Are you busy right now?
I ask because our modern life seems designed to offer too many options for things to do such that it is impossible to ever do them all. Yet there is a persistent fear of missing out (FOMO) that drives people to chase one thing after another, filling up every hour of the day with stuff. All this running around raises an important question: does being busy make life more fulfilling?
That is the question Scott Young addresses in his article Is Life Better When You’re Busy? In order to answer it he first focuses on the possible reasons why people are busy, of which none have to do with the actual volume of necessary work to be done.
- Busyness as signaling. Busy people are important. Complaints about busyness are like complaints about paying too much in taxes—something that allows you to subtly communicate your status.
- Busyness as dodging commitment. Claiming busyness is a socially acceptable way to decline social obligations. “I wish I could, but I’m too busy,” is more polite than, “No, your nephew’s piano recital doesn’t interest me very much.”
- Busyness as self-deception. When you work on things, your goal is always to move toward a state of having less stuff left to do. Since less outstanding tasks is better within the context of your goal, you may incorrectly extend that to assume that having no outstanding tasks in life is ideal.
We seem biologically driven to be busy, perhaps as an evolutionary trait to ensure we keep on the lookout for food and avoid dangers. Boredom is viewed as a problem that must be resolved. Young takes time to consider whether this is a sweet spot where business and idleness meet for maximum satisfaction.
Later in the article, he considers if being busy is really a function of having too little time to complete our tasks.
Strictly speaking, we all have the same amount of time each day. Nobody has more or less. What feels like a lack of time is, more accurately, a conflict between priorities.
One problematic form of busyness occurs when your activity has low intrinsic enjoyment. If you’re forced to work long hours at a job you hate, then you need to somehow meet your psychological needs in the little time you have left. This can be tricky.
Read the entire article on Scott Young’s web site.