“The Busy Trap” made the rounds on many of mine (and our) friends’ Facebook pages a few weeks back. I’ve read and re-read it a few times now. Some of the points of the piece:
- We think we’re busier than we actually are
- We make ourselves busier than we should
- Our “busy ” environments destroy or otherwise deform our personalities
- Much of what we do may not matter, hence the desire to bury that truth with the noise caused by cawing that yes, it does matter
Personally, I loved it, but in loving it, I got a little bit frustrated. Mostly with myself.
One of the great issues of our time is revealed in the paradox that we have more access to information than any group of people in the history of the universe, and yet as a society we are (or at least seem) fundamentally uninformed. In the first episode of Aaron Sorkin’s The Newsroom, Emily Mortimer’s character — in a slightly Pollyanna-ish way — suggested that people (i.e. the American populace) are startlingly uninformed. Actual Emily did it in an article, too, saying Americans are “dangerously uninformed.” She’s right, and not nearly the first person to say or think this.
In a similar way the busy paradox is inherently hilarious/frustrating because most of our busy-ness comes from stuff we put on ourselves. What I mean is that in regards to information, it’s generally accepted that one is as informed as one wants to be; in much the same way, most people are as busy as they want to be, but that isn’t the common perception.
A while back, I was interested in a woman who had her days/weeks/months planned out. If I wanted to meet up for a drink, I’d have to book it at least a week in advance, and in the end all I got was a window. It wouldn’t be, “Let’s meet up on Thursday night.” It’d be, “Let’s meet up on Thursday night between 8:00 and 9:30.” Her interests and extra-curriculars choked off time in a very exacting way. I found it ludicrous that someone would voluntarily make their schedule that full, but when she said, “I’m busy,” I understood that yes, she was.
I am paralyzed by how busy my life is, sometimes, and yet when I take a “me” day like I’m doing today today, I notice that most of it is my own fault. Almost everything I do is voluntary: I don’t work traditional hours at a traditional job, and I hardly, if ever, do or attend things because I feel obligated to. I do almost exactly what I want most days, and so if I don’t have enough time, the problem most probably resides with me and me alone.
Today I looked at my life, figured out how I spend (and waste) my time, and asked myself if I was okay with it. I wasn’t, and now I have to make massive changes to the way I spend my time (as well as my energy, and money).
Compare being “busy” with actually being busy? We often use the word when we’re telling someone what we can’t attend, or listen to, or whatever. “I’m busy” is the excuse, the “this is why I can’t do something else.” However, if everything (or almost everything) can be viewed as an opt-in thing (which, in effect, it is), you’re probably actually saying, “that’s not high on my list of priorities.”
Put another way, a lot of the time you’re not saying “I can’t.” You’re saying “I don’t want to.” And isn’t that its own weird little thing?