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Blog #17 ‘Yes, you’re busy, but is that a good enough excuse for crap practice?’

So, it’s already March 2023. A lot is going on. The momentum of this year gathers pace. Everyone I talk to who’s working in the social field, everywhere I go where I see social practice in community-based organisations - talks about being busy. People certainly appear busy. Busyness and stress flourish. I observe it carefully, curious. I am not really sure what’s going on. It reminds me of when I worked as a paid academic at universities. Much the same, I’d come to work on Monday’s and ask someone how they are going, and they’d usually reply with some version of, “I’m so busy; I even worked all weekend”. Worn like a badge. They’d look offended if you said, “Oh I rested, read a novel, hung out with friends!”


Now I am not denying the stress of [hyper-semi-cyber] modern day life. I’m not denying the pressure on people from the social-cultural, industrial complex forces that are almost impossible to resist.


Yet, how do we make sense of it?


Perhaps more money and resources are the answers – so the workload can be spread? Yet, this is not my experience. More money, more resources, more staff tends to make for busier work. Or less auditing or reporting? Perhaps.


Yet, what I think is – and take a breath because maybe you’ll feel a wee bit angry at this - Yes, the forces are real, but people appear to also be addicted to manic action. It feels good. It feels like something is being achieved. People are addicted to the idea that we’re making a difference. More, busy action equals effectiveness. This seems to be how people put it together in their body-mind. This is what we’re conditioned to believe. Our usefulness, value, and worthiness are directly linked to our productivity value.


I suggest that part of what sits beneath this manic addiction is that people are not aware of, nor have never been modelled, the space for reflective practice. People are not courageous enough to the delicate activism of saying No (to funders, bosses, managers etc). Not spacious enough to observe what’s going on in their field of work so they can then take careful and potent effective action.


Reflective practice requires a pausing, a sensing into the body (tension, pressure, forgetting to breathe), thinking, not immediately reacting with a No or a Yes (but taking time to discern the ‘right action’).


So, a question to you. How’s your practice? Are you reflecting on it? Let’s start with the question - are you attending to the people who are reaching out to you and writing to you? Are you replying to phone calls? Are you taking care of your manners such that you have a practice of respect and reply (even if it’s a gentle, “I can’t connect in the next days or so but will…”). Or have you drifted into bad practice where even non-replying is rationalised through the discourse of “I am too busy”.


I for one am tired of bad non-reflective practice. We don’t just need more money in the community sector. We don’t just need less reporting and auditing. We need more reflective practice. More respectful practice. More potent practice. Better practitioners.


Thoughts?


This is real for all of us. It’s also real for me. One way I’m trying to disrupt this manic busy momentum is through a one-day offering Rachael and I have curated together. Over the day we will explore practices that enable reflection and observation (not just action and reaction). We would love you to join us for a day in April in magical Maleny to pause, reflect and re-set direction for the year.

Click here for more information about the day: https://www.stickytickets.com.au/X4M5D

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