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America has an addiction to being busy, here’s what we need to do about it

(EDITORIAL) America runs on Dunkin’? More like America runs on burn out and caffeine for steam. We all need to get over being busy, here’s how.

busy multitasking

We’re all so busy

The day starts at 7:30 with coffee and a quick dog walk. A shower and oatmeal later, and email gets checked. News is read. Social media is managed. Work begins with a start as the phone is stacked on top of the tablet, thrown into a bag, and rushed to the office.

Email is checked again, fires are put out, calls are returned, and work conversations are had. Meetings commence, and set for the next few days, more tweets go out, and more emails are written, as we all hoard tabs in our browsers. The day ends, and we drive home, check email again, eat dinner, play with the kids, Instagram them, check email again, Facebook for a bit, work out, email some more, then go to bed.

This is a relatively standard day for the modern professional. Sound familiar? We sure as hell sound busy, right? It’s true, we are. Is that a good thing or a bad thing? It depends.

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Being busy is an addiction, plain and simple, and our culture is just looking for the next hit. Be it a time saver or a shiny app, most people brag about how they are just oh so busy. For years, bragging about being busy has been a social commodity, with people getting “oohs” and “aahs” when they proclaim they’re so busy they only get three hours of sleep.

No more.

The glorification of being busy is being rejected by the masses, slowly but surely. I’m not convinced that the 4-hour workweek is the answer, nor am I convinced that bragging about working 80 hours a week is anything other than a sign of an inability to prioritize and manage tasks properly, but I am convinced that the glorified addiction to being busy can be broken.

But it’s tough.

I’m one of those people that are busy all the time. If I have an extra 30 seconds in a line at the store, I’ll check my email. When I’m waiting in the doctor’s office and don’t have an internet connection, I’m nose-deep in a book. If I’m waiting for an image to upload on Facebook, I’m diving into my feed reader, and when I’m on hold, I’m most certainly tweeting. I’m guilty of being busy, and I was born that way. I don’t see it as a bragging right, I’m just a toe-tapper and always on the go.

So how does one break free? There are millions of articles on productivity that you can Google or read here, but here’s how I’ve been breaking free from being addicted to being busy:

  1. Waiting in lines, I chat up people around me instead of hiding behind my phone. Being aware of my surroundings has reminded me that networking happens everywhere, not just online.
  2. I no longer work without breaks – I walk around, I make a personal call in the afternoon, I go outside and gather my thoughts without distraction. This has boosted my productivity tremendously.
  3. I shame myself when I tell others that I’m “busy,” rather I now try to say that I’m doing well and am excited about the projects I’m involved in. It leaves a much more positive impression in peoples’ minds than a veiled complaint about my chaotic schedule.
  4. I say no. We’re all told to never miss an opportunity and to say yes to everything, but last year, I resolved to never knee-jerk agree to anything, rather, I always thank someone for the opportunity and vow to put serious thought into it. And then I do. Most of the time, I end up saying no, because it doesn’t serve anyone for me to be stretched too thin.

What have you done to reject the glorification of being busy and actually work productively and make time for family and friends?

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Lani is the COO and News Director at The American Genius, has co-authored a book, co-founded BASHH, Austin Digital Jobs, Remote Digital Jobs, and is a seasoned business writer and editorialist with a penchant for the irreverent.

3 Comments

3 Comments

  1. Hank Miller

    June 23, 2014 at 12:39 pm

    Lani you’re always a good read.

    How much of this is hardwired behavior for the type A/AA entrepreneur? Most of us have the “if not working, thinking about working” mindset. If you genuinely enjoy work, is being connected a bad thing? Within reason of course….I know I can recharge with a day off….stretch it to 3-4 and I get antsy.

    Then there’s the practical side we all know – when it’s busy you better make it and store it for when it’s slow. Finding a balance can be tough but successful folks fit down time in.

    Enough with this, need to finish a blog post……

  2. AmyVernon

    June 23, 2014 at 2:06 pm

    It’s so true – we’re so addicted to being busy that we forget that’s not necessarily a good thing. I love #3, especially, because we try to glorify our busy-ness, as if it makes us special.

  3. Chris Lengquist

    December 25, 2015 at 11:56 am

    Work hard when you are working. Relax when you are relaxing. Be where you are.

    I know it sounds cliche, but I’m 50 now and I realize that enjoying my life and family is far more important than being busy for busy sake.

    Great write. Sorry it took me so long to find.

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