A Moment of Zen: The Busy Badge

Late March through mid-June tends to be one of my busiest times of the school year.  Wrapping up staff observations, completing the summative evaluation process for everyone for the year, and attending myriad after-school concerts and events takes up much of my time these days.  Since I became an administrator nearly three years ago, I’ve been tweaking and refining my planning and workflow in order to be as efficient and effective (though the two are most definitely not the same thing all the time) as possible.

The other day, in a moment of feeling overwhelmed, I was taking stock of my various outstanding “to-dos” and I realized that I was actually in pretty good shape work-wise.  My uncharacteristically messy desk was not covered in undone tasks, but just stuff I could easily throw away.  As it began to dawn on me that not only was I OK, but actually quite a bit ahead of where I needed to be work-wise, I felt a most unexpected emotion.

Not relief.  Guilt.

Instead of feeling proud that I have been able to improve my workflow efficiency or relief that I didn’t have as much to do as I thought, I felt guilty that I wasn’t running around like a chicken with my head cut off.  Like as if I wasn’t overwhelmingly busy, I must not be doing a good job or working hard enough.

I know, I know – it even looks silly as I type it out.  Doesn’t stop me from feeling those feelings, though.

I have to imagine that I’m not the only person who feels this from time to time.  As a society, we (Americans) tend to wear our “busyness” as a badge of honor.  As I have read and thought more about mindful practice and reflection over the last year, I am working on freeing myself of that mindset.  Definitely not there yet, but it’s a work in progress.

I hope to progress more toward that goal over the next few days, when I will be doing something I have not done in 17 years as an educator – using vacation days during the school year to go on an actual vacation.  My son and I are just taking a short trip to Florida (Universal Studios, here we come!) and we’ll be back by mid-week, but as much as I have been looking forward to this, I am also fighting off feelings of guilt about missing work.

Logically, I know that I have earned these days, and that if I do not use them, I lose them.  Logically, I know that the world will somehow continue to turn and the district will run perfectly well in my absence.  Illogically, however, my mind is overrun with feelings of dereliction of duty at the thought of not being at work for three days (*gasp* in a row!) when work is open for business.  I am seriously going to struggle to not respond to work emails on my phone while on the roller coasters.

Does this sound or feel familiar to anyone else?  If you’ve been able to shake the “more busy, more better” mindset, I’d appreciate any links or advice you can spare.  I have a nagging feeling that this will be a very unhealthy mindset to hold onto in the long run.


  • Such a great reflection, Doc! You are so right: When feelings of guilt like this build up, we often retreat back into overworking. Our mind plays tricks on us. I just finished reading Justin Ashley’s book, The Balanced Teacher’s Path. Check it out if you can.

  • Thanks for the rec, Dr. Rick! I’ll be sure to check it out.

    By the way, I resisted the urge to respond to work email almost the entire time! Had a time-sensitive issue that was easily resolved with a 10-word email, but otherwise, no work emails from Florida! 🙂

Join the Discussion

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>

CommentLuv badge

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.