Yesterday was my last day at the office before summer vacation, and because I had either done all the things written on my vague To Do list; happily forgotten what I should have done before the holiday – or too lazy too start anything new, I spent the day having light chats with my colleagues, a long lunch break in the park and surfing the Internet.
Luckily there was some interesting content offered by my dear friends – mostly on all the great things you can do in the summer. One friend got more serious moment and linked Tim Kreider important article The “Busy” Trap on Facebook. I couldn’t agree more with him!
Tim writes about being busy – and says life is too short for it. In America – like in Finland and in most industrialised countries – people tell you all the time how busy they are. It’s the most common answer to the question “How are you?” among my friends too.
What’s worse, more or less subconsciously we encourage people for being busy: “Well, at least you have a job, you’re always so energetic and active etc.”
What Tim is claiming is that our busyness is self-imposed and chosen, not an inevitable condition. People fill their calendars – and unfortunately of their children, too, with activities, hobbies, meetings – whatever to keep them busy.
Tim says we’re addicted to busyness and dread what we’d might have to face in its absence.
“Busyness serves as a kind of existential reassurance, a hedge against emptiness; obviously your life cannot possibly be silly or trivial or meaningless if you are so busy, completely booked, in demand every hour of the day.”
Most of my friends are busy, even when they’re on holiday. They feel anxious when they aren’t doing something “meaningful” and taking advantage of their time, whatever that means.
Even children are (too) busy. Like Tim, when I was small my most common complaint was “I’m so bored, what can I do?!” My parents then offered some ideas but in the end we kids created something to do – and mostly had lots of fun! We learnt not to be afraid of the empty moments but understood them as a good starting point for creativity, games or learning something new – like to fly from the kitchen table to the floor (I was convinced this was possible! We didn’t even have a TV at home – and nobody talked about kids’ ADHD those days…
“Those free hours became the model for how I wanted to live the rest of my life”, Tim writes. So they did for me. My dream is to be free, spend a lot of time with my loved ones – and get bored once in a while!
One important reason for our business is the modern working life:
“More and more people in this country no longer make or do anything tangible; if your job wasn’t performed by a cat or a boa constrictor in a Richard Scarry book I’m not sure I believe it’s necessary. I can’t help but wonder whether all this histrionic exhaustion isn’t a way of covering up the fact that most of what we do doesn’t matter.”
So true again! For this it’s so hard to tell the elder relatives what I do for work (communications). They are used to jobs where you do something concrete and achieve tangible goals. Nowadays most jobs contain too many complicated processes, abstract planning and innovating. It’s hard to answer the simple question “What did I really achieve at work today?”
Tim claims that he’s not busy – not anymore, but also he has had busy moments: “every morning my in-box was full of e-mails asking me to do things I did not want to do or presenting me with problems that I now had to solve.”
The solution: Tim moved to a undisclosed location from which he’s writing about busyness. Why?
“Idleness is not just a vacation, an indulgence or a vice; it is as indispensable to the brain as vitamin D is to the body. The space and quiet that idleness provides is a necessary condition for standing back from life and seeing it whole, for making unexpected connections and waiting for the wild summer lightning strikes of inspiration — it is, paradoxically, necessary to getting any work done… Great ideas only come when you have time for nothing – and enough of that!”
Thank you Tim, I’ll try to follow your advice this summer – luckily I’ve learned something of life, as for once I haven’t booked my vacation full of activities. In one hour I’ll catch a bus to my parents’ place in Tampere, I’ll not answer the phone if I don’t feel like it and I don’t have any planned activities for the next xx days. Welcome, wonderful idle days!