Find yourself overwhelmed with business busy ‘stuff’? No time to slow down even if you want to? Do you really want to? It’s possible that busyness has become associated with high status. Just like owning Prada shoes and Gucci bags. Being in a state of hectic busyness may make you feel like an important person. Historically, a sign of wealth was the freedom not to work. Today a measure of a person’s value is is equal to how much time they spend doing. In a nutshell, people feel better about themselves when they live a frenetic life.
Are You Joining the Busyness Craze?
Overwhelmed? It can seem like we’re busier than ever, but that’s not quite true, says Oliver Burkeman, who has been exploring the topic in a new series for BBC Radio 4.
What’s going on? Part of the answer is simple economics. As economies grow, and the incomes of the better-off have risen over time, time has literally become more valuable: any given hour is worth more, so we experience more pressure to squeeze in more work. But it’s also a result of the kind of work in which many of us are engaged. In former eras, dominated by farming or manufacturing, labour could certainly be physically punishing – but it obeyed certain limits. You can’t harvest the crops before they’re ready; you can’t make more physical products than the available material allows.
But in the era of what management consultant Peter Drucker called “knowledge work”, that’s changed. We live in an “infinite world”, says Tony Crabbe, author of the book Busy: How to Thrive in a World of Too Much. There are always more incoming emails, more meetings, more things to read, more ideas to follow up – and digital mobile technology means you can easily crank through a few more to-do list items at home, or on holiday, or at the gym. The result, inevitably, is feeling overwhelmed: we’re each finite human beings, with finite energy and abilities, attempting to get through an infinite amount. We feel a social pressure to “do it all”, at work and at home, but that’s not just really difficult; it’s a mathematical impossibility.
The ironic consequence of the ‘busy feeling’ is that we handle our to-do lists less well than if we weren’t so rushed.
If there’s a solution to the busyness epidemic, other than the universal enforcement of a 21-hour workweek – it may lie in clearly perceiving just how irrational our attitudes have become. Historically, the ultimate symbol of wealth, achievement and social superiority was the freedom not to work: the true badge of honour, as the 19th Century economist Thorstein Veblen put it, was leisure. Now, it’s busyness that has become the indicator of high status. “The best-off in our society are often very busy, and have to be,” says Gershuny. “You ask me, am I busy, and I tell you: ‘Yes, of course I’m busy – because I’m an important person!’”
Too often, we take a similar attitude not only to other people, but ourselves: we measure our worth not by the results we achieve, but by how much of our time we spend doing. We live frenetic lives, at least in part, because it makes us feel good about ourselves. To put it mildly, this makes no sense. Perhaps we’d pause long enough to realise that – if we weren’t so damn busy. read more at bbc.com
So, there you have it, busy-ness is the new status symbol. Got to have it to stake your claim in the upper echelon of society? Go for it! Or not.