Culture of Busy

Lately everyone seems to like to complain how busy they are every day. College students, children, adults, everyone echos the same complaints. “I’m so busy!” “I can’t possibly add one more thing!”

This blog post by Scott Berkun clearly points out that this culture of busy is ingrained, “That simply by always seeming to have something to do, we all assume you must be important or successful.”

He continues, “people who are always busy are time poor. They have a time shortage.” If you are always too busy, review your commitments. Is there something you’re doing because you’re supposed to, not because you want to? Are you missing out on happenstance opportunities because you aren’t letting life just happen? Are you busy because you’re uncomfortable with sitting still? How many great opportunities have you missed because you’re just too busy? Do your commitments make you happy?

While you’re pondering those questions, think about what being busy really means. This article from Relevant Magazine takes the cult of busy one step further calling it pride.

“People who have not seen each other in a few days or weeks start to catch up, and the talk quickly turns toward comparing notes on how terribly busy we all are,” the author states.

Free time should not be guilt or angst ridden. Free time should be freeing, relaxing, rejuvenating.

A very smart co-worker of mine suggested saying no to just one thing. Just one. If you need a phrase to help you get started, try, “thank you for thinking of me, but I must decline at this time.” See what happens next. Spend an hour (off the clock of course!) doing nothing. When you get antsy after five minutes, sit through it. When you mind screams you should be doing something, ignore it.

What would you do with an extra hour?

Be More Productive: Flip the Switch

Editor’s Note: This post was originally for Brazeen Careerist, where I am lucky enough to be a guest blogger. If you haven’t checked out the site, I highly recommend it.

What if you could gain an extra hour in the day? Sleep better? Really reconnect with your friends and family? Extend your attention span? Be more productive at work? Hear and see things you often miss?

All of these things are possible with just one little change. This isn’t a gimmick!  No “As Seen on TV” products or a magic pills here. To get the benefits mentioned above and even more, you need to flip a switch – the off switch.

By just turning off your cell phone, your laptop, your iPod and other technological devices, you can refocus your attention. Not checking your email every five minutes will stop you from wasting time. Not having the blue light staring you in the face will help you fall asleep faster and overall sleep better. Better sleep means better productivity at work.

Attention and focus take a hit when you anticipate the arrival of more digital stimulation, according to this New York Times article, which reports on a group of professors who took a trip to a remote area in Utah in order to understand how digital technology affects the way we think. A seminal study mentioned in the article conducted by the University of Michigan showed people can better learn after walking in the woods than after walking down a busy street.

These days, everything is time sensitive. We want answers now and no one can imagine waiting on anything.

But it is possible to control the technology you use.

“Plugging in is routine and hard to break,” said University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill student Taylor Coil, who routinely unplugs in the evenings to take her dog for a long walk or to enjoy a game of cards or a board game with her fiancé.

Graphic designer Christa Jane takes unplugging a bit further. She typically unplugs for a few hours after work and for extended periods of time on the weekend. If she has the day off, she rarely checks email and online social networks during that time. While this approach made her feel left out initially, she doesn’t feel that way anymore. “I’ve gotten over it,” she said. “I have few enough friends on Facebook that I can catch up with, but I gave up on reading all tweets.”

Personally, I leave my phone at home and turn off the laptop at least once a day and not just during a workout or a run. I’ve found it to be quite liberating. The unplugged time allowed me to finish some novels and non-fictions I meant to read years ago. The extra time has also given me and my husband time to try new recipes and watch movies.

You really don’t have anything to lose by unplugging. Start with an hour here and there. Before you know it, you might be up to a full evening or whole day.

Besides, as designer Jessica Kohler points out, you have to live so you have something to talk about.