The busyness paradox

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I wrote this entire blog post this morning — because I was in Mexico for about a week, I haven’t blogged in a while and wanted to — and there was some WordPress error on Chrome, and it didn’t save, and I don’t feel like rewriting the entire thing, so let me summarize the key idea herein.

What’s this paradox I speak of?

We load up on commitments so that we don’t disappoint people.

In the process, we have too many commitments, end up dropping stuff, and do actually disappoint people.

Why is this?

Largely because a lot of people are obsessed with being busy, even though “busy” is not even remotely the same thing as “productive.”

Also because people don’t like to let other people down, and aren’t sure how to word it when they have to. (There’s documented research that if you tell someone “I am too busy” to do something, i.e. attend their party, they will begin to think you don’t care about them. I definitely have felt that way many a time.)

Also because it’s a largely uncertain work time, and I think a lot of people believe “being seen as busy” → “I must be valuable and productive,” which subsequently means → “I cannot be fired or replaced by a robot.” That’s not necessarily an accurate flow, but I think that’s how a lot of people think.

How could we make it better?

The sheer fact of this discussion is that people value what they value. That could be reading, working, working out, doing drugs, drinking, playing with your dog, fucking, visiting the zoo, whatever the case may be. Most people will make time for the stuff that matters to them. It’s only logical.

So we can’t necessarily make it better. People will continue to overcommit to basically everything and then actually do the stuff they want to do. That’s kinda the human game. And as work has become more and more about tasks, people have more shit that does pile up — again, not necessarily productive but still “stuff to do” (busy). That keeps you at work later, or tethered to work more, and it makes it harder to keep commitments to yourself (the gym) or others (happy hours, etc.)

What’s your take on our busy busy busy culture?

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