Oct 13, 2015 · 4 minute read
Always on. Available 24/7. Get answers immediately.
Businesses make promises like these not because it helps them stand out from the competition, but because this immediate, constant access is now the norm.
It’s great if you’re the customer, because things often break or fail after hours. It sucks if you’re working for that business.
Nowadays, being always available is required. Working around the clock is “strongly encouraged.” Responding to e-mails at night and coming into the office on weekends, taking time away from your family and friends isn’t going above and beyond, it’s expected, and it’s everywhere, not just here in Silicon Valley.
Everywhere you turn, you hear people talking - bragging, really - about how little sleep they got, about how tired they are, about how busy they are. Running through the list of things one has to accomplish in a day has become a game of one-upmanship.
Oh, you have to take the kids to school, go to work, appear in five meetings while writing the annual report that was due yesterday, then take the kids to soccer and dance and gymnastics and piano, then feed everybody and then have them do homework and go straight to bed? And you have a whole day to do that? I have to do all that plus learn Chinese in 6 hours.
It’s getting a little ridiculous, people.
Being busy is not something to brag about. It’s something that indicates that maybe we haven’t figured out our priorities or we aren’t working toward them.
This is a trap I fall into All. The. Time. The problem is, there really is a lot to do, and expectations from the boss are tough to say no to, even if it’s after hours. But really, bragging about my to do list and how little time I have to accomplish it is actually a source of stress for me. It brings into focus all the stuff, all the stuff that needs to get done that probably won’t, and that I’ll probably just move to another to-do list the next day and the next and the next.
All this stuff takes away from the time we have to do the things we love, and that’s not even considering the toll this is taking on our health, our relationships and our sanity.
Always being busy means there’s no time to rest. At the most basic level, our bodies need time to repair themselves, and they do that during sleep. But how many of us are getting enough sleep? Our bodies and our brains don’t have time to process all they’ve been through each day, or to make any necessary repairs, which means we’re running ourselves into the ground. We do regular maintenance on our cars (or at least we should), why don’t we do the same for our bodies?
And what about our minds, which also need rest to stay sharp, focused and productive? Constantly going means no time for meditation or prayer or reflection or however you like to give your mind the opportunity to reflect on what has happened and prepare to handle whatever comes next.
Our relationships suffer when we don’t make time to spend with our family and friends, really enjoying the moment and concentrating on the people around us. Always being busy means we place more priority on the work or small, unimportant, urgent tasks that are loudest without thinking about what’s most important, and perhaps a little quieter.
So how should we deal with this culture of busy-ness?
First, we need to recognize we have a problem. Is all this busy work stuff we really need to be doing? Do you really want to spend your time on the dishes? The laundry? Being a mom-taxi?
Probably not. And here’s a little secret: the world won’t end if you don’t get to the laundry today.
Another secret? Your family members are perfectly capable of doing the dishes. Seriously. Their arms aren’t painted on. Ask them to help. If they do a little of the work you’ve been taking all on yourself, they’ll hopefully gain an appreciation of all you do for them.
As we head into holiday season, this is especially important to remember. It’s easy to get so caught up in doing everything we feel we must do, but those 10 dozen cookies you’re baking for the neighbors aren’t what will make this a magical time. What will is spending time with loved ones, doing what you love and letting them do what they love.
It’s hard to do when everyone is talking about how much they’ve done today, and while bragging is never a good thing, maybe we can shift the subject a little. Maybe we can talk about what we did that’s really important: who was productive in snuggling with the kids, in creating something new, in reading a novel?
That’s the kind of bragging I can get behind.
How do you avoid the trap of busy-ness?