“Too Busy” and the Sufficiency of Time

Well, that pig flu (or something like it) had the last laugh on me. Ironically, I am recovering from a fever, cough, sore throat, stuffy nose, lethargy and general inability to do anything but move from bed to couch and back to bed.

Even moreso than my previous post on the swine flu, it is ironic because I have felt in recent weeks that I “can’t” take a day off, that I simply “don’t have time” to do everything I “need to do,” between my father’s surgeries, my travel, multiple businesses and projects that all feel urgent for one reason or another.


Predictably, it is at times exactly such as this that my body chooses to teach me a simple lesson (again). Welcome onto the stage of my life: The Crud. (Imagine dramatic Beethoven’s 5th Symphony opening line here.)

In marches this temporary illness, and all of the sudden… I discover I actually can clear a day or two – just for me! I can ignore emails and phone, take a nap, watch an old movie (in sections, because all at once is too tiring), and spend a couple of unhurried days with everything and everyone rescheduled to my convenience so that I can do…

Nothing.  Absolutely nothing.

Sometimes I go into denial about illness, ignore the warning signs an try to do “too much” in spite of it, but not this time. I am going with the flow, loving what is, embracing the moment.

Apparently, my yard didn’t really “need” to be mowed. I didn’t “have” to mix my cd project this weekend. The “crucial” work project waiting for me can wait a few more days. I even unplugged my phone last Friday, it wasn’t “necessary” for me to answer it or even check the messages.

In a strange way, I think I almost enjoyed this flu. (Mind you, I didn’t have the stomach flu, I would have to be really enlightened or a few beans shy of a mocha to enjoy that.) The sickness allowed me to take a break, dissect and examine one of the prevailing stories of my current life: “I’m too busy.”

“Too busy” is really just a scarcity conversation around time, combined with a failure to own the choices made with my time and activities and the false assumption that I “must” DO all the things that my mind and internal expectations say I “should” do. “Too busy” a myth that I cycle in and out of, in spite of my intentions to move beyond it. Part habit and part belief system, perhaps this encounter with the crud will cure me. (This is my second this year, and it is unusual for me to be sick at all.)

As author and fundraiser Lynne Twist points out in The Soul of Money (an excellent examination of scarcity vs “sufficiency”), “there’s not enough” is one of the toxic myths of scarcity.

…for many of us, the first waking thought of the day is “I didn’t get enough sleep.”  The next one is “I don’t have enough time.”  Whether true or not, that thought of not enough occurs to us automatically before we even think to question or examine it.  We spend most of the hours and the days of our lives hearing, explaining, complaining, or worrying about what we don’t have enough of…. 

We don’t have enough exercise.  We don’t have enough work.  We don’t have enough weekends.  Of course we don’t have enough money – ever.  Before we even sit up in bed, before our feet touch the floor, we’re already inadequate, already behind, already losing, already lacking something….

We live with scarcity as an underlying assumption.

Twist goes on to argue the case for sufficiency, that in reality, we are enough.  We have enough.  Using our inner as well as our outer resources and working together, we discover the surprising truth that there is enough for everyone.

But first, we’ve got to question the myth of scarcity.  We’ve got to unplug from the mindset that our marketing-driven consumer culture promotes as matter-of-fact: that we’re lacking in some way (and if only we “try this”, “buy that,” and “consume more” can we be saved from our own inadequacy).

In my coaching practice, I’m always asking others to look at the “gift” their particular challenge has brought them, and what lesson it has for them. Taking my own medicine, I’ve had a chance to ponder the “upsides” of being sick. 

I’ve enjoyed eating less, and eating lighter food. I’ve been saying I “should” simplify my diet and detox for a bit, and here I am with lots of juice and chicken soup, doing just that. In the last week I’ve also delegated more, read more, and I’ve put my “shoulds” on hold. (Maybe I’ll leave them there.)

Right now, my body has a message to convey, and I am all ears.

Slow down. Take care of yourself. East right. Take time to rest and relax. Stay connected with what’s going on inside, not consuming yourself with activity. Question what really needs to be done, and by who.

I love what Brian Tracy (and others) have said about “time management” – that there is “no such thing,” because we cannot manage time, only activities. No matter how much or how little anyone “accompishes” in a day, we all get the same 24 hour allotment. While some people wait in boredom for the minutes to pass, others such as I would gladly apply for a world with 25, 26, or 27 hour days.

Tracy goes onto explain that we can only do one of four things with our activities:
1. Do more of something.
2. Do less of something.
3. Start doing something you weren’t previously doing.
4. Stop doing something you were previously doing.

Today, I’ll

sleep more

talk less

start a contemplation on the sufficiency of time to do the things I am committed to doing,

and stop worrying about “getting it all done.”

6 thoughts on ““Too Busy” and the Sufficiency of Time

  1. Cindy Ross


    Thanks so much for this post. I recently had a tooth extracted…had no idea on the healing time, and as a scuba instructor, couldn’t return to the water. I’m now in the process of making up the dives I missed during my two week reprieve. Perhaps we should all hope for great health during the flu season, and for the one’s who avoid “pig flu” take 3 – 4 days…unplug the phone…watch old movies in pieces…and enjoy NOT doing for a moment or two. Why should we only reward ourselves with time off when we’re forced by sickness?

    Thanks again…


  2. Kate Phillips Post author

    Cindy, you’re right on – why do we wait to reward ourselves with time off when “forced” by sickness? Even now that I am feeling better, I am still cancelling things from my calendar and really enjoying the “space.” I have a feeling I’d never get sick if I kept this pace all the time (and I rarely get sick anyway), but it certainly serves as an effective reminder when I get too busy!

  3. Carolina

    Thank you for inviting me to read your blog; this is quite interesting – for me what works is to have a master list, prioritize and eventually drop one thing for a later time or eventually postpone one task to pick up another one!
    I learned a while ago, that you really have to make the time, don’t always excuse yourself that you don’t “have time”


  4. Kate Phillips Post author

    Yes, Lynne and others have launched a great movement! Thanks for the link, Cyndi, definitely worth exploring and listening to.