Publicly busy

I’m listening to Cal Newport’s book, Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World. I’m finding much of interest. Because I’m listening while I run, it’s hard to take notes. But one concept has been resonating for days. Being publicly busy.

Newport is talking about the difference between busyness and productivity and says that too often we create the appearance of being busy because that way we and others will think that we are being productive. (Publicly busy)

Many of us share our activities with others. Through social media, texts to friends, blog posts, and in conversations, we show pictures, tell of experiences, share our lives. And this is good.

But I can spend so much time being publicly busy, hoping people know I’m doing something worthwhile, that I forget that I need to spend time quietly living so I have something to share.

Cultivpubliclybusy1ating relationship with God or people, understanding theology (or electrical engineering), writing books or movies–all of these take time and attention. And they are at odds, for me at least, with keeping up a public presence, of maintaining a regular pattern of “likes” and “shares”.

Here are some things I’m trying to help me keep from being dragged into being publicly busy.

  • A couple weeks ago I spent a week away from Facebook (and other social). The fast gave me permission to not check on what was happening for you, which gave me permission to not get sidetracked.
  • I’m using a daily-reading Bible divided into 100 sections as a way of drawing me toward longer reads. It’s giving me a longer view of God’s story.
  • I’m working with Nancy to identify project lists that include reflection as a project. That way we’re both comfortable with not having to look busy to be meaningful.
  • I’m asking myself big questions that demand time for research and writing. It replaces tiny distractions with what is of value.

3 thoughts on “Publicly busy

  1. Elaine Stauss

    Jon, I really appreciate this post.
    The picture behind the quote looks like Gulfport. Was Gulfport week quietly living ?It was a refocus, recalibrate, renewal time for me where we were giving at the same time.


    1. Jon Swanson

      I think it was, Elaine. We were focused on helping and on listening. Except me. I was tweeting and publishing. But the rest of us were deeply engaged. It was a remarkable time.


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