that I must not be very important or as valuable as someone who  has less time.

While this line of thinking is clearly silly and counterproductive, I’ve had to rethink seriously what it means to be busy or productive WFH.

I needed a new talk track in my head,

I’m gradually evolving how I define busyness and what it says about my productivity. I’ve realized WFH demands breaks. Without them, I couldn’t be productive; therefore, taking breaks is part of being productive.

So when I take 30 minutes out of my day for a Peloton ride or a yoga class, it’s ultimately going to allow me to work better. When I take my dog for a walk in the middle of the day, I clear my head and can think more clearly.

I would never have the opportunity to do these things if I was working in the office, worried about adhering to the traditional busy standard of productivity. But these things have become a necessity in the WFH environment. 

Now in week eight of WFH, I understand that breaks are a part of working and working makes those breaks necessary. I’ve learned to stop judging myself for taking a yoga class and instead focus on the output. Like everything in a pandemic, the olds rules simply don’t apply.

Now is really the time to go easy on ourselves, take breaks, resist judgement and remember it’s the output that matters. How we get there is going to look different. 

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