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The Minimalists
The Minimalists are Emmy-nominated Netflix stars and New York Times–bestselling authors Joshua Fields Millburn and Ryan Nicodemus. Alongside their podcast cohost, T.K. Coleman, this simple-living trio helps millions of people eliminate clutter and live meaningfully with less. Learn More.

Unbusy

Busy is the filthiest four-letter word.
Yet it is treated as a badge of honor,
a status symbol,
not unlike the logo
on a designer handbag
or the branding on a luxury car.

Branding: how apropos.
You are a body
branded with busyness—
a busybody.

(It’s not just you; everybody
is infected with the Busy Virus.)

What have you been up to lately?
Oh, I’ve just been so busy.

When you say you’re busy,
what are you really saying?
My life is out of control!

Each time you say yes to an unwanted task,
you unthinkingly say no to yourself
because everyone else’s urgency
is now your emergency.

Emails, texts, direct messages.
Phone calls, meetings, conferences.
Drive time, cocktails, dinner parties.

Multitasking your way to the horizon.
Busy, busy, busy.
Go, go, go.
Yes, yes, yes…

Keep your fecund hands stirring,
your breathless mind roving,
until you’ve run out of time.

There are exactly 168 hours in a week.
And you are attempting to fill every one of them
with more.

Episodic television, streaming services, and social media.
Breaking news, political debates, and untold distractions.
Suddenly, there’s no time for life’s timeless pleasures.

Drive-thru coffees and meals on the go.
The to-go life is now your go-to.
Enjoyment has been replaced by absentminded consumption.

If you had a few more hours each day,
you swear you’d make time
for the gym,
for your health,
for your family,
for that untouched passion project.

You’ll get to those things “someday,” right?
Sure.
As soon as you have more time.

But today you’re busy;
alldayeveryday you’re busy.

At least all these fevered assiduities make you feel
useful, necessary, significant—yeah?
Maybe.
But what are you busy about?

You’ve learned how to get things done,
so you keep on doing,
adding more to your plate,
saying yes to every “opportunity,”
cluttering your itinerary
with half-hearted promises.

What are you actually accomplishing?
What does it mean?
Does it matter?
And what are you hiding?

When you do the calculus,
does it add up to a worthwhile life?

Have you ever stopped to ask:
After all this busyness,
what is my endpoint, my arrival?

What will happen when you get there?

You’re unhappy now, but maybe
all this effort will lead to a point of perpetual bliss.

Or…

Perhaps you’ll look for the next horizon
when today is in the rearview?

Human beings used to witness
25,000 sunrises during their lifetime.
Have you seen 25 in the last year?
Or were you too busy?

Too busy to witness the wonder.
Too busy to appreciate the moment.
Too busy to realize just how busy you are.

The path out of this chaos
has been covered with more
more events, more appointments,
more “functions” that lead to circadian dysfunction.

More content, less contentment.

Try as you might, you cannot add composure to disorder.
Equilibrium is not on the other side of your current assignments.
It is already there—buried beneath the busywork.

You want out, but
the exit is blocked
by a barricade of ceaseless commitments.

What a mess.

The only escape route
is a quiet emergency exit
with a door that is labeled
“unbusy.”

What would happen if you…
canceled half your engagements next week?
deleted half the duties on your to-do list?
redefined your self-worth by the spaciousness of your days?

Empty space is the secret weapon of the unbusy.
You can use that space to mercilessly examine
and eliminate
the everyday undertakings
that obstruct your serenity.

The advice you’ve been force-fed by society
is wrong.
Technology has not given you more time.
Advanced habits have not led to meaningful work.
Obligations and responsibilities are not axiomatically virtuous.

It has all been an entertaining lie,
a lie told to make you busy,
busy but not fulfilled,
occupied but not devoted to anything significant.

Calendar clutter is a modern malady
that amplifies distress and anguish.

You don’t need more strategies
to manage your time,
to ease the painful symptoms of busyness.

If your doctor said you have cancer,
you wouldn’t ask her how to “manage” it;
you would demand a cure that eliminates it.

What if you treated busyness with the same seriousness?
You don’t need another “pro tip” to use as analgesic;
you need a remedy that permanently heals your relationship with busyness.

To heal, you can’t do anything;
you can only stop doing
the things
that opened the busyness wound in the first place.
In this context, doing less is the only thing worth doing.