Avoiding the Busy Battle

I found myself in a “busy battle” with someone the other day. It started innocently enough. We were both venting to each other about how crazy the last few weeks had been. I was talking about how much I had to do for grad school and she was talking about how difficult it is being a new mom. Then we went into how stressful both of our jobs had been this year and how sometimes it’s difficult to stay constantly motivated. Then, what started as venting turned into a “busy battle.” A “busy battle” is when two people go back and forth trying to “one up” the other with how much he or she has to do. “Oh yeah? You think your job is stressful? Well you should hear about mine.” “You haven’t slept in 2 days? Well I haven’t slept in 3 days.” “You have a 40 pages or reading to do? Well I have 60.”

The problem with a busy battle is that nobody wins. The battle will continue until one person just gives up or the topic of conversation changes. Then both people are left feeling more stressed out than they were before, and often feeling inadequate because they just heard a whole litany of things that their friend is involved with that they aren’t. Busy battles only perpetuate the myth that being busier somehow makes you more important and that you should keep as busy as possible to maintain your martyr status. Venting to your friends is fine, but when it becomes a constant battle for your friends’ sympathy, it just isn’t worth it. You should do things in life because they are important to you, not because it makes you look busier or better than the person next to you.

The next time you catch yourself in a busy battle, stop and think: What am I trying to do here? Am I honestly commiserating with a friend? Or am I just trying to “out-do” the person I’m chatting with? You don’t need the extra stress in your life of trying to keep up with other people. Just relax and take care of your own to-do list without worrying if it is longer or shorter than everyone else’s.

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