I have this Google Chrome app downloaded on my computer and it’s called Momentum (it’s gotten pretty popular over the last couple years, so I wouldn’t be surprised if you’ve heard of it). It essentially replaces your typical Google Chrome tab background with a new landscape and every time you open a new tab, you’re greeted with the time, the words “Good morning/afternoon/evening, [Name]”, and a fresh quote that they pulled from an online source.
The other day, when I opened a new tab, a quote by Socrates came up: “Beware the barrenness of a busy life.“
That stopped me in my tracks and instantly got me thinking. Because I have always thought of my life as being constantly busy. Workout classes, dinners or drinks with friends, meetings, appointments — the schedule is always jam-packed. And the crazy thing is that I liked all of it. I liked having one thing after another — a quick yoga class and then a virtual meeting right after getting out of the shower. I liked planning things weeks in advance — catch-ups with friends, tasks, anything that I know I want to do. Let me pencil it into my schedule, I tell myself. So it’s there. So the schedule says busy. Days consist of asking myself, what’s next? And then? And then after that?
My dad sometimes still says to me, “Julia, slow down. Don’t pack everything so tightly together. Give yourself some breathing room.”
I think he understood it. The barrenness of a busy life. But I asked myself, What was Socrates trying to say?
Some people on Quora had a sound-off (yes, I like to search up how people interpret quotes). One individual thinks that “a person running around is missing life.” In trying to achieve something in the future, they are missing the “now” and they are missing what is. Another individual thought that Socrates might have been an introvert and how it can be difficult to tolerate a life packed with activity every day and every moment — there is no room left for downtime and quiet.
Somebody else shared their thoughts on how a busy life doesn’t leave time for reflection. You miss out on having the peace and quiet to be able to run through the internal dialogue in your head — What does a happy life mean to me? Who am I? Do I like how my life is going?
I agree with that a lot. I find that on my busiest weeks — where I’m physically rushing from one thing to the next, or doing back-to-back meetings — I find it difficult to actually really take in all that happened during the week at the end of the week. I was just too busy rushing — but what was I rushing for? What did I do?
That is when the busy truly becomes barren — you’re doing all these tasks, going through all the motions, but what did you do? What did you learn? Did it change you?
Did you even have time to think about that?
I don’t know if I have ever talked about the weekly reflections that I’ve started doing last year, but I find that they help a lot. At the end of every week (normally on a Sunday morning or evening), I’ll sit down (if the weather’s nice, I’ll bring my laptop outside with me and sit on my porch swing) and go over what happened this week, whether it was in my personal life, at work, or whatever. I’ll reflect on the good, the bad, and the rollercoaster of the week. I’ll think about what I learned and what I struggled with. And I’ll write it all down. I find that at the end of each year, just as we’re about to start a new chapter, I like going through all of them and seeing how I’ve changed and grown over the weeks.
The thing is, if you were constantly busy — constantly rushing, never stopping — you wouldn’t really notice the growth or the change. You’d be constantly looking forward, never having an opportunity to look back or even just look at what the present is like.
So, this is a reminder (mostly to myself) to just slow down when I get the chance. Busyness is not everything — it can leave you feeling productive and satisfied in the moment, but it can be draining. It can be barren.