When was the last time you went for a long walk or saw a movie spontaneously? If someone you hadn't seen in years, but whom you enjoy spending time with, called you right now and asked to meet for drinks or dinner, what would your answer be?
If the first thing you thought in response to either of those questions was, "I'm too busy," you have plenty in common with many people, from teens to retirees. The cult of busyness is a real thing.
Brigid Schulte, author of "Overwhelmed: Work, Love, and Play When Nobody Has the Time" confirmed as much in an MNN interview: "Wages have stagnated, and extreme work hours have been on rise since the 1980s. We are not just working hard, we are working crazy. It's out of control and unsustainable."
But if you're one of the people who say you are "too busy" when asked how you are, you might want to question that busyness. While many people are working several jobs due to low wages or have been forced to take on the work of two or more people at their jobs, it's not usually those folks who claim to be "crazy-busy." For many, having a packed schedule and regularly multitasking is a choice.
As Tim Kreider (who works five to six hours a day and feels that's enough) writes in the New York Times: "The present hysteria is not a necessary or inevitable condition of life; it’s something we’ve chosen, if only by our acquiescence to it."
If it's a choice, that means we can make a different one moving forward. And if all this busyness is our own doing, it's worth drilling down and asking: Why are we living like this?
Maybe it's because we're afraid of looking at the reality of our own lives. As Kreider points out in his essay:
"Busyness serves as a kind of existential reassurance, a hedge against emptiness; obviously your life cannot possibly be silly or trivial or meaningless if you are so busy, completely booked, in demand every hour of the day."
Because there are so many people on planet Earth, many of us feel that the work we do is easily replaceable. And if we identify strongly with the work we do, that means that WE are replaceable. It's a vicious cycle, one that can make us feel less than important, which is a scary feeling.
The answer to that fear isn't creating such a busy life that we don't have time to think about these things, but to accept them. Most of us probably are replaceable in terms of our work — and that's OK. That work may feel more or less meaningful to you depending on what it is, and that's OK too. Accepting that feeling of smallness is the key to growing your own unique life.
What if you identify yourself with your work a little bit less — and identify with your overall life more? In that way, you won't feel that a lack of busyness means that you're less valuable or less important. Cutting the busy means you will find the time and space to grow those aspects of your life that you genuinely want to spend your life doing.
It's in those spontaneous visits, the lengthy conversations over long dinners, and the summer evening that you spend on your bike instead of in front of the computer that life happens — not conquering a to-do list or creating a perfectly scheduled day of back-to-back tasks and meetings.
How could you choose to be less busy?
Related on MNN:
- Why multitasking just doesn't work
- How to change your life by decluttering
- How a lazy girl found her inner yogi