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!