You might have been too busy to hear about this, but people are really, really busy lately. Over the past few weeks, they've spent a lot of time talking about the "culture of busy" online, over at The New York Times, Fast Company, and Huffington Post, among others. Some of it spurred, in part, by the recent release of the book "Overwhelmed: Work, Love, and Play When No One Has Time," by journalist Brigid Schulte.
Fast Company on Schulte's book:
This culture of busyness began in the 1980s as economic uncertainty set in and white collar workers began logging in more hours, trying to make themselves stand out amongst the regular 9 to 5ers. “There are many workplaces that still measure hours and not performance even when hours aren’t really what matter.”
“When you look at human performance science, there’s such great evidence that working all of those hours really doesn’t get you where you want to go,” says Schulte. While you may be able to work a few 60-hour weeks, eventually you will be so burnt out that you lose the ability to be creative and innovative.
Arianna Huffington's new book, "Thrive: The Third Metric to Redefining Success and Creating a Life of Well-Being, Wisdom, and Wonder," also hits on this idea. But she goes one step further to explore not just how slowing down benefits businesses economically, but how it benefits actual real humans. "Busyness" is a collective cultural deficit, she says, causing us to lose connection with ourselves and the "big picture."
One HuffPo writer vowed to eliminate the word "busy" from her vocabulary after reading this passage from Huffington's book about the imaginary time consraints our culture creates:
As physicist Paul Davies wrote in Scientific American, though most of us feel time is something that flows -- always coming at us and then rushing behind us -- that's not actually what happens: 'physicists prefer to think of time as laid out in its entirety -- a timescape, analogous to a landscape -- with all past and future events located there together. It is a notion sometimes referred to as block time.' I love this because 'block time' helps me see the big picture -- there is literally both no time and all the time in the world. (147)
While both are beautiful sentiments that touch on how we work (and how we work too much), there's another piece of the busy puzzle: We're a lot busier now because we're a lot more distracted. We have a hard time just being. We seek distractions and diversions on Facebook and Twitter and Instagram instead of being with ourselves--alone--in the moment. This moment is so great--wait, let me compose a pithy Facebook post about it and see how many likes I get! This cannot wait--I have to pick up my phone now--let me be anywhere but here, now, alone. Oh, hey, look at that picture of a baby in a suit!
I thought about this last week on a drive through the New Mexico desert, the vast landscape opening up in sync with the blooming cherry blossom trees.
I stopped in a coffee shop in a small desert town, and met a man who looked every bit like an old Parisian artist who collected fashionable fedoras like he did colorful stories. We chatted briefly about the shapes of the clouds that day and the way they hung in the vista and made new artworks out of every second, and I asked if I could take his picture. He was dressed so impeccably I wanted to be able to survey every detail later. He was thrilled with the idea: "Let's go outside so I can stare at something beautiful," he said. When we got out under the sun, he stared back at me, flashed a smile built for breaking hearts, and said, "Ok, I'm ready for the picture now."
He told me he had a secret for making every day magical. "I used to be five years old once," he said. "Now I am 94, but I still feel five years old."
I drove into the mountains thinking about him, the moment embedding into me. Just me, him, the clouds, and the vast landscape of time. Later, I shared his picture and story on Facebook. But in my defense, I waited a day to do it. That's something, right?
Hello! I will be doing short blog posts here twice I week. I suspect I will have lots to say, when I'm not too busy being distracted from the life that's in front of me.
I look forward to sharing stories with you.