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Hey, You Busy?

 

I’ve skimmed a couple of articles lately that focus on the concept of “busyness” in America. In particular, this one from the New York Times and this one from the Huffington Post. Both writers discuss the way that people CONSTANTLY talk about being busy and how we just don’t have time like we used to in the “good old days.”

According to both writers, we’re (for the most part) full of crap and our perpetual state of motion as a society is self-inflicted. And we feel important/validated when we’re overworked and overbooked and running around like lunatics. As someone who uses the words “busy,” “overwhelmed,” and “drowning” on a daily basis, I had to stop and wonder whether that holds true for me.

The Case for Busy

I’m the single parent of a special needs teenager who is consuming food faster than I can go buy it. I have a house to clean and a yard full of brown crunchy stuff that used to be grass. I have pets. I’m self-employed and working about 100 hours a week to keep up with my growing business. I cook real food almost every day on my mission to stop eating junk. I have multiple websites and blogs to maintain. I send and receive over 150 emails a day. I tend to sleep maybe 5-6 hours a night max. I can’t remember the last time I saw or talked to many of my friends, and I get annoyed when they call or text during the day because they refuse to understand that I’m working. I could not tell you the name of the last book I read, both because it’s been so long and because my memory only lasts a few minutes.

When I look at all those facts, I think, Yes, I’m plenty busy. And so is everyone else I know.

The Case for Not-So-Busy

Despite all of the above, I can also look at my daily routine and see dysfunction. I try to stay organized, but I also multitask. All the time. To the point that I don’t even have to wonder whether it’s unhealthy. At any given moment, I’m juggling more tasks than anyone could possibly do at one time.

I’m working on a website logo in Adobe Illustrator. I stop because my phone rings, beeps, or buzzes. Then I notice I’ve received more emails and I check those. While I’m at it, I browse my Twitter timeline to see what’s going on. I have 4 or 5 chat windows open. I’m skipping to the next song in iTunes because I don’t like what’s playing. I pull up an old email to find a link that a client sent me. Jayden asks me to wash a bowl because he wants cereal (didn’t I just do a load of dishes?) and I see that the sink is overflowing again. While I’m in there, I notice that the dogs’ bowls are empty so I refill them. Then the doorbell rings and some lady wants me to buy something. I avoid her sales pitch and step in dog puke when I walk back in the house. On my way to wash my foot and grab cleaning supplies, my phone starts beeping again. And all this is happening in a 10-minute window.

Does that make me busy? No. It makes me ridiculously scattered and distracted. 

What Do You Think?

I know in my head that I would be far less “busy” if I cut out all the insanity and focused on one thing at a time. That said, I find it very difficult to shake off the distractions, especially when it’s become so normal for people to multitask the way I do. Almost everyone I know is the same way – no one has time for anything!

Personally, I don’t feel important when I’m overdosing on a million little things to do. I try not to wear “busy” like a badge. I feel important when I do something very well after giving it the time and effort it deserves. But as more and more people and things compete for my attention, I don’t feel like I do that enough. With my work? Yes. But in other areas of my life, I’m failing miserably. And I’ve got to find time in my “busy” schedule to figure out a way to change that.

What about you? Do you feel overwhelmed all the time like I do? Are you truly that busy, or are you trying to do too many things at once? I want to know what you think!

About Andrea Whitmer

Andrea is a freelance web designer and single mom trying to maintain a sense of humor in an otherwise chaotic world. She blogs in hopes of helping others avoid the same mistakes she made in the past. Join in the discussion here on So Over This, or connect on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, or Google Plus. You can also subscribe to new posts via RSS so you never miss out!

Comments

  1. When I first read that title, I thought it was a pick up line. haha. Seriously though, you don't need me to tell you that I think you have a good case. (But I told you anyways). Great job with the growing business, btw. You're doing fantastic work!

    • Thanks, Corey. I appreciate it! I know I'm busy, but I also know I could be *less* busy with some effort. Working on it!

  2. I'm always feeling extremely busy. Last night I felt like I was going to have a breakdown. I can't wait until everything calm down though.

    • I feel your pain! Sometimes it's just way too much. Summer always seems to be kind of panicky for me. I'll be glad when fall gets here and life gets a little easier (hopefully) to manage.

  3. Honestly for me I get bored and that leads to distraction. If I could bring myself yo focus I would get much more done in a shorter period of time.

    • I think my problem is more that I hyper-focus on too many things, preventing me from actually staying focused on any of them! I don't know if that makes sense. I get so intent on accomplishing so many things, I end up not getting any of them done. Or at least not as quickly as I'd like.

  4. Funny you should write this article – I've been spending a lot of time thinking about this too after getting angry at one of my kids and stating, "I don't have time to sit here and wait for you…..I have too many things to do." So I started really looking at what I do, and how much time I spend doing it. I find that I spend a lot of time "thinking" about doing things, and "preparing" to do things..which really means procrastinating. If I just jump in and DO IT, I get a lot more accomplished. Suddenly I find myself feeling very productive, with a lot more time to do what I want…..and being less stressed.

    So, while I think driven people are by nature always "busy" – we can certainly be more efficient in what we do.

    • I do the exact same thing! I think constantly, but it doesn't always translate into action like it should. If only we could gain the ability to make things happen as we ponder them…. :)

  5. I have two small children and a full time job…so yes, I am busy! However, I try to find a balance and sometimes I just have to "let things go" for a while. There is no way to give 100% to everything all the time!

    • That's very true, and that's what I tell myself about housework. I just can't keep up! Then again, I think I let things go for TOO long – my house is driving me nuts right now!

  6. Stephanie says:

    Oh I so hear you. I have a relative who constantly talks about how busy she is, how she has so much to do – as if that's something to be proud of. I know people can be busy these days, but I'm a firm believer that much of that could be dealt with if people took a few moments to get themselves organized. You have to make priorities and if you aren't doing something because you've decided it's not a priority, just say that. Don't tell me you're too busy to get your taxes lowered, just say it's not a priority for you.

  7. This is so funny. I was thinking about this very topic the other day. I do agree that we live in a culture that prides itself on being proud to have too much on its plate. When I haven't spoken to someone in a while and they tell me they haven't called because they are "busy," it makes me wonder if it really that or they have just been too distracted to notice they are in their own little world. I for one try to take time and do things I like when I can-even if it means I am being less productive. I don't think life should be a race to get as much done as possible regardless of anything else. What a sad way to live! Taking breaks is the only real way to not lose all sanity in this world even if it means I am not so "busy" that day.

    • Good point! I really do need to take more breaks – I notice that when I do, I can return to what I was doing with a lot more motivation and focus than before. But try telling me that when I'm in the middle of working on something! Posting about this has really helped me be more aware of the ways I'm shooting myself in the foot when it comes to work/life balance.

  8. addvodka says:

    I love this post because it's so brutally true. I take on too much. Working, blogging, going to school, relationships, etc.. it's just too much. So I'm busy, but that's because I made it that way!

    • Me too, friend! Nearly 100% of the stuff that keeps me running crazy was my own fault. And I need to remember that when I'm freaking out about not having enough time to get things done.

  9. I think there is a huge difference between busy and overwhelmed! I think we have the capacity to do more, but it has to be in an organized manner. If not, you can get over whelmed!

    • I agree. I've let my routine get so disorganized that it's a wonder I accomplish anything at all. I think taking a break (gasp) long enough to get back on track will definitely help me feel less overwhelmed.

  10. Yikes! That sounds insane. Could you get Jayden to help you out with some of those things like dishes and feeding the dogs?

    • He has chores that he does on a regular basis, but I don't trust him to get the dishes as clean as I'd like. That's a big part of my problem – I can't delegate because I have control issues!

  11. I'm constantly battling busy versus focused. The tyranny of the urgent is an issue for me. If I'm not intentional planning my time, I just respond to needs and don't make progress. I am much more productive when I have a plan. I'm also more able to relax when I know I've made progress.

    • I should have just pasted your comment into the post editor because that's it EXACTLY. I end up spending my time putting out fires but not doing what I need to do to prevent them in the first place.

  12. it sounds like you're busy, Andrea! Why not outsource some of the more boring aspects of your life? I think especially since you work from home you could easily justify hiring someone to come clean your house on Mondays.

    • Oh my gosh, I would LOVE to have someone clean my house. The problems for me are (1) justifying the cost and (2) overcoming the guilt of paying someone to clean when I'm generally here all day. It's definitely something to think about, though…..

  13. bogofdebt says:

    I think you are busy! Sometimes at work I'll hear "your department does nothing and I'm terribly busy so you can do this" and wonder where they get the fact that my department does nothing. I know I'm usually with a full plate but I'm not sure if it's busy or not. I tend to do a lot but when I'm done, I always asking myself "really? it took me that long to do that. Why?" and I normally find "oh well, if you hadn't checked twitter, or gotten up to readjust that picture on the wall" (and the list goes on) that I probably could have done my task in a lesser amount of time.

    • Same for me. If I could eliminate all the little things that "will just take a second," I'd probably accomplish a lot more. I think it's not that I don't have plenty to do; I just let myself focus on the wrong things.

  14. You know, I think this is why I could never work from home. I need that separation of office and work from home time. When I'm home I want to watch tv and play and be lazy. When I'm working in an office or official environment it's easier for me to focus on what's at hand. Often in college for example, I'd drive out to the library to study even though I had the same resources at my house. I just needed that separation. If I needed to do homework, I'd try and at least get dressed like I was going to leave the house to sort of separate that time in my head.

    As for busy…well, True, I am busy but I try and prioritize too. Maybe instead of all of us focusing on house busy-like we are we should instead focus on where our priorities are.

    • I really enjoy working from home, but it's definitely challenging to separate things. I try to do my non-work computer stuff in a room other than my home office, saving the office only for work. But sometimes it's hard to leave the desk when I'm already here!

  15. Christi Frederick says:

    I work two jobs: teacher and real estate agent. My phone blows up with clients 24/7 and since it is commission, I must take calls/show properties when I am not teaching, which is basically the rest of my "free" time. I have to work two jobs now since my exhusband refuses to pay child support and has disappeared. I do enjoy reading your site, and checking facebook daily, but I cannot sink time into any hobby or what not. My kids are my focus, and I try to take them with me when I can. Otherwise, I'm multitasking with dinner, kids activities, preparation for work, teaching plans/grading…blah, blah, blah…all work and no play. I know you do the same and are self motivated. The cost of living is ridiculous and either you work your tail off, or get Obama to give you a welfare check and food stamps. I see way too much of that.

    • I think you definitely qualify as busy! I didn't realize you weren't getting child support – that SUCKS. I hope things even out for you soon and that you're able to take a break from all the running.

  16. The Case For Not-So Busy reminds me of the YouTube video "Age-Activated Attention Deficit Disorder." http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6oHBG3ABUJU

  17. I feel busy and overwhelmed most of the time, but I know that I spent a lot of time just sitting at the computer reading stuff. I wish I could focus more energy onto my own projects instead of just envisioning what I would like my life to be like, but it's hard getting caught up in day-to-day stuff. On the other hand, reading a lot online makes you a better conversationalist at parties!

    • That's very true – I always justify reading things by telling myself that's how I keep up with the news. I don't watch the news on TV, so I get it online instead! And I always have something to talk about when I do manage to leave work behind for a change. :)

  18. stacyverb says:

    There's a difference between being busy and being overstimulated. Sometimes I'm just overstimulated with media, projects, etc., and that's of my own choosing. I can delete everything in my Google reader or stay off Facebook for a while, or whatever. The times when I'm really BUSY (juggling multiple jobs, bogged down in family crises,etc.), I am certainly not just telling people I'm busy so they'll be impressed with how important I am (!). For many of us, being busy is a NOT a choice, and I resent those people who say it is. Free time and flexibility are luxuries that a lot of people just don't have, and many people who do have those luxuries don't seem to understand that.

    • I can agree with that. The writer of the New York Times article got a lot of flack in the comments because he was so "busy" that he took off to a chateau in France or something so he could relax in peace. Must be nice to have that option!

      When I really look at all the responsibilities I'm juggling, I have a lot. I just need to learn to turn off the extra stuff so I can get the necessities done more efficiently.

  19. Alotta Lettuce says:

    In the most general sense, I agree with the premise of the NYT article – people are almost always responsible for their own perpetual state of business. Sometimes it's because they have a hard time saying no and wind up overextending themselves. Other times, it's because they're just plain ineffective. The former, I sympathize with (because I used to be one of them), although I do sometimes want to shake them like a baby and tell them that they HAVE to take care of themselves before they take care of everyone else. But the latter…I have no patience for them. These are the people who tend to be the most vocal about their all-consuming, never-ending business, yet somehow they never seem to actually accomplish anything. They pride themselves on being "multi-taskers," but in reality, they're terrible managers of time and they suck at prioritizing. I've worked with a few of these people over the years, and they drive me absolutely crazy.

    Personally, I love being busy so long as all that business is PRODUCING something.

    • OMG nice to see you, friend! It's been a long time!!!!

      I'm with you – I like busy when it results in something at the end, not busy for the sake of being busy. That's what I'm wrestling with lately; am I really busy with an end in sight, or am I just freaking out multitasking for no reason?

  20. I do feel like I'm always busy, working, blogging, social media-ing, socializing with friends, planning a wedding, blah blah blah. But there are some many times when I really take a moment a see that most of my busy time is procrastinating or doing like you said and multi-tasking to the point that it makes no sense. I've definitely tried to cut down on certain things, say no if I need to, and getting a good night's sleep always helps too.

    • I'm pretending I didn't read the part of your comment about sleep… :)

      I hope by being more mindful of the craziness, I can control it better. Chaos isn't the way I have typically done things in my life, but it seems like that's what's going on right now. Time to do something about it!

  21. adahat1 says:

    I am busily working at not being busy. Sounds cliche' but that is where I decided to take my life. I could just as easily be busy all the time and I also have many distractions that probably take too much of my time.

    • I think that's a fun way to look at it. I need to schedule some time every day to turn off EVERYTHING and just be un-busy for once. :)

  22. I feel like I am busy, but I enjoy being busy. Between working for 9-10 hours and then teaching group fitness classes several times a week, I usually just want to veg at the end of the week. A lot of people don't realize that there's a lot of work involved with being a fitness instructor too. We are constantly preparing for our classes and reviewing choreography. The reason why I make it look so easy on stage is because I'm constantly practice to make sure I have it down.

    I try and give myself some down time on the weekend. But somehow weekends manage to get filled with doing errands and all the other stuff I never got around to during the week.

    • Same here re: the weekends. I really thought that working from home would allow me more time to do the things I couldn't do during the week, but I was delusional. I still don't get anything done and I'm always scrambling to catch up on things! I did take a few hours last night to watch a movie with my son (left my phone and laptop in the other room) and I think it did a lot of good.

  23. Budget & the Beach says:

    If I feel I'm too busy, I know I have to work hard at letting something go off the to-do list. Maybe that particular day it's blogging or commenting on other people's blogs. It's hard because I want to keep up with everything, or in the case of twitter know what is going on all day, but if I do I'll go crazy. Sometimes it's good to close down those social media windows, turn off the phone and get down to business. That's why I like my beach runs so much. At the very least it's 20 minutes of no distractions.

    • I can't even talk about commenting on other people's blogs. I've been AWFUL lately! I'm surprised people bother to comment on mine because I haven't had time to visit theirs in forever.

  24. I try to stay busy but not forget to focus. I know it's hard with kids though. I couldn't imagine how distracted I would be with all of that going on! It's a wonder you get anything done!

  25. Hahaha! Oh man, so true. Yes, we're ALL busy. So when someone tells me they can't talk or visit because they're too busy, I get annoyed because dude, we're all busy. You've got to make time. But I'm like you, I get distracted. I gotta try better to stick with one thing adn do it until I'm done and then move on. And I could stand to erase some things from my schedule and day. Not everything is important, ya know?

  26. Busy? Yes. Self Inflicted? Absolutely. I work full time and and 3 kids – that's enough to take up most of my time. I run two blogs and train for triathlon. Oh, and I cook real food too. :) That takes up the rest of my time. Some things don't get done well (I just did a long triathlon race and got my behind handed to me – because I didn't do enough training). My house is never as clean as I'd like, and in an effort to kill our debt we gave up our housekeeper.

    But I don't wear it like a badge of honour. I try to schedule well, and when people ask me how I balance everything (because they are "too busy"), I just tell them I find ways. What I don't do is spend a lot of time on television, etc.

  27. Teinegurl says:

    Hey whatever happened to you geting a dedicated line for emergenices only? I don't know if you do but i think that you should keep "office hours" dedicate so much time for working each day. If it takes less time great. That way you could at least enjoy dinner time with jayden maybe clean up before bed and have time to decompress. Oh and when you have office hours keep it as strict as possible to office hours and when your "off" dedicate time to jayden, cooking, dogs, most importanly YOURSELF. I was going to add that once school starts it might get easier but with your predicament with jayden's school I HIGHLY doubt that.

  28. affordanything says:

    I'm constantly feeling busy and overwhelmed, and I also believe that I could do more, in less time, if I had more focus and concentration. If I take an honest look at my day, I can see small increments — 10 minutes here, 10 minutes there — that slip away in distraction, and those increments add up.

    I'm trying to start "bundling" tasks: shutting off everything else, doing one thing until its done (like writing one month's worth of posts, etc.), and then crossing that task off my list and doing the next thing. So far, mixed results, but I'm sticking with this project in the hopes that it might help.

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