I have been thinking about this lately, because as I have become less busy, I have become protective of my free time, not because I require vast tracts of empty space on my calendar for sloth, but because I have come to value whitespace in my daily schedule.

It might be a modern affliction, or it might be a manifestation of the human condition but either way, we Americans like to be busy. We like to have too much to do by half, then we like to double that. We like to talk about how busy we are – too busy to think, too busy to stop and breathe, too busy to pursue our dreams because we’re busy pursuing someone else’s vision of what we should be doing.

I know I am very fortunate to be able to structure my time as I choose, to be able to create mental whitespace, give my mind a rest and take some time for things that make life fun. I realize that for some, that’s a luxury that isn’t possible because of finances. This isn’t directed at people who are working nonstop because they need to support themselves and/or their families and can’t do it in fewer than 15 hours a day.

Rather, this is an invitation to look at where your time goes, and ask yourself – are you productive, or are you just busy?

I came from a corporate culture that valued a frantic pace and assumed that absent a frantic pace, nothing was getting done. I have always preferred to judge productivity by results. If you have a clear idea what results you want to produce, and you’re producing those results, then you are productive, whether you look like a whirling dervish or not.

These days, since I’m not bound to someone else’s assessment of what “productive” looks like, I’m free to proceed at the pace that is effective for me. Since I have achieved the holy grail of producing a full-length (readable) fiction manuscript, and have maintained a great GPA in my field of study, I think we can all agree, I am productive. I’m productive in the service of MY dreams and goals, rather than working towards some arbitrary notion of busyness. And, since I’m very clear with myself what my goals are, I can readily say no to activities that don’t align with them.

This leaves room for plenty of breaks – mountain bike rides, get-togethers with friends, recreational reading, obsessive watching of “Air Crash Investigation.” Enjoying your one life is also a worthy goal.

I’m not busy, but I’m productive. How about you?

Posted by lesherjennifer


  1. Amen, sister! You’re my hero! 🙂



  2. Nancy Lesher Smith August 22, 2013 at 1:59 pm

    Until the invention of artificial light and the industrial revolution, the planet’s diurnal rhythms protected us from such overly striving busy-ness. Time is life and life is time and there’s nothing “productive” about using it up with enervating activity. As always, love your writing!



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