Caught in the busy trap

A recent NY Times piece, The Busy Trap, caught a lot of attention around the web

And this week, an Atlantic story covered similar ground, and citing research that showed that those who work/earn more are also busier and stressed.

I have recently fallen into the busy trap. I am deep in and can’t see a way out. I think things will ease up by the end of the month as I meet a deadline and catch up on work that’s piled up/was deferred while I was away (I was still working in Australia, but fewer hours, and there are always things it’s hard to do while you’re not at your desk). And the burglary situation isn’t helping.

I have emails coming in faster than I can read them.

Pitches coming faster than I can scan, and usually delete, them.

Too many people who want to just meet up for coffee or to discuss things that do not warrant an in-person meeting.

Too many phone pitches. PR people do not seem to know how to be succinct over the phone. I need to stop picking up, or learn to cut them off midstream. I was always terrible at dealing with telemarketers, and I always felt bad about fobbing them off. But I think ruthlessness is needed.

My current mental mantra and reflex response to anything is I don’t have time. I’m too busy. I’m flat out. It’s paralysing. Anything that crops up, I dread, and wonder how I’m going to fit it in. I need to stop thinking that way, because it’s self-perpetuating.

Being exhausted from work spills over into, well, life in general. I haven’t tried new recipes in forever, because picking them out from my Delicious folder, compiling a grocery list, and actually doing the cooking or baking is too much effort. Cleaning is going to the dogs. T has been flat tack at work, too, and on the weekends, vegging is the only thing we’ve done in forever (barring last weekend – he hates being home alone so spent a lot of time with friends. Expensive, but I’m glad he did it, and he had a lot of fun). Basically, if I were to die tomorrow, I wouldn’t be happy about how I’d spent my last days.

While I’m productive at work, I really am not so anywhere else. Example: the total stalling of wedding planning, although now that’s partly because I’m just not sure about timings anymore.

That said, I am actually an incredibly lazy person. A diehard introvert who needs ridiculous amounts of quiet time to recharge and relax. Guilt over excessive vegging probably isn’t great. Part of that, I think, is also reframing your mindset to think that idleness is evil or wasteful. It’s NECESSARY. While life is hectic, I’m going to be okay with my weekends as little oases of slothfulness.

Via a recent Zen Habits piece:

I recently read a travel tip from someone who reminds himself that “killing time is a sin”, and so makes the most use of every bit of downtime, even on an airplane: “read a good book, learn a new language with Rosetta Stone, write to my friends around the world who haven’t heard from me in too long”.

I have no objections to reading books, learning languages, or writing to friends. It’s the idea that downtime must be put to efficient use that I disagree with. While I used to agree with it completely, these days I take a completely different approach.

Life is for living, not productivity.

As Leo says: “There is a tendency among productive people to try to make the best use of every single minute, from the minute they awake. I know because not too long ago I was one of these folks.”

I am so guilty. I multitask while cooking because I hate standing over the stove, and burn things. I email and read blogs and tweet while watching TV or a movie, and miss things. I often  used to lie on my bed as a kid, close my eyes and just listen to music, letting my favourite songs transport me away. I don’t think I’ve ever done that since.

Seriously, stopping to smell the roses and bask in the sun is a beautiful thing. Need proof? In this post, Cordelia shows us how it’s done. Go out and find joy in the simplest, most natural everyday stuff.

I will end this post with a quote from that Zen Habits piece:

“Killing time isn’t a sin — it’s a misnomer. We’ve framed the question entirely wrong. It’s not a matter of “killing” time, but of enjoying it.”

Is life cruisy for you at the mo or rattling by at top speed? Are you and the busy trap mindset well acquainted?

7 thoughts on “Caught in the busy trap

  • Reply Cordelia (@CordeliaCallsIt) July 15, 2012 at 02:22

    Thank you for the link love!

    I LOVED that Leo piece (and was amazed at how perfect its timing was for me this past week). I am so a victim of the busy trap too, so I feel for you.
    Break out! Put things on hold! Turn off your phone/step away from your computer/shove your to do list in a drawer. It is SO worth it. (And lovely!)

  • Reply Bridget July 15, 2012 at 03:18

    aww I loved that post on Zen Habits!

    I’m pretty good with my life balance right now. If I remember to say no to a few things, I get some freedom from constant busyness. It’s just so easy to get stuck on the treadmill of our to-do lists, I’m not surprised at all people feel burned out. I think it’s funny that we need to make the effort NOT to be busy since being busy comes so naturally.

  • Reply The Asian Pear July 15, 2012 at 09:28

    Life is pretty good now. For the last couple of years, I’ve been seriously busy and stressed. There were days I pulled extra 2-3 hours at work without pay willingly. Now it’s still quite busy at work but I feel much better about everything. I work best under pressure though ti seems, haha.

  • Reply Fig July 15, 2012 at 10:42

    Great post! I was caught in the busy trap last month and frankly it sucked. I’m out now and things are pretty cruisy so its all good.

  • Reply Rainy Day and Reading | Funny about Money July 15, 2012 at 17:37

    […] Aucklander’s eemusings is back from Sydney and working so hard she hasn’t had enough time to take a deep […]

  • Reply My Broken Coin (@MyBrokenCoin) July 17, 2012 at 14:13

    I am guilty of a “busy trap”: I always feel like I have to do something, especially if I have a moment to spare. Sometimes I feel guilty for not doing anything because I have this odd nudging thought that I am wasting my time by not doing anything. I don;t know how to relax, and it is very sad.

  • Reply Links I Like Thursday! 7/19/12 « Below Her Means July 19, 2012 at 19:22

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