Always Too Busy

Too Busy?

The other day I browsed the web while simultaneously wondering how I would assemble this post. My browsing consisted of a number of searches to see what people were talking about in relation to busyness and unplugging in today’s hectic stream we call our daily life.

As I Clicked somewhat mindlessly through pages, I stumbled across an interesting article titled The Myth Of Busyness by Stuart Whatley. In the post he mentions another writer’s new book and it was the title and explanation that hit a synergistic chord with the subject of this post. The term is Shadow Work and it’s defined as “unpaid tasks we do on behalf of businesses and organizations.”

I believe I’ve come across the term once or twice before, but on this morning as I sat pondering it a bell went off and I stopped browsing, I stopped allowing the distractions that had formed into a restless crowd in my web browser to any longer hold sway with my attention. Shadow Work grabbed my focus and for a few moments the world ceased chattering.

“I wanted to figure out why I was so busy, but I couldn’t find the time to do it.” Todd Stocker

What could checking out our own groceries, pumping our own gas, and building un-assembled furniture have to do with being too busy? Loss of time and attention to more important things in our lives adds to the feeling of being underwater.

The small breaks we get between tasks we hope to accomplish have always given us a few moments to collect our thoughts and decompress before we jump back into the next thing. As irrelevant as it may seem doing your own checkout at the grocery store robs you of a moment to decompress and refocus your attention toward your next task. These tasks also rob us of potential social interaction with others, interaction that helps us decompress and shut off our constant thinking.

Of course if doing your own checkout was the only thing demanding your attention it would be minor but there are hundreds of advertisements, devices, games and shadow work screaming to divert you from your own life and move you towards doing something entirely different.

Business does not offer self service for your convenience, they offer it to cut overhead costs and increase profit. We are being charged for the product yet encouraged to also work for the business at the same time. We are giving up our time to help maximize the efficiency of the business. It’s good for the business, but no so good for our peace of mind.

A huge reason we seem burned out and over extended is because our attention is being drained by distractions demanding to be placated 24/7. Even while we sleep our devices light up the room with notifications that have now been shown to disrupt the quality of our sleep.

“Taken alone, the tasks of shadow work seem laughably trivial. But it’s serfdom by a thousand cuts; together, our shadow work chores have shredded our days into what the author of Overwhelmed calls, “confetti time.” Rather than experiencing long, unbroken stretches of time in which we concentrate on completing tasks for a single role in our lives, we are constantly changing the hats we wear — toggling from husband to cashier, office worker to news editor, father to travel agent.”

The above quote is from Brett and Kate McKay who’ve written an in depth article about Shadow Work titled Rise of The Middle-Class Serfdom that looks seriously at this growing distraction yet also manages to sprinkle in some humor.

Distractions Are Storming the Gate

There is a debate going on as to whether we are really Too Busy. Some say many people use Too Busy as a substitute for the word no, others have concluded that saying we are Too Busy is worn as a badge of honor showing others we don’t waste time or sloth off. And other studies point to the distraction economy as the culprit driving us to believe we are too busy.

I suspect it’s a combination of all three, but for my money the constant onslaught of distractions are the chief cause of feeling overwhelmed, or feeling too busy.

I’m suggesting if you really can’t sit still and do nothing for whatever reason try doing something from the list of rejuvenating activities below. Adding something from this list to your life on a regular basis will absolve you of doing nothing and will reduce your stress, stimulate your imagination, improve your sleep and love life. Here’s the kicker. Adding rejuvenating activities into your schedule will make you more productive at work and happier at home.

“Work was intended not to give a man a reason to live, but rather to give him a means to live.” Criss Jami

5 Rejuvenating Activities to Chase Away The Dreaded Too Busy… (don’t tell anyone)

  1. Take A Walk: Getting outdoors can be a magical experience, especially when you have nowhere to go. Walk 10 to 15 minutes each day and you’ll be amazed at the sights you’ll see and the energy of mind and body you’ll discover. Walk without your phone or iPod, engaging instead with your breath and noticing your environment.
  2. Visit a House of Worship: Take 10 or 15 minutes to drop by a house worship other than your own. Sit in the back quietly and let your mind wander to what you see or maybe focus on a short personal mediation. The idea is to get our of your comfort zone and into a different zone of being. It doesn’t matter if you are not religious, it’s about decompressing where others find peace. Try this once a month.
  3. Volunteer: For many of us writing a check is how we help others. Try physically volunteering once or twice every month, you may be delighted with how it makes you feel and you’ll be giving far more than you know. Make it into a family activity of togetherness.
  4. Unplug: Set aside regular time to shut off everything at home. Maybe for an hour or two every other evening shut off phones, computers, TV, music and everything else that isn’t books or face to face conversation. Try a no electronics rule at the dinner table, it’s ok if no one talks the first few times you do this, do it anyways. Make this rejuvenating activity apply to everyone in the house.
  5. Download: One benefit of having a rejuvenating app is having a ready source of relaxation and meditation audio. You could be waiting to pickup some in your car or sitting in the doctor’s office and with a touch you can tune into a journey to expand your focus and awareness. Check out 7 Meditation Apps and get started.
We’ve become so busy with keeping ourselves busy — incurring an endless list of tasks and unchecked boxes — that we’re drained, restless and, well, exhausted. Tim Kreider

Resources: Here are a couple of additional posts about this subject. The first is titled Are We All Too Busy and the second is The Disease of Being Busy