I was poking around on Pinterest lately because I needed a break from social networking sites and I saw this picture. I know it’s not terribly profound, but the thoughts that ensued caused me to pause. It’s undeniable in the United States we glorify busyness. If one doesn’t appear to be actively engaged in something people assume the individual is lazy, slothful, or uncaring of their work. Meanwhile the person who is always rushing about and on their feet is presumed to be skillful, devoted, and professional. It’s the sad remnants of the Protestant work ethic taken to a very extreme. However, I’m not satisfied with that conclusion. Why does the United States culture glorify busyness? How did we interpret “busyness” to mean “hard worker”?
I think that with the extremist notion of the Protestant work ethic we’ve misconstrued busyness as industrious. We forgo the connotation of the two words and look solely at the denotation. We’ve learned to observe the shallow means of something done rather than something habitually done. Part of the observation comes from how our culture’s developed. We’ve developed into a culture that demands instant gratification. I’m not sure if there is a steadfast solution to changing this mindset on a large scale, but I do know it can be changed on a personal scale.
The drawback of instant gratification isn’t just a decline in quality of things, but also an appreciation for things, from my experience. If one expects everything to happen on the double there’s no appreciation for how it happened. A great example of this is small children with treats. A small child doesn’t care how the treat was made, who made it, what costs and efforts occur; the child wants the treat and that’s all. However, when the small child is made aware of how to attain the treat—usually when they’re old enough to understand—then there are grounds for appreciation. Sometimes this means teaching the child to make the treats, having them pay for the treats, and so forth. When there’s awareness of the effort it takes to acquire something, there’s more appreciation for it than without the awareness.
It is with awareness where I draw the line between busyness and sedulity. When one is sedulous the person is more thorough, more aware, more thoughtful of their work. They work hard not for the sake of producing something, but to produce something meaningful. A sedulous person understands hard work and appreciates others’ hard work. A sedulous person aims to do their best. It’s not to say one can’t be busy and sedulous, mindful, or that that busyness must equate to thoughtlessness and apathy. I’ve witnessed people who are busy and sedulous as often as the opposite. It takes awareness to discern when one is doing what.
In our self-awareness we can discover our limitations and take action. A great example of this is why my blog became relatively inactive. I managed to pile several projects on my plate with what seemingly yielded little results. I also felt very discouraged with the Neo-Pagan and other communities. I recognized my burn-out when I realized I was just writing things for the sake of posting. I wasn’t working purposefully. I was burnt out.
I spent a bit of time meditating over how to handle my burn out. I finally decided to back away from all my projects and affairs save one project and what was essential to conduct business. I threw a lot of energy and planning into that project. I set up the social network accounts, set up graphics after a few failed attempts to find the appropriate artists and back-up planning, focused on more affirming and inspiring messages to keep my stamina, and set up the blog for the project as it neared completion time.
Focusing on what little I did resulted in more mindfulness of my present tasks and sense of productivity. At first it felt as if I’d done little to nothing, but as I neared my deadline I saw everything come together. It was then I realized how productive I had been and how fruitful my efforts had become. The experience taught me that sometimes I needed to shift to one focus. That is how I found my sense of sedulity. I decided to write down my process so I could return to this sense if I lost it again. Here is what I did:
–Plan out a specific project. Take a project and list the main goal and its deadline if possible. Then list the steps needed to attain that goal. List every goal in its fullest detail. This includes how much time it will take to complete, the resources needed, any possible people / places /things that will contribute to that vision. Don’t leave out anything, even if it seems minute; this can be edited after you examine it.
–Look at possible “down time” in each step. Even though this time will factor into the project it will serve in sorting out the time schedule. Where there’s nothing going on during one stage of the project it may be the opportunity to work on a different part of the stage. It also provides a rest period as needed.
–Reward yourself for completing a stage. It doesn’t have to be a huge reward like a night on the town (save big rewards like that for when the entire project’s completed), but you should reward yourself as an incentive to keep going and as a way to relax.
–Remove distractions. For many, myself included, it means not spending time on social networking sites. In fact I used certain sites as a reward for meeting certain goals.
–Create an inspiring and motivating environment. Look at where the task is performed. Is there anything to keep you going? If you remove any distractions does it feel possible to tackle the task? Sometimes a progress chart of sorts will motivate, sometimes one of those cheesy motivational posters help folks, or even the focus on the reward for yourself will work.
-Celebrate the completion of a goal. When the goal is finally completed, give yourself a treat. If you treated yourself for completing certain tasks along the way make sure the treat at the end is larger.
I found that with a method to keep on task I wasn’t just busying myself. With a method to reaching a goal and breaking it up into tasks I was more aware of what I was doing. I was in more control of my mind and found more of my equilibrium.