Nobody Cares How Busy You Are

A lot of us wear the busy badge with honor. Why?
April 17, 2013 It's a conversation that happens in hallways, around water coolers and elsewhere every day in the workplace:

"How are you?"

"Good. Busy."

A lot of us wear the busy badge with honor. If we're busy, we're being productive, right? Not really. As famously articulated in an op-ed in the New York Times headlined The Busy Trap, we need to stop equating success with being busy. From the piece:
The present hysteria is not a necessary or inevitable condition of life; it’s something we’ve chosen, if only by our acquiescence to it. Not long ago I Skyped with a friend who was driven out of the city by high rent and now has an artist’s residency in a small town in the south of France. She described herself as happy and relaxed for the first time in years. She still gets her work done, but it doesn’t consume her entire day and brain. She says it feels like college—she has a big circle of friends who all go out to the cafe together every night. She has a boyfriend again. (She once ruefully summarized dating in New York: “Everyone’s too busy and everyone thinks they can do better.”) What she had mistakenly assumed was her personality—driven, cranky, anxious and sad—turned out to be a deformative effect of her environment. It’s not as if any of us wants to live like this, any more than any one person wants to be part of a traffic jam or stadium trampling or the hierarchy of cruelty in high school—it’s something we collectively force one another to do.
Being busy isn't a good thing. We need time to breathe. We time to think and to recharge:
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, and deprived of it we suffer a mental affliction as disfiguring as rickets.
As Henry David Thoreau said, “It is not enough to be busy; so are the ants. The question is: What are we busy about?”

Sean Blanda is the associate editor and producer of 99u.com.

Photo: iStockphoto