Are you addicted to busyness?

Research shows that we are not obliged to be any busier than we used to be. We choose to be. How?

David Rigby
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How often do you speak to someone and ask how they are, and they reply “busy”? If you ask a man for more details, he will typically talk about his workload, but ask a woman and she is busy with life. Busyness is a status symbol, a competition: I have more emails, Facebook friends, classes than you, so I am better than you.

We have stopped judging anything by what results we get, but by how long it takes - the longer the better. We are just busy doing stuff, and we do not even remember what we did, just onto the next thing. The Zeigarnik effect says we remember uncompleted or interrupted tasks and forget completed ones. Time-management to-do lists do not help - it is one more task to maintain it, one more thing to add to the list of things that will never get done.


Research shows that we are not obliged to be any busier than we used to be. We choose to be. How?

• By not just ‘being somewhere,’ but feeling we have to take selfies and post to the world to justify our existence.
• By feeling we have to utilize every minute.
• By checking emails five minutes before a meeting, wrecking your concentration.
• By multitasking. Every time we do so, each task takes 40 percent longer than it would if undertaken one at a time.
• By being constantly on social media.
• By feeling the need to know or see all the latest movies and TV series, and read the latest books.
• By not delegating: “Only I can do this task to my exacting standards.” Despite all those ‘time-saving’ household gadgets, research shows that it takes just as long to clean the house as it used to when only a mop and broom were available. Why? Because nowadays floors have to be clean enough to perform an operation on - in the old days that was not possible.

A child’s brain develops better if they have time to get bored and maybe decide for themselves how to pass their time. Often, parents exhaust themselves cramming the child’s brain with ballet, piano, football, karate and other classes, when they just need space for themselves. Both parents and child would be better off with ‘me’ time. Most people spend ‘me’ time doing stuff, rather than reviewing their situation and developing a coping strategy.
People also spend an ever-increasing time at work: ‘presenteeism.’ People think that if they are present in the office and seem to be busy all the time, the boss will notice and promote them. They fail to realize that the boss thinks: “If it takes him so long to do the tasks he already has, how can I give him more to do? So I can’t promote him.” Hence the boss has more and more work because he cannot delegate.

Some people really are busy, juggling two or three low-paid jobs and trying to raise a family as a single parent. However, most people choose, indeed find ways, to be busy. They could choose not to. Thinking and reviewing helps you become the person you could be. Some do not think at all - they just go through the motions. Busyness is the antidote to self-knowledge, so figure out what you want to be good at and forget the rest.

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