by Paige Miller
“How are you?” you ask an acquaintance at a social event.
You’re probably not surprised when they respond, “Oh, really busy.”
Responding that one is “busy” has become so common that many of us have it programmed as our default answer when someone asks us how we are doing. This is likely in part a result of deeper issues with our society’s relationship to work, or what journalist Brigid
Schulte calls a “culture of busy,” where people are seen as successful when they work long hours, keep calendars booked full of plans, and have overflowing email inboxes. Our society often views this type of “busy-ness” as a bragging right. Schulte believes that women are particularly afflicted by constant busy-ness, likely because we can have so many professional and personal commitments that make us feel pressured to “do it all.” Pushing ourselves to excel at work while regularly going to the gym, keeping busy professional and social lives, being all-star moms, and hosting dinner parties should not be the expectation.
Schulte points out that much of our current leisure time is chopped into “time confetti” – little bits of time here or there (waiting in the car for a child to get out of school, for example), that prevent us from truly relaxing. Schulte emphasizes that we need to give ourselves long, unbroken periods of time that allow us to really think outside the box and be more creative, ultimately helping us live more satisfying and productive lives.
To make this happen, Schulte argues that we need to stop valuing a culture where hours worked is valued over productivity, the lines are constantly blurred between work and personal time, and where we have little time to mentally rest. “I think all of the strategies for us to cram more stuff into our calendar is really not the answer; it’s figuring out what’s important to you and making time to do what’s most important first,” she said in an NPR interview.“…I also give myself permission not to do it.”
So next time someone asks you how you’re doing, consider telling them about the things that you are excited about and prioritizing in your life; they might just do the same.
Some additional reading on this topic…
- Washington Post: Feel like a work zombie? You’re not alone. Here’s 10 things that will help.
- Fast Company: Why You Need to Stop Bragging About How Busy You Are
- Schulte’s book: Overwhelmed: Work, Love, and Play When No One Has the Time
- NY Times: Workplaces Remain Averse to Flexibility