Exploring Busyness: Are You Too Occupied to Notice?

“I suppose it’s possible I’ll lie on my deathbed regretting that I didn’t work harder and say everything I had to say, but I think what I’ll really wish is that I could have one more beer with Chris, another long talk with Megan, one last good hard laugh with Boyd. Life is too short to be busy,” concludes Tim Krieder in a New York Times opinion piece from last summer.

Krieder laments that everyone seems busy–too busy to call or text back, too busy to go watch the football game and eat wings on a Sunday afternoon, too busy to exercise, date, and too busy to carve out unstructured time in any form.  I agree with his assertion, but I also recognize that he writes from a position of privilege–after all, he’s managed to make a living as a writer working 4-5 hour days.  Unemployment is an issue for millions.  Many people would love to be busy, making ends meet.  His argument seems largely targeted to career-driven, well-off individuals who don’t strive for the elusive life/work balance.  

So why are some people so busy? To what extent have people chosen to be and feel so busy, versus forces seemingly outside of their control?  Is it just a false perception?  

Clearly, the forces of modernity–namely digital communication–have impacted how busy we are.  For instance, at a friend’s bachelor party weekend in New Orleans last year, one of his groomsmen and hedge-fund colleagues had to wake up at 3:00 am on a Friday because some foreign company was releasing their quarterly earnings report.  Apparently, he had to react quickly to the news and make a decision to buy or sell.   I was dumbfounded.   What a shit job, I thought, being tethered to constant communication and time-zones.

I feel fortunate I don’t have to be on call with my iPhone 24-7 for work.  As a teacher, there is no communication outside of the school day that is urgent, although I do have to choose to say no and stop working–there’s a constant scroll-like to-do list as an educator.  For me, busyness only feels healthy when I scale back the work demands and balance them with other pursuits.

My version of a productive, happily busy weekday?  An exciting day in the classroom, engaging with students from roughly 7:40-2:20, perhaps a short meeting or tutoring session after school, a workout, time to browse the internet, cook a meal, hang out with my fiancee, and maybe have another hour of so in there for reading or TV.  Like Krieder, this is a privileged position.  But I’m also active in saying no to extra job requests, turning off my phone for stretches, and generally deciding that, to me, the good life isn’t taking on as much as I can.

In addition, the American economic system values productivity and growth over all else.  When people are on vacation, they still work.  When people take lunch breaks, they still check their e-mails and Twitter feeds.  Blogger Rachel Ryan, in her response and rebuttal to Krieder, writes, “But, even if some overarching authority mandated that all offices closed at noon for a Spanish-like siesta, people could and would still work. They could go home and work there. They could keep abreast of the news on their phones. They could, oh, I don’t know, read some infuriating article and be compelled to write something on their day off and never really “rest” (which is defined how, exactly?). What conceivable democratic authority has the capacity to institutionalize “relaxation policy?”

As long as the American cultural mindset is to work to consume, then work some more to buy fancier cars and more lavish homes,  she’s right: nothing will change.  We’re not about to embrace a paradigm shift, but maybe Krieder is right when he states, “But I would suggest that an ideal human life lies somewhere between my own defiant indolence and the rest of the world’s endless frenetic hustle. My role is just to be a bad influence, the kid standing outside the classroom window making faces at you at your desk, urging you to just this once make some excuse and get out of there, come outside and play.”

Lastly, a study reported on in Scientific American provides a wrinkle to this whole notion of the busyness trap.  In one experiment, researchers interrupted subjects with tasks ranging from mindless work to writing letters to sick children.  In another study, researchers “gave” unstructured time to subjects to do whatever they wanted, while another group had to use the same time to do something for someone else.   Those who filled up time in their busy lives with selfless tasks were much more likely to feel empowered and perceived having more time on their hands.  Fascinating stuff.

Will I regret it someday if I don’t pick up the pace and write one more blog post a week?  Or chair the English Department at school?  Or write more e-mails?  Or grade more papers?  Not a chance.

Where do you stand?  Do you feel too busy?  Do you have any anecdotal evidence to support the aforementioned study?  Does your job or personal habits impose this feeling on you?  Would you embrace a more relaxed American economic culture?  


  1. Isn’t it interesting that someone who considers himself ‘indolent’, Krieger, has caused us all to think more carefully about how we spend our time? So while he hasn’t been working, he has been working on us. You sound like you have a great work/life balance – and I am sure your students benefit mightily from that. So there is a knock on effect of ‘having a life’. Nice one.

    Great perspective from the priest. What kind of “ah-ha” moments manage to pull people away from their work a little bit, into a more balanced perspective on life?

  3. Good blog. A friend of mine who is a priest once told me, in all the years he had spent giving comfort to the dying in their last moments, not one had ever said they wished they had spent more time at the office. I remember that when I lose the plot and think work is the purpose in life.

  4. Thank you for this. After reading the nytimes article in the summer, I have frequently pondered Busyness and made an effort to eliminate it from my life. I find that Busyness has become a socially accepted way of saying “I don’t want to do what you are suggesting”. It is a way to get out of things that require effort. I would like to believe that, when presented with options, I am the one making the choices – not some list of pre-scheduled tasks.

  5. Gypsy mum,
    I’m sure you are keeping plenty busy with your kids and your writing!
    I’m writing about this issue before I have kids of my own to worry about, then I’m sure I’ll have a whole new perspective.

  6. Daniel,
    As an English teacher myself, I also enjoy opportunities to allow students to be curious. There is nothing worse than the pressure to fill “empty vessels” with knowledge, without allowing for any student direction.

  7. rohan,
    I completely agree with your assessment of time as a precious commodity. Not as a commodity to use to earn more money, but to spend on fulfilling activities on a daily basis.
    I wonder how many people have New Year’s resolutions that relate to satisfaction and contentment in an average day?

  8. When I get bored, I let my mind wander, and shortly after, I am no longer bored. I enjoy being entertained, but after a while even the entertainment becomes dull.

  9. Great blog. I am a holistic therapist working a lot with how busyness manifests in the physiology, especially the abdomen and digestive system. Like any habit busyness can become important in and of itself so relaxing becomes difficult, uncomfortable and pushed down the list of importance. The key thing for my clients is that they “have ” and enjoy their busyness and equally can disconnect from it in one sphere of life, say work, to be fully present in another say health and wellbeing. Too many people these days “trade health for wealth” thinking they can by the former back with Holidays or healthcare when they retire!

  10. Thanks!
    I’ve found the Christmas break to put all of this in perspective, because I know when I get back to my home in Kentucky I’ll have lists of things to do, both related to work and to leisure.
    Right now, on break, my list has been completely empty of everything besides spending time with family. It’s too bad that it is only official holidays that seem to bring everyone together. Too much work, too much busyness.

  11. Meideas,
    I admire your work ethic, and I hope you’ll be able to find a good balance so that you are able to establish a life you are imagining without straining yourself too much.

  12. Great comments.
    There are SO many jobs disconnected from the act of seeing tangible results or creation. It would drive me crazy to sit at a desk and click on icons on day.
    Is it possible for everyone to love their work, feel passionate about their efforts?
    Probably not. And unfortunately, I don’t think many people have explored the idea of the human spirit and the need to create.
    For me, even though I don’t like to feel overwhelmed with my teaching work, at least I find great value in what I do when I am working.

  13. I completely agree with the notion of feeling like what you do is attached to a goal or a useful purpose.
    I hate the feeling of having a massive “To Do” list when many items on the list seem useless.
    Great advice!

  14. Hope you’ve found some time to relax.
    As a high school teacher, I find that students often say they are bored and need constant stimulation. Do you find yourself in the same boat?

  15. Hi Jayne, finally finding a good time to respond to the barrage of comments!
    I think the economic system “does” it to us, and many people have a hard time imagining a life with less work and less stuff, which is tied to your idea of ego/success.

  16. Its funny how people sometimes forget the so called “good things in life” ….and its true that people have gotten too involved with work but then again its like you’ve written that not all people have the privilege or time to just sit back and enjoy these small and precious moments. Some people just want to reach the top of the food chain, while others do it to make their loved ones more happy and satisfied.

    Whatever be the motive, personally I’m one of those people who follow or at least try to follow the saying that life is about the moments that took your breath away…
    I’d say a great topic and a great read with a different point of view for every individual person who read it.
    Thanks for sharing such a post and letting well at least me to think twice about everything I’ve been doing recently. Cheers!

  17. I think its in fashion right now to be too busy. And its happend all over the world. I saw a movie called “Peace warior” somehow its on the seame subject about for what are we running for
    Greetings from Romania

  18. Reblogged this on RoadsideRetirement and commented:
    This is exactly what most people are like. I like to think that when people say they aren’t interested, or they’re too busy, it just comes second nature to them. It’s engraved into their minds….I’m busy, way too busy to learn something new, to step outside my boundaries, to dare to standout among the crowd!

  19. Yes! I love this comment that we have a need to CREATE. I definitely feel that… I think that is one reason that I love to cook and bake after many hours of “business” on the computer at work.

    I recently read an excerpt about how being busy is a CHOICE. It’s something Paul really seems to understand, and I admire that. The excerpt is from a book by Jill Farmer called “There’s Not Enough Time: And Other Lies We Tell Ourselves.”

  20. While I understand the idea that some people may seemingly work too hard. It is also possible that some are just passionate about what they do. So for them their work is living, it is pleasurable. There are some who get up every morning and go to a job that they love so for them not doing it would be dissapointing for them.

  21. Great post! I definitely enjoyed reading this. It is so true, we all are very busy in our lives (even myself included) and life is too short. I know I am only in my 20s, but when I was younger, I so badly wanted to grow up and be an adult. What was I thinking? haha. Now once in a while I wish I could go back a few years, when times were simpler, less responsibilities, more free time, etc. Thanks for sharing this post!

    Everyone feel free to check out my blog! All follows, likes, comments, and views are all appreciated! 🙂

  22. Part of my recent self discovery is how the ‘connection’ we all have been making through social media is actually taking away from personal relationships that are much more meaningful. When I wake up in the morning, I would check my Facebook feeds as I sat on the toilet. Juvenile statement I know, but what was happening is that I got my social ‘fix’ early on and I allowed myself to be ‘busy’ with my life as I thought I knew it. Running around, cramming my schedule etc etc. At the end of the day after updating my status and replying to others’ I realized something. I was going to bed with nothing changed. I was making small improvements for myself and my life but I was completely lacking relationships with people. The texting, tweeting and status updating society we live in is tearing us apart. Whether we know it or not, we all want something more out of this life. For many of us it seems that being busy is falsely securing that notion. For as busy as people are, things sure seem to move slow when you need something done.

  23. Greit idea! The most important thing is in my opinion that you like your work and that you earn respect for your results. Just if you come into a mood, called “the flow” youl will be in positive stress and achieve great results. As more success you have work the more satisfied you are and the more you can enjoy your leisure time.

  24. I think being busy can also be rejuvenating, but it really depends on the the type of busy–we all have to choose how we spend our day, and there are certainly ‘fun’ things we can fill our time with as opposed to tasks we consider ‘chores’–the stuff we feel that we must do even if we don’t like doing it. If I have a day off and don’t do anything except sit around on the couch, eating whatever food I don’t have to cook and watching Netflix, I know I have wasted a day of life. I don’t feel well afterwards, (but maybe that’s the unhealthy food or the depression kicking in). Filling my day with organized tasks helps me feel productive and *better* than if I didn’t. Staying busy isn’t always a bad thing!

    That being said, I am also very careful to plan things I like to do as part of my day to avoid the busyness burnout. For example, after work, I might visit my brother to hang out and cook with him. In between loads of laundry, I’ll watch an episode of a TV series. If all these fun things (playing video games, finally writing that blog post, riding my horse, making a costume, etc.) are interspersed on my to-do list with the chores (going to work, doing the dishes, grocery shopping, paying bills, etc.) then I feel refreshed from the fun AND productive from the chores at the end of the day without being overwhelmed. It’s just a matter of organization and knowing how much you can take from either side of the busy spectrum. Everyone will have their own balance of fun to chores as well as their own definitions of what falls into each category, but I think the balance itself is the key to being successful and happy.

  25. Years ago I wrote something – long before blogs or even hard drives, lol – about busyness being a competition – whoever was busiest was most important, it seemed, you get my drift. And I sure got yours. Thanks for making me stop and think about NOT racing to my next online account. I’m just going to sleep on your words 🙂

  26. I totally get it. That is what I am trying to do right now… To just enjoy what I do, and hope to one day say that it is worth it, for my daughter’s sake
    Love your blog!

  27. What a great post! I am one who feels most comfortable working hard and the more I have to deal with during the day, the better I feel and the better my responses to some of these extra things that are flung my way! In fact, every day that I go to work it feels like a big Nintendo game! The balance? I leave my work at work! To this day (I am now 60) I have never brought work home from my office.
    Good post. Thanks.

  28. I am a college student focusing in a project-based major. I live with my parents but I work to pay for school, my car payment, my gas, my insurance, my food, and my phone bills every month. I also intent to move out & start paying rent soon. As you can imagine, I am INCREDIBLY BUSY. Why is this important? The influence of goals. I fully support the idea of taking a step back and breathing on a daily basis. But for a lot of people, taking on more is what you HAVE to do to achieve your goals. Whether that goal is to have a more reliable and safe gas-efficient vehicle for your family to feed your family more whole foods on a regular basis (this can certainly be more expensive than the diet of oreos and go-gurt my siblings live on). The point is, you may not specifically regret not sending more emails or taking the higher paying position, but you may look back and regret that you didn’t make enough to reach those well-intending goals you had for you or your family/friends.

    Now, I also must say: I AGREE that we need to have less “busy” time. I agree that more people need to be able to call their friends and say “want to come over for dinner? I’m making porkchops!” without the expected “i wish! but not tonight! I’m sooo exhausted from work…” People ARE too busy. And outside of the issue of goals, technology has indeed trapped us. I want to get rid of my facebook SO badly. Will I? No. Because all of my pictures & updates and life from the past 5 years are in sequence RIGHT THERE. Not to mention the fact that it’s near IMPOSSIBLE to keep in touch with friends’ lives and stay in the loop without it. I hate it. I check my stupid facebook multiple times every day. Do I want to? Absolutely not. Usually, I just see stupid cat pictures and idiotic “memes”. But occasionally, there’s that essential tidbit of information I wouldn’t have known without the social media site. I know TONS of people who feel this way. We all spend so much time on the social media sites we hate, posting things when we’re bored and being brainwashed into thinking that we never had time to do that fun thing.

    Also, I feel like a lot of America is unhealthy (in more ways than one). Particularly with food & exercise. The lack of incorporating your health into your busy schedule exhausts you sooner, makes you feel lazier, increases the tendency towards depression (which ultimately makes you feel like you don’t want to do anything ever). And that hinders us SO MUCH SO that we exhaust ourselves far before we should be exhausted & we spend free time we could be using to do that fun thing to lay about and go “uuuugh I’m soooo boooored” before it’s time to go back to work.

    I guess I’ve been rambling for a while. But you get the point. Goals affect our tendency to want to be busy, health is an issue that hinders us into feeling lazier and less motivated to enjoy ourselves, and technology traps our free time and makes us think that that time never existed.

  29. Nice post! Early this year I quit a job that was no longer serving me to follow my creative pursuits and spend more time at home with my family. It is wonderful. I have found a wonderful balance. And love that I am in control of my happiness. I am not just working for someone else to make a profit. Especially in a job that I didn’t really like. Choose your own adventure……..

  30. I agree 100%. I’d say it’s also interesting to see how kids today are also “too busy.” Their parents have them enrolled in so many activities in order to give them the best “opportunities” so they can eventually have the best life (whatever that is). Kids don’t know how to be bored anymore and I think the notion of free play is completely lost on parents today! Great post!

  31. Congratulations are definitely in order. So Congratulations!
    On the busy trap, I actually think it’s is a good thing: I mean, without it, I would jut sit around and watch TV all day. I do better when busier, it forces me to manage my time better and be more productive.
    It’s kind of like that roku commercial (“While you’re streaming Modern Family untill your eyes dry up, another American will have successfully transplanted a human heart into a dolphin etc.”) Pressure is what’s going to turn me into a dolphin heart trans planter versus a TV watcher.

    What do you think? Totally off my rocker? One fruit loop short of the bowl? (I’m running out of clever euphemisms, so I’ll just quit while I’m ahead.)
    P.S What grade to you teach?

  32. Great post! Busyness is a status thing too. In my field (social work, advocacy) if you’re not constantly overwhelmed and on the brink of burnout, or at least acting like you are, you get judged as being incompetent, or worse, as not doing enough to Change The World. The ones whose lives are all out of whack because of their workaholism are the ones who are admired/respected the most. I hate it.

  33. Geez….I feel guilty every day knowing time is all around me, and all I have to do is grab a handful of it and be more….productive? After reading your post….maybe not. I do answer emails and write posts and comments but not with much expediency. I don’t feel stressed too often…so I guess the question is: Will “I” believe I’ve accomplished “enough” at the end of it all….

    Inside of grabbing more time, maybe I should focus more on what I do with it….
    Thanks for a new prospective<3

  34. Completely agreed.

    Even though I am a slave to the corporate world, I dream of being free one day and just living life (once I make enough money that is). I just don’t see the point of keeping yourself so busy that (I know it’s cliche but true) you can’t stop and smell the roses!

    I made a similar post to this as well. By falling prey to the work-spend-work-spend cycle, we numb out the more important things in life because “the busy bas has no time for sorrow.”

  35. I agree one needs to have a work-life balance. I am currently a stay at home mum and freelance writer. I took a career break from an absolutely hectic banking job when I had my babies. And one thing I’ve learnt about life is prioritising. There are days my days are chaotic. My focus is myself, my family , my work and friends… people are busy trying to make ends meet and in this dog eat dog world, people have to constantly keep proving themselves.. so yes, when you have a family depending on you ( as it is in my husband’s case), its hard but not impossible. it depends on how important something is for you.
    I sometimes don’t have time for the drama in someone else’s life and that’s not coz I’m busy- its because that’s not on my list of priorities.

  36. I really enjoyed this. I’m a teacher too (at the college level), and one of the things I try to emphasize in my classes is the importance of just looking around and following your curiosity. I have an assignment where I make my students explore the physical feature of our library. I don’t want them looking for “information,” I want them to notice the architecture. I also have them write about a physical space on campus. I encourage them to sit there and reflect on how if functions and why it’s interesting. Education is being swallowed whole by the demands of commerce and I try to stand against that in the ways that being an English teacher allows me to. Great post – I’ll pass it along to my students next semester!

  37. I am not busy yet still too busy. I have so much work to do but I don’t do it cuz I don’t like my work. Some people, they pretend to be busy. They show-off they are busy. And for some people, staying busy with their work is their priority. It all about priorities. Balance between work and personal life is important.

  38. This is a constant battle, whether working on not, wealthy or poor, to prioritize. Sometimes I find busyness actually helps me get more done, as I plan better – it’s just whether or not the more is stuff that really matters. I’ve actually created a word for myself when I’ve got a “to do” and I’m not up for, whether it’s returning a phone call or playing with my kids or taking time to pray. Thinking to myself I say, this is “critical”, meaning it’s something I consider fundamentally valuable to my life. Then I “just do it.” Please see my blog for more on how I deal with friends who unknowingly steal time from me, and how I deal.

  39. Great post! All I know is that money and possessions are potentially limitless while our time and energy are quite finite. We’ve all got to eat and pay the bills but after that, plus a little entertainment and comfort, if someone continues to sell the priceless resource of their life’s time for some measly money I’d say they are getting ripped off. Now there are those who’s work is exactly what they would be doing regardless of the money, those who are totally passionate about their work and their busyness is a choice rather than a habit. They are fine.

    The one’s I worry about are those who put off their dreams and passions until they have “more” money, “more” security, “more” stuff and so on. Those are the one’s who remain trapped in the busy habit, because there’s always just a little “more” to get.

    I think the quality of a person’s life is determined by the quality of their individual days. It’s not determined by some great future they have planned, or by their bank balance. The quality of someone’s life is determined by the inner and outer peace, happiness, satisfaction and contentment they experience in an average day.

    Ok sorry for the ramble lol! Thought provoking post though, thanks for sharing 🙂


  40. I personally think that most people are too busy. Full time anything is too busy. Life is meant to be lived, not lived at work to be able to afford the extravagant home & stuff you can’t afford. I think that people need to re-assess their priorities and place more values on people, relationships, community, creativity etc. But that’s just me 😉

  41. Thank you for this insightful post. We really have to pause for a while, take a deep breath and reflect on all the busyness we have on a regular basis then we can get re-energised and tackle hectic schedules again. For me, it’s actually how we manage a good balance between keeping space for ourselves and with your schedules.

    Congrats on the FP! :=)

  42. Interesting and very timely post you have there. I am a young professional. Been working for a year now since I finished my college here in the Philippines. I got a regular job in a bloodbank and at the same time I’m doing some sidelines like tutorials and review classes. Also I’m starting to venture in some business here. Now I’m starting to feel the busyness of life. He he I mean, I go to my regular job and then during my day offs I do my review sessions and tutorials AND the business. Well, sometimes I get to the point of asking myself, “Why am I doing this?” Is this really what life is all about? There are times where I plainly feel so tired, wasted, exhausted that I all I want to do is to shoot up in the outer space, stay there for a moment and simply forget everything here one earth. Well I guess saying NO sometimes is a wise thing to do. Accepting too many commitments can strain every fiber of your body and soul. On the other hand, I also think “if I don’t do these and establish a good career or whatever while I’m still young, then what future will await ahead of me?” Ha ha Well, am i just so mellow dramatic? Well I think I am just so scared that I won’t get the kind of life I’m trying to imagine, in the future.

  43. Some people in my life seem to force themselves beyond limit. Work really hard just to have some extra money so the society will acknowledge them while their children left alone in home. Do we live to please this kind of society? A society who can’t accept us as who we are. Why can’t just we enjoy some time just to have fun with those who really dear to us?

  44. I think the human spirit needs to create – it doesn’t matter how, necessarily, whether it is creating conversation with students, creating a meal, creating a poem, creating a business plan, creating a new outfit, creating new pathways in the brain when reading some philosophical text or creating new skills on the piano, at a sport or in a relationship. I think “busyness” feels too busy when we are alienated from the rewards of our creation, as in working tirelessly and meaninglessly for some distant CEO. That’s “work.” The lucky ones are the ones whose creations are rewarded by the economic system – successful writers, musicians, athletes, businessmen. But everyone has a skill, and everyone has the desire to create (even in terms we don’t often value economically, as in creating family, creating a household, creating a bedtime story for children). The trick is to either find a way to fit into the system doing what you love (and then it’s no longer “work”) or change the system to value non-traditional forms of creation. No matter what, we all need to feel connected, and like what we do is of some value to others.

    I remember that post “The Busy Trap” when it first came out over the summer and it really impacted me and my group of starving artist friends hard — I am noticing a trend in people around me that we are stepping outside the thinking of the failing money system and getting back to what matters, like what we do with the time we have. Of course, the question I still face is how to make all my passions pay more than just the rent 😉 But I think that will come in time. And no one ever got to be truly happy by always doing things they hate. Sometimes, in order to get there, some sacrifices must be made. Like fancy dinners and thinking I should already be a successful writer at 24…. nope, following your passion means you’re in for the long haul. With no guaranteed reward. But is there ever any? I’m with Krieder – better to fly by the seat of your pants than get stuck in them 😉

  45. Hi there! I like this topic, because it is something that has been on my mind of late… For me busyness is in some way related to a sense of accomplishment: if I have a lot of things to do that I draw no satisfaction from, it will definitely weigh on me and I will feel overloaded. But if the things I have to do are, say, plan weird dished to try out for some dinner, think through some pet project, etc, I feel super happy to dedicate time to it, even if it is more demanding than “work stuff”.
    So one of the things I am trying to do is review the “have tos” I tell myself: do I really have to do this now, or can I do it some other time or another way? What am I doing it for? Being a bit critical with your choices and connecting them to a purpose helps review your load, I think.

  46. I’m 18. I moved several states for the hopes of getting work, and now I work two jobs and have no time for school. I’ve become so busy I feel I have no time for myself, but when I do, I loathe it because I don’t know what to do. I wish I knew how to relax, to kick back, to enjoy life. I think I’m learning how to do that. Well, I would if I wasn’t so busy.

  47. Denmother,
    Good luck in your quest to switch careers and find something more meaningful.
    I happen to find great meaning in most of my work as an educator, and one of my worries (if I decide to ever shift careers) is that I won’t be able to have the same sense of value in what I do.

  48. As a teacher, I can’t imagine having two weeks off a year. In fact, it seems absurd to dedicate–no matter your job or how much you love it–that much time to work.

  49. Loved reading your post. I suppose one key element to ask ourselves is why we do this to ourselves. Can I suggest that many of us have become a slave to our ego’s? A more, better and best mentality that makes it harder to value and enjoy what it is we actually do have.

  50. I’m probably at the opposite end of busyness spectrum. I’m afraid I inherited my father’s lazy gene. “Don’t do today what you could put off ’til tomorrow,” was his motto. If anyone needs coaching on how to loaf and procrastinate, I’m your man. Great post by the way.

  51. Thanks for bringing this up. For years now it’s been bothering me when people talk about how ‘busy’ they are. To me its an ego/self-important thing, whether it’s work or not work. People tend to not realize that they have a choice of how they use their time, at least to a certain extent (the possible exception being parenting, especially single parenting). Or else they have to act like they are busy for matters of job security, for instance. Or general esteem purposes.

    To me it’s more like: where are you choosing to put your energy? What are you doing that is really fulfilling and productive? What things are you doing that you want to do because they are good for you and the people that you care about?

    Life is busy, at some times more than others. I wish people would stop treating it like a competition.

  52. Timely post. I’m on a mission to get out of my “busy” day job. “Busy” because so much of it is make-work. Not particularly valuable in my mind.

    Part of this mission is changing my mindset, the one you refer to: Work to consume. As I cut down on my consumption I have much less to work for.

    Most important to me however, is that I do meaningful work that allows me to live and makes me feel alive. Also work that allows me balance in my life between work and family.

    Nice post.

  53. Nope, I’ve never felt too busy, at least not for too long. The type of busyness you probably describe, the ongoing one, doesn’t gel with me. I’ve always believed in working hard and playing hard. I don’t get my kick from being seen to work hard (this is what I think subconsciously motivates people so that they can come across as important). I believe we all have something that we feel makes us stand out. For many nowadays this is being or appearing to be busy (e.g. all the texting people do when using public transport).

    In terms of a more relaxed American economic culture: of course yes. For starters, employees should get at least 15 working days leave per annum, but ideally 20. I was abhorred to learn some years ago that in Canada it’s only 10 per annum when one gets a new job. Unheard of (until I lived there). In most of western Europe it starts with 20 days leave per annum, and even in South Africa, where I also lived, most people have 15 or 20 to begin with. We’re all in the economic slump together, so having more vacation days each year is okay for the States too (as the abysmal amount that employees get now did not prevent a crisis there!).

  54. Ironic, no, that I’m “busy” responding to replies?:)
    I try to manage my digital time, only blogging about once a week, but I always try to reply to the majority of comments. I find that the dialogue produced on WordPress is worth my time.
    Thanks for commenting!

  55. Wow, my sister has done a silent retreat and mentioned how powerful it was. I can’t imagine 8 days!
    I wonder what the tipping point is, environmentally, when work-produce-consume-repeat is completely unsustainable. I suspect we could be already there…

  56. How we monitor and manage our digital lives certainly has a huge impact on how busy we are and feel. Personally, I know I can do better about setting aside certain times to check e-mail or work on the computer.
    I strive for about one blog post a week, which is enough for me.

  57. Thanks TYTAYGM!
    Our whole economy is predicated on growth and consumption, which is why the Bhutan model is so hard for many of us to fathom. Eventually, we’ll have to not work so hard to consume so hard. After all, there are finite resources out there to make all the stuff we buy.

  58. Sounds like you and your boyfriend did the tough work of discussing values and figuring out what you both wanted out of your lives. I wonder how many couples, and individuals, for that matter, fail to stop and think if what they are striving for is really what they want.

  59. I am self employed and feel like I am semi retired. I could work harder and have more money, but end up with the same profit margin. I am content with “less” but have so much. I love my life. There is enough challenge to keep me from getting self satisfied but no real stress. Congrats on being freshly pressed. Hope it does not up your work load too much answering all the replies.

  60. Great post, well said and how great to see you on the FP page!

    I agree 100 percent. I took an eight day silent retreat with my husband last summer and it changed how I view my time, my energy and what I value. I easily sat still and silent for an hour in the garden. The first three days were very difficult and the end was tougher, leaving the cocoon of shared, committed silence with 75 others.

    American culture relentlessly demands we be “productive” of economic value (zzzzzzzz. Do we not have any higher values than this?!) but its emphasis (capitalism’s goal) on work-produce-consume-repeat is wearying and soul-deadening. It takes significant self-confidence (and a low overhead) to step off the hamster wheel.

    I like it out here.

  61. I relate busyness with commitments. When I hear people complain that they are “too busy”, I think that they have “too many commitments”. People can be committed to their jobs, spouses, children, friends, community, religion, school, exercise, health, and so much more. We take on our own commitments, but then we take on commitments from other people as well. When we take on too many commitments, we just end up burning ourselves out. We only have so many hours in a day, and we only have so much energy.

    What I have learned that has personally benefitted me is that we need to choose our priorities and limit our commitments. Otherwise, we spread ourselves way too thin and feel the stress of being too busy. I think it’s all about balance, where we enjoy what we do everyday, are somewhat busy, but still have some flexibility.

  62. Oh, absolutely, to all of it. Many days, I feel too busy. The biggest change that I made to reduce the busyness of my life was to stop checking email first thing in the morning. I try to get my most important, sit-down-at-the-computer tasks out of the way before 10am, and then respond to any emails that may have come in overnight. I’ll usually check again around 4pm, but not always. And it helps, a lot.

    Now, if only everyone else took a more relaxed attitude, because I often have to put up some sort of autoresponder to keep from getting scathing, where-the-hell-are-you phone calls!

  63. He is writing from a position of privilege, but it is how a large slice of the population seems to be living at the moment, and it is a lifestyle that should be questioned and examined. Krieder was really talking about “invented” busyness–I “have” to take my kids to soccer practice and then I “have” to get together with a friend for coffee and then I “have” to attend a volunteer meeting for the charity I work for. Well, you don’t. None of it. If you don’t want to. I myself am too busy, but it’s too busy doing things that keep me sane, functional, and well-fed. But that’s not the busyness he meant.

    Some people see busyness as a badge of honor–maybe it makes them feel needed or wanted or like their lives are productive and meaningful. It doesn’t. It just makes you busy.

  64. I was watching a documentary on Bhutan the other day and it talked about how the people of that country are more interested in GNH (Gross National Happiness) vs. GNP (Gross National Product). They do not believe that Western society and industrialization are the way to progress. The busyness that results in order to maintain a certain lifestyle or to acquire more material things is short-lived—–it leads to more unhappiness in people. For them, happiness comes from a balance between the external and internal. And although according to our perspective, this may not make sense and we may just dismiss the people of Bhutan as poor, idle or not having much to look forward to or not know what they are missing etc, the majority of Bhutanese are actually quite content. Interestingly, I don’t think many North Americans and Europeans (considering how technologically advanced our societies are or how much we have matierally) feel content in our own lives. Really makes you think sometimes…..Congrats on being FP!

  65. This is a topic that my boyfriend and I have been discussing lately. Long story short, we’ve been wanting to downsize our lives: work less hours, have less debt, have less stuff, live in a smaller place.
    We went through a phase where we were both working ridiculous hours and never saw each other. That’s when we noticed the junk piling up, the to do list getting longer, and sleep was few and far between.
    I don’t want to miss out on the little things in my life: Camping trips, snow shoeing, skiing, raising children (Eventually!) so on and so forth!
    Thank you for writing this blog. Not everyone realizes how a busy lifestyle doesn’t always mean a successful lifestyle.

  66. I hear you and feel the same way. My blog hasn’t been that great lately anyway because I am feeling the same way. But I promise to stop by sporadically, because I love your work. Deal? 🙂

  67. Thanks for stopping by!
    I’m finding myself having a hard time keeping up with great blogs like yours, but I guess that’s something I have sacrificed. Teaching is so mentally draining, that sometimes I don’t have the energy to read and leave thoughtful comments on as much as I want….

  68. Melody,
    Love your outlook! I checked out the video, and I see the benefits of this type of approach, blending in gaming and learning with other methods. Personally, I have no experience with these types of applications or programs–do you know of any related to high school English?

  69. Hi Stew!!! Great post. Lately I have been too busy at work – MUCH busier than I like. But I am with you – I don’t mind being busy as long as the business is balanced between things I love and work. I don’t want work to consume all of my time and energy – ever. I would absolutely buy into a more relaxed American economic culture. Thanks for the reminder! 😉

  70. If your life’s work is play, then going to work everyday is a vacation. I realize this is coming from a position of power in someways as I have a good paying job that I absolutely love.

    However, my entire goal in my life and career has been to enjoy the journey. So how do I go about doing this? Well…I discovered something about myself in a video about Gamification in Education. I found a word that describes how I got to where I am. The word is agency and it is the belief that you have the ability to control your own destiny no matter what is going on around you. I have been lucky to have had agency in my attitude. I honestly believe it is a major factor leading to the current level of happiness I experience in my life.

    Back to your main topic, yes I am busy with work, family and school, but I love every minute of it, because my busyness involves wonderful people, relationships and a sense of accomplishment.

    Oh, if you are interested in the Gamification in Education video, here is the link:


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