Are you busy?



“This disease of being “busy” (and let’s call it what it is, the dis-ease of being busy, when we are never at ease) is spiritually destructive to our health and wellbeing. It saps our ability to be fully present with those we love the most in our families, and keeps us from forming the kind of community that we all so desperately crave.” —Omid Safi (@ostadjaan)

This Facebook post shared by a good friend Dingdong Pena struck a familiar chord in my heart. I know many friends who are always busy. And they say, those who say “they are busy” are really not. And those who do not say anything are the busy ones.

Let’s start with personalities or officials we invite for conferences and fora. They come in 15 minutes before their turn to speak, they rehearse their mental notes, go up on stage and then disappear almost instantaneously after their part.

Do they actually know what the forum is all about? They are so busy their ghostwriters make their speeches. It is doing so much in so little time. And they think they cover a lot of ground. But they hardly even know what they went to, who spoke and what the forum or conference delved on.

Then we have the CEOs and presidents who grace occasions and give their five minutes of “welcome speeches” or “inspiring” remarks. Do they actually inspire the audience? I am sure they are as busy making their companies profitable they really could not care less about attending yet another meeting.

So, we have all fallen victim to gadgets and technology in the guise of improving our lives. But what really happens is we forget who is in front of us while we are dying to know what the “message alert” on our phone is all about.

I have a friend who looks at his Nokia mobile phone (circa year 2004) every other minute from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. (during trading hours). It has become a joke that if you wanted his full attention you would have to send him an SMS message or call his phone. And it is the most basic of phones, not even a “smart phone”. . . and yet it already consumes him. What more if he learned how to read his email on a gadget, check Facebook and Twitter and post on Instagram while conducting a meeting?

Then we have millenials who go to meetings with their laptops and gadgets, open them up while the meeting is going on, in the guise of taking notes. There is no way for you to know if they are on Facebook while you are discussing some important issue. They even have screens (the have apps or physical sticker screens) so your seatmate cannot see your phone while you have “privacy” in checking your social media updates.

Ay! The world claims being very busy but what have we accomplished. We are so busy so we can be successful but we fail greatly in “human communication.” That of being able to see reactions of people, that of listening to their insights intently, that of being there, “body and soul,” as we say. Sometimes, it is just the body we see. We do not even hear the soul, because they are out of it.

So, why do we have this disease called “busy?” With today’s technology, you must be checking two or three phones, two other gadgets and think you are doing what you should be doing to “keep busy” and look successful. But are we really living life the way we should?

The Universe has a way of freeing my time. I misplaced my third phone and have not had it for a week now. So I am down to two phones. My other device, a Blackberry, is on stand by when I cannot access Wi-Fi. But on a recent trip, I put it off and just lived with one iPhone. I tried and succeeded. One phone, one device.

It takes a conscious effort to “unbusy” ourselves. I find time to write in the morning and I find time to even listen to music, can you imagine? Listening to music for the sheer pleasure and not to fill the white noise while traveling or in-flight.

I actually listen to music on my iPad and put myself to sleep. Next, I try to read real books . . . even if it takes me weeks to finish one. I think there is a certain peacefulness one gets in reading paper and not on Kindle or anything electronic.

When people tell me “you are so busy, I see it on Facebook!” I want to tell them “being everywhere is not busy.” Busy is when you do not have time to smell the coffee, listen to music or read a book.

I can still do those mundane but important things. I am not busy. And when I attend a conference, I try to stay the whole time to absorb and learn, rather than just spewing out my thoughts as if the world cared to listen. Maybe the audience is busy.

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Chit Juan is the Founder and President of ECHOstore Sustainable Lifestyle located in Serendra , Podium,Centris, Davao City and Makati .She is the President of Women’s Business Council of the Philippines and the Philippine Coffee Board Inc. She often speaks to corporates, academe and entrepreneurs about her advocacies: Social Enterprise, Women Empowerment and Coffee. You can reach her at or find her on Twitter@Chitjuan,Instagram: CHITJUAN or Linked In: Pacita Juan.


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1 Comment

  1. Henry David Thoreau penned, “The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation.” He was describing early nineteenth century New England when life was simple and unencumbered with stuff. The life of “quiet desperation” was true then and more so now. This seems an apt portrayal in an age of gadgetry where people fill in their space and time because they are immersed in empty and hollow lives. They construe activities with productivity and creativity. I share your frustration regarding people who occupy their waking hours glued to their gadgets. My fear is that this is going to get worst. Machines will even further take over our lives. The genie is out of the bottle, so to speak.

    There is another thing that caught my attention in your article, namely people pretending to be busy. Perhaps this is the real issue, not that people are just too busy but rather they want to project an image that they are people of consequence. Therefore they should not be bothered with engaging others in a mundane conversation. Those attending conferences are mere peasants and the speakers are the lords or landlords. For obvious reason, they cannot be seen talking not with their own kind because if they are, they would feel diminished. So they dash out of conferences and avoid interacting with the peasants. Perhaps this is more pervasive in a country like the Philippines where a person’s placed in social strata is observed to nth degree. You do not dare mingle with high society if you wash dishes for a living.

    You suggested to “unbusy” oneself is to simplify one’s lifestyle. That’s my word not yours. However, I don’t see a significant change in reducing three phones to two as an attempt to unload your life with gadgets. Because you are juggling several jobs and handling enormous workload, it maybe a significant attempt to simplify but for those of us who don’t have that kind of activities on our plate one cell phone maybe one too many. I say, simplify your life, as my…