Working a lot, but rarely being busy

I realised a couple of days ago that I’ve been sucked in to the work I’m doing, not giving other parts of myself the time I need to. It’s not uncommon for me, and it’s even desirable on some levels.

What I want to do here is to shine some light on that behaviour, giving words to the thoughts I have regarding work, working a lot, taking care of myself and so on. Hopefully it resonates with someone.

I think the reasons to why I’m working as much as I do are a couple. First off, I love the feeling of being tired from hard work. I also love the feeling of having accomplished something I didn’t really think was possible. I’ve built my life around work, doing things I love, and therefore I love what I do, most days.

I also love the feeling of being a little bit better than everybody else, on a very primal level. One of the things I miss the most from pre-covid is to go to the university library in the afternoon. I’d go there around 3–4 pm, when most people start leaving. There were always a couple staying until they closed at 8, and I could easily keep going just to stay longer, or on the feeling that what I was doing there was more important.

I’ve loved the feeling of friends, family and strangers acknowledging how much I work, and how busy I am. Not as much anymore, as I focus less on being busy and more on doing the work now. Busy-ness is something I’ll get back to.

I love being able to neglect going to a party because I’m working. I love being able to say that I have to prioritise work over things. Mostly because there’s some prestige in it, and a little bit of awe in people when I say it.

I can’t really remember when I started realising that I love working. I’ve always been busy, playing soccer, running, being part of student organisations and having extra jobs since I was 13. I think there was some encouragement from home in it all but there was also an element of having a lot more energy than others.

I realised quite early on in school that regardless of how much time and effort I put in, I got the higher grades. Even if both time and effort was close to zero. And I know I realised that I got results elsewhere in life from doing a little more. Running an extra kilometer got me ahead. And I had the energy to do it.

I’ve always been high energy, and needed a place or two to get it out. And I still think that’s the case. I wouldn’t be satisfied with having a job at all, because I have too much energy.

When going through upper secondary school, I realised the energy thing again. I started pouring my energy in to the school board, I started exercising in new ways other than running and playing soccer, and I found NGOs to join.

I was done with school quite a long time before it had actually ended. I was ready to go out in to the world and give it all of my energy and passion, and just couldn’t. I made the best of it, and I’ve done another 3 years in University after that.

A year ago I started working with an entrepreneur who operates in personal finance and economics. I’ve never seen anyone so dedicated to his work, nor anyone with as much energy as he has. He’s working about 60–100 hours a week, and gives it his all at all times.

It’s been really nice to meet someone with the same kind of lifestyle and thought process around work as myself. It’s been quite comforting actually, because there’s no prestige in it. We both do it because we love doing it, and there are few things we’d rather do.

A couple of weeks ago, he said something remarkable that stuck with me:

“I know very few people like myself, like one of my friends and like, well, you to my knowledge. People who have work being their lifestyle.”

There are two things in that statement for me. First of all, it’s a huge compliment to me to be acknowledged as one of the tribe, finally having found my tribe. Second of all, work being my lifestyle is the best description I’ve yet to come by.

It’s hard to describe, but there are a couple of guidelines to what it means to me.

— Work isn’t everything, but it’s most certainly one of the most fun and rewarding things I can do with my time.

— Work comes second to family, but that’s it.

— I doesn’t matter what day of the week it is, nor what time it is. I’ll be able to work.

Again, I feel like I’ve found a part of a tribe that I haven’t really had before. I’ve found someone else who is thinking the same way as I am in regards to work, and doing so quite successfully.

I want to talk a bit about busyness since it’s been a big part of my life. I’ve identified as someone being busy. I’ve been busier than most, and taken great pride in that.

The thing about being busy is that no one can question it. You can look as busy as you want, but be doing nothing. And that’s not a very pleasant place to be in.

The far more desirable, for me, is to always be doing but rarely look busy. It gives me a lot more opportunity and makes me approachable by others.

There’s a contest going on a lot of the time, of who’s busier. We compare and try to outdo each other in being more busy than each other, and talk about how busy we are.

For one, I don’t think it’s quite healthy. Being busy, in my experience, brings on some level of stress. Being more stressed than one another isn’t really desirable as it can be quite painful and most certainly will tear you down over time.

Secondly, is the point I made earlier. Busyness isn’t the same thing as doing. It’s just being busy. You can be busy by thinking about the things you’re busy with.

If we’d shift the conversation to doing, or even better, how well we know ourselves, I think we’d be a lot healthier.

That’s the last point I want to make with all of this. Know yourself. And if you don’t already, get to know yourself.

All of the things I’ve written about above are true for me. Based off my DNA and experience. It doesn’t go for everyone. Not all of us are freelancers or entrepreneurs, just as not all of us are fit for a 9to5.

Knowing myself has been my biggest advantage in all of this, because I’ve realised early on what gets me going and what doesn’t. I’ve come to realise that work is going to be a big part of my life, and that I enjoy life being that way.

Getting to know yourself, trying things out, mixing and testing until you find the perfect balance is highly underrated. Really.

There’s no point in having a full time job if you’ve only got energy for a half time, and can live with the money you make of it.

And then having empathy with people. I’ve been frustrated with people not seizing opportunities that lay before them, just to realise that they don’t want what I want. And that’s OK.

Get to know yourself, and then stop being busy. It’s a lot more pleasant.

Do stuff.