Are you busy?

Posted on 07/10/2016



Yep, thought so – who isn’t?!

After all, “busy” is now the standard response when you ask how someone is. Our days are largely based around reactive activity: responding to emails, answering questions, and tackling problems that crop up. Such is modern life, that we even feel busy when our personal email overflows, or we’ve 60 unread WhatsApp messages.

But pause for a moment. Why do we all feel so busy?

This fantastic podcast series from Oliver Burkeman, cracks open the notion of being “heavily occupied” and has a good look at what’s behind it.

In the busyness paradox

  • We learn that humans naturally see striving as more important than outcome. And how, as a result, workplaces can end up rewarding the striving, not the outcomes (“performative busyness”).

By fetishising busyness

  • We’re creating a culture where it’s expected, even desirable. Being busy shows that we’re productive, useful, even important.

However, it’s not busyness but bandwidth

  • Psychologically speaking, multitasking is just another word for not paying attention. We cannot do more than one thing at one time, and even task-switching reduces our psychic entropy: tasks take 40% longer if you’re switching between them instead of doing them end to end.

As a result, we’re addicted to busy

But something should be said in praise of idleness:

There are five podcasts in all, each a mere 15 minutes long. Have a listen, assuming you’re not too… tired.