“So much to get done by Christmas.”
“It’s the busiest time of our year, what with clients’ requests and all.”
These are the cicada-like noises of Australian workplaces this week. They are the soundtrack of our new Australian cult: the cult of being busy.
And like all cults, there’s some part of their theology that’s probably reasonable and some part that’s really whacky but fully accepted by its members.
Think of Scientology: normal people, success orientation, and a firm belief that the hinges of the clam evolved into the hinges of the human jaw.
In the case of Australian Busy Cult, it’s absolutely the case that the vast majority of jobs have expectations of performance and the associated deadlines for its delivery. But the notion that we all need to be working hard all the time to meet them is absolute bullshit.
The fact is that some of you are reading this at work right now. Some of you spent the better part of the day mindlessly flipping through Facebook. Some of you have actually very little of substance to do today or some other day.
Yet, we live in an era where the Australian Busy Cult’s norm is for us to at least put on the show of being fully occupied and of having a million pressing and important tasks. To test this, let me ask you: have you ever heard anyone in a workplace lift say something like “Actually, I’m really chilled right now, don’t have very much to do and that’s totally cool”?
Nah. Somehow, we’ve convinced ourselves that the whole enchilada depends on others being told how busy we are and, by correlation, how important we are to the enterprise.
The Australian Busy Cult also loves the technology that enables this. For example, it should be great news that Australians are officially receiving less emails. Too bad that all the messaging and collaboration platforms like WhatsApp have substituted this traffic by five-fold. (Do the quick audit right now of how many pointless conversation strings you’re in…)
If it was all just theatrics, no biggie. But what we say is what our thinking and our emotions ultimately become. Studies show how hard it is for many to conceive, how challenging it is for many to sleep, and how lonely many feel because they may not be spending any real quality time with real people “in real life” rather than the digital dimension. The Australian Busy Cult, like all cults, demands sacrifices.
Even when we’re not busy, our brains still seem to be. (Buddhists call this the Monkey Mind that we’re born with, and a key point of their practice is to get rid of it because it’s not necessary after about age four.)
That’s why it’s so interesting to watch Australians on this upcoming summer holiday. On the surface at least, the Australian Busy Cult tells us to “recharge our batteries for a big year coming up”.
Over Christmas and New Year, with the temperatures up and the beaches beckoning, we enforce a break. We command ourselves to slow down and take it easy – as if that was something that’s almost abnormal.
The phone must be switched off! Time must be spent with family and friends! There are newspapers and books to be read – not just work stuff! And, that stuff around the house that needs doing, it needs to get done!
Let’s not forget everything that needs preparing for Christmas and the need for ‘a plan’ for New Year’s Eve!
It seems the Australian Busy Cult just switches lanes and keeps rolling on rather than truly pulling over and looking at the scenic vista of our lives, relationships and daily occurrences.
So, if you are at work and reading this, or it’s in the middle of some task on some ‘to do’ list that you’re meant to be doing, I want you to do this instead.
I want you to escape the Australian Busy Cult. Here’s how.
Take a breath. And another.
Now repeat after me: F@ck it.
And now leave the office early.
To do: nothing. Exactly nothing at all.
Happy and exceedingly lazy holidays.