Our modern lives are fraught with busyness. Constant connection to the Internet has given rise to a ceaseless spiral of information and a litany of perpetual pings—beclouding the once-clear line between home and work.
We compensate by overscheduling to maximize our precious time, which only leads to the feeling that our time is woefully on the wane. In fact, we feel like we have no time at all. No time for ourselves. No time for our families. No. Time.
Sound familiar? Unfortunately, we really are that busy, right?
Actually, we’re not.
At least not according to the article titled “The Cult of Busy,” published in the most recent issue of Johns Hopkins Health Review. In the piece, author Elizabeth Evitts Dickinson lays out the case for how Americans landed in this boiler room of busyness, and how in reality, we have far more time than we realize.
She says that in the U.S., we have more free hours than past generations and actually spend more time with our children than did parents 40 years ago. The difference, it seems, is in how we experience time.
The pressure to be the “best” at work and at parenting and at, well, everything, only yields mountains of stress instead of rejuvenation.
The average American also spends up to three hours a day passively watching movies or television, which our brains don’t register as restorative.
Compounding this time-crunch conundrum, American employers offer the least amount of vacation compared with other countries, with nearly one in four people receiving zero paid time off. And as a study last year by Oxford Economics showed, even when we do have vacation time, the number of days used by employees has consistently gone down over the past two decades. That’s really on us.
However, via expert testimony, Dickinson makes the case that our very self-worth is far too tied up in how busy we are, or how busy we appear to be to others, and that this new “status symbol” is entirely detrimental to our health.
Personally, I want to tame the email beast at work. Like others, I let myself get overwhelmed by the sheer volume of email that I receive. My life is tied to an inbox that never seems to empty. One thing I am doing to mitigate this is learning to ignore the pointless cc notes. If people need something from me directly, they would not just copy me.
Fortunately, there is also one more answer. Slow down! Easier said than done, I know, but slowing down is healthy. And Dickinson smartly lays out a handy list of tactics to recalibrate our relationship with time in the article.
Take a few minutes to read the piece and absorb the list. It might be the best thing you’ve done for yourself in what surely feels like ages.