We live in a culture where “Being Busy” is glorified. But, it’s not really being… it’s doing and doing more. Doing more is perceived as being productive and worthy. A badge of honor – I’m important, so of course I’m busy! Try telling someone you’re Not Busy and watch his or her reaction. Obviously something is wrong with you. Are you sick? Lazy? Isn’t laziness a Cardinal Sin? (It’s sloth – same thing.) Aren’t you just a pariah/leach on society?
Busy is normal. It’s what’s expected. If I’m not busy, I am definitely “not enough”.
But in retirement, I’m trying to discard the “busy” mentality for being delightfully “un-busy”. I recently found a whole counter-culture, complete with bloggers, of Un-Busy and Slow Living. Arising from the minimalist lifestyle arena, these lifestyle philosophies have some interesting elements for my retirement lifestyle.
First to note: Un-Busy and Slow-Living are philosophies, movements, or lifestyles. That said, there are many different realistic approaches (simple living, minimalism, off the-grid) among different individuals claiming to be living these philosophies.
One of the aha’s for me in exploring these movements was:
A Busy Life is not necessarily a Full Life!
When I was working I certainly had a busy life. I felt it challenging to find time for an exercise program, developing a hobby, or even reading for enjoyment. There were mind-numbing meetings, email at all hours awaiting immediate response, endless time spent creating networks for influencing, re-working reports/presentations to “perfection” with still another round of feedback, and the expectation to “put in the hours” as a symbol of productivity in a knowledge-based work culture. I worked in an organization where there was little to no priority setting and saying “no” to any work was not an option if you wanted to maintain a good rating (and continued employment in a constantly downsizing organization). I was a high-sense-of-responsibility, fear-of-failure, workaholic trying to reach perfection in my work – of course I felt busy! But I was often dissatisfied and unhappy with life.
In recent years, I can feel time-crunched because of time wasting behaviors like endless social media engagement (the abundance of blogs, podcasts, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, Internet surfing, must-see TV shows, and movies), the fear of missing out (FOMO) and worrying about societal expectations creating endless to-do lists, and shifting the need for perfection in other aspects of life besides work.
But was I really busy then, and am I really busy now? Am I working multiple jobs just to pay the monthly bills while raising children and managing a household, maybe with aging parents caregiving tossed in, too? It’s more likely I am not making choices on the infinite possibilities and endless to-do lists, not making personal priority calls, and not managing my time-wasting behaviors!
There is a HUGE difference between being UN-BUSY and being IDLE.
As I explored the worlds of the Un-Busy and Slow-Living Movements, there was a backlash about being idle. Idleness is still considered “bad”. Idleness is nothing to do, low engagement in any activity, and can lead to anxiety, boredom and depression. In fact, to avoid idleness, many people will engage in destructive behaviors. And, there is still a biological need for physical activity; physical movement (versus a sedentary lifestyle) is necessary for health. And yes, to be happy and fulfilled, human’s still need a feeling of “purpose” – doing things that match your values and vision in life.
I created this framework to capture the concept of Idleness in relationship to Activity:
For me, Un-Busy is Choice-ful, Value-based Activity – choosing a blend of Active and Passive Leisure activities that are right for me. Finding my own personal blend of: creative expression, physical activity, intellectual stimulation, social interaction, solitary relaxation, spectator appreciation, and travel experiences!
Un-Busy and Slow-Living are really mindsets of time management! It is a choice to focus on fewer, critical, value-based activities; to allow time to just be; to savor the things you do, practicing mindfulness; to get rid of excess and non-essential things; to allow things to be “good enough”; and to say “no” to commitments that don’t fit into personal priorities (even if they are societal expectations). It’s moving from feeling time-starved and over-booked to feeling time-affluent.
Retirement is another time of time-affluence. Retirement is often called the time that “I can do what I want, when I want, with whom I want”. Some people like more planned, structured days, others like them to be more spontaneous. Everyone has a different balance desired between time doing and time being. But for many, retirement is the perfect time to be Un-Busy!
For me, retirement is having time to play tourist in our town, to go for long walks, to visit with neighbors, to watch a sunset, or have a 2-hour lunch. I can spend a whole hot summer afternoon on the porch reading and responding to blogs. I can spend time with my hubby shopping at our favorite foodie stores on un-crowded, mid-week days. I can spend more time taking care of me – daily movement (most days), doing all my routine health checks, taking care of my mental and emotional health, and getting plenty of sleep.
In retirement, you have the time to make choices and pursue activities like personal growth, personal connections, and a higher level of wellbeing. The fit with the Un-busy Philosophy is great!
How can you be Un-Busy in retirement?
- Choose an un-busy mind-set. Do not over schedule yourself, so there is no pressure to be somewhere every hour of the day. Balance doing and being.
- Intentionally choose and pursue activities that align to your personal values. Make priority calls and say no to things that are not aligned to your personal values and vision. [Be prepared to defend your choices against societal or cultural implicit and explicit expectations!]
- Appreciate the quiet times you fit into your daily life. Invest in solitude – yoga, meditation, journaling, artist dates.
- Connect with nature and notice the sounds, smells, sights, and textures. Appreciate the moment versus capturing it to post online!
- Appreciate what you are doing when you are doing it and with whom you are doing it. Practice gratitude.
- Practice healthy living. Take care of your body, mind and spirit.
- Consider aspects of modern minimalism, simplicity and/or de-cluttering to create an environment/space that’s filled with what you love and value, what brings you joy. Get rid of the rest.
What’s your reaction to this Un-busy Life Philosophy for retirement?