Tuesday, July 03, 2012

Love Lounge: On the business of being busy

Here's a question for you, friends: How busy are you? I know that might sound like a strange question, but that's the topic making the blog rounds lately. To tackle this issue, the Atlantic Monthly asked in its recent cover story: Can women have it all?

Then the New York Times ran a piece last week about the dangerous black hole of being busy. Indeed, this busyness business is an industry unto itself. There are books about it. TV specials. Magazine article. It seems as though we're too busy trying to un-busy ourselves.

My mom was commenting on this very predicament a few days ago. "Why does my summer seem to be slipping away so quickly?" she asked. The answer, at least in part, is pretty simple: The need to be going, going, going.

These days, being crazy busy is seen as some sort of trophy. A prize. A badge of honor to be earned. Whoever has the most items on their to-do list or can cram as many activities into one weekend should be commended. Well, therein lies the busy trap, according to author Tim Kreider. It's a boast disguised as a complaint.

Just like those busy-bodies Kreider describes, so many of my mom's commitments, activities and general woman-about-town nature is self-imposed. Activities and other obligations she's taken on voluntarily. And here's the kicker, says Kreider...

"They’re busy because of their own ambition or drive or anxiety, because they’re addicted to busyness and dread what they might have to face in its absence. Almost everyone I know is busy. They feel anxious and guilty when they aren’t either working or doing something to promote their work."

As I move toward blogging full-time in the fall, my work schedule will no doubt change as well. No long will I have set "office hours," so it will be important for me to set up a schedule so I don't so caught up in the rat race of it all. On his own writing life, Kreider says...

"I am not busy. I am the laziest ambitious person I know. Like most writers, I feel like a reprobate who does not deserve to live on any day that I do not write, but I also feel that four or five hours is enough to earn my stay on the planet for one more day. On the best ordinary days of my life, I write in the morning, go for a long bike ride and run errands in the afternoon, and in the evening I see friends, read or watch a movie. This, it seems to me, is a sane and pleasant pace for a day."

But I love the take-away message...

"Idleness is not just a vacation, an indulgence or a vice; it is as indispensable to the brain as vitamin D is to the body, and deprived of it we suffer a mental affliction as disfiguring as rickets. The space and quiet that idleness provides is a necessary condition for standing back from life and seeing it whole, for making unexpected connections and waiting for the wild summer lightning strikes of inspiration — it is, paradoxically, necessary to getting any work done."

So, what do you think, friends? Do you find yourself too busy most of the time? How do you weave that necessary idleness into your life? Do you ever feel guilty for doing so? Any tips on how to relax and steer clear of being crazy busy?

[Photos via We Heart It and Le Love]


  1. love this post and so beautifully written. i believe that i think of myself as one of those 'busy' people but having just read this, i think it is time to take a step back and stop thinking that being busy is so 'cool'. it isn't cool at all -- you've just totally opened my eyes. thank you! xx

  2. Beautiful post. I really relate to Kreider. As an artist, we don't have a set schedule and life is pretty good for most of the time. I'm not busy and I feel bad I'm not. That's something I have to just accept.

  3. really enjoyed this post and something that I needed right now! I have a question though....how do you unbusy yourself? and what are meant to do with that idle time? When ever I have time off work for a holiday I dont know what Im meant to do with myself when not working. It feels very weird and foreign

  4. ps. you should add some share buttons to your posts so I cna tweet / share them :P

  5. So true of myself and others! It almost makes me sad. I find I scared of havIng nothing to do, I need to be constantly moving. If I slow down, everything still keeps moving but without me. The thought of having to catch up to it all after a break gives me anxiety. That inbox with 31 unread messages, the Facebook statuses I missed, etc. Wish I could make time stand still.

  6. This is so interesting, and something I think we all need to look at in our own lives.

    Being self-employed, I definitely feel that pressure that if I'm not working, I should be!

    However, sometimes (as a lazy ambitious person - I like that!) I find I use the 'I need a break' excuse a little TOO much... I also love reading, and tend to devour a book a night, but I feel that's taking away too much time from other activities (not necessarily work, but including work) that I should be doing. Hence why I'm experimenting with banning myself from my kindle during the week to see what else I'll get up to!

    Great post!

  7. Funny you should mention that, daydream...adding some share buttons is on my to-do list! Which ones do you use?

  8. tiffany -- i'm so glad i'm not the only one who can relate! xoxo

  9. As a mom who doesn't work outside the home I am still tremendously busy and always feel like I'm behind, running like crazy and never being done. I desire to do more art but feel guilty doing it. I collapse on the couch with the computer, and when I think "I should get out my paints instead" then I usually add- "but if I have the energy for that then I should be cleaning the bathroom". And this from someone who has tried for a few years to 'simplify my life'.
    But another reminder is always good. Thank you :)

  10. oh, lynnae, you sound just like my mom! Remember to take time for YOU and don't feel the least bit guilty about it! xoxo

  11. When my daughter was wee I was a single mom holding down 2 or 3 jobs at a time to make ends meet. Before that I was vp in an asbestos abatement monitoring laboratory; often traveling hundreds of miles to monitor and manage asbestos removal jobs with anywhere from 20 to 200 men to monitor. (I was one of a small handful of women in the business at that time.) When I wasn't on a job I was in the laboratory or having to make scheduling, pricing, disposal, etc... etc... decisions. Most of my life was spent at a dead run just to try to keep up!
    A few years ago that came to a screeching halt when I developed a movement disorder which is worsened by stress, adrenalin, and fatigue. I move more slowly now but I also have time to create, to think those thoughts which take time, to laugh and relax and love. Even if I had the option of turning the clock back I wouldn't, especially as I've found that by 'unbusying' myself I have so much more to give.

  12. I am busy but not because being too ambitious. I work from 9 to 5, it takes me 1h to go work and another to drive home, trying to fit horse,a cat and home stuff on the mix, it doesn't leave many free hours. And of course time for the relationship with my man. As I'm a foreigner living in another country, i went through a long periods without work and didn't h have anything to do. I prefer to be busy and happy, like now :)

  13. I didn't know this topic was making the blog rounds, but either way, I think it's an incredibly relevant post. I think being busy is a drug for a lot of people. Like your post touches on, being busy somehow makes you better in our society, which really is not the truth when it comes down to a person's worth. I mean, maybe peers or co-workers or friends and family perceive you as being better, but I don't think being busy truly makes the heart, mind, and spirit any better for having a long list of things to do. Of course, not all busy is bad, some can be really excellent, but to create so much to do that you're unable to rest enough for peace and wellness isn't healthy.

    Regarding having it all, I honestly don't think women can have it all. Sure, it's a wonderful thought, but in one way a woman is missing out on something a some time if she is trying to have it all. If you're working and someone else is caring for your infant child, the mother I think will find more regret or guilt in that decision later on, if not in the present moments during which she has chosen to work instead of stay at home with her child. I realize that may sound incredibly ill of me to say, and I do not mean any disrespect in saying it, but only to say that I think it's a lie women are sometimes taught to believe...and even men, too, because having it all is not a reality and if you think someone has it all...you're not seeing the whole picture. Life isn't perfect, no matter how much you want perfection or a perfectly balanced work and home life...something gotta give some of the time.

    I hope that wasn't all to negative and downer-like. I really enjoyed your post and your blog as a whole. I love that you keep topics so relevant and honest. So thank you for that. :)

  14. Oh and I echo that I'd love some share buttons!!! :)

  15. I actually get anxious and start thinking too much when I'm not busy. It's awful! I love relaxing and downtime but too much of it has that weird effect on me. I'm in the middle of a decision right that is exactly about all of this. Thanks for posting--this and the comments have really given me something to think about!

  16. April -- i was just thinking about that this week. there's definitely a fine line between being too busy to the point of it being unhealthy and then having too much time on your hands.

    it's a balance i think all people strive for...


Your lovely comments make my day so much sweeter! Thanks for stopping by and saying hello!


Related Posts Widget for Blogs by LinkWithin