Today, many of us live our lives guided by agendas and customized diaries that let us know what to do and where to be in each 30 minute segment of the day. The thought of a spontaneous trip to the ice-cream shop needs to be processed into a complex system of scheduling to ensure that no other commitments will be affected by it. And though we love the acronym, YOLO, we simply cannot afford to relax and go with the flow, because as we know, time is money, and we are all broke.
This lifestyle dominates most of the modern generation, all of those, certainly, who find themselves constantly chasing after their dreams, and realize that in order for their dreams to be fulfilled, the inevitable reality of waking up needs to happen.
But why do we become so busy that the very word “busy” becomes a feeling, an act, a state of being? Everyone is busy, and if you are not busy, then what are you doing with your life?
Several books and motivational speakers are continuously inventing tips and tricks to increase productivity, waking up earlier, sleeping later, all exercises through which productivity is said to increase, leading to, who knows, happiness. However, we never stop to question the pace at which we are walking, or even running, and face the danger of running into a brick wall of stagnation, so whenever we find the appropriate time within our busy lives, here are some things we should think about:
Is being busy the same as being productive?
Thankfully, the 21st Century comes with much advancement across several fields. Most of the salient differences between today and the times that preceded us can be seen in the way that everything man invents shares the purpose of shortening the time required to accomplish everyday tasks. Everything that used to be slow now moves fast: faster machines, faster cars, faster internet connections, etc. We are all in this race, increasing our speed and celebrating it at every opportunity. If time has been made faster, this means that the money value of it increases, too. It is true, that time is money, and that money is important, for it buys us more time. And this is the paradox, we spend our lives utilizing time as a means to get money, and we value money because it buys us the most precious asset that we lack: time.
It’s all a matter of perception, the duration of minutes has not changed, nor are our perceptions subject to the way we experience time. The interesting thing is that though we have more time, we still feel the need to use it in a profitable way. We have quantified it, we have made it a commodity that can be traded and negotiated. Think about work, and how many companies use hourly rates as a fair and transparent way to award an employee for his or her dedication. This changes the way that employees feel about their personal value; it’s not about the skills you bring, but how long it takes for you to translate those skills into a tangible outcome. Previous generations worked longer, took longer, and did not mind working extra hours, because the objective was the outcome. Today, however, the outcome is not a direct consequence of our personal efforts, as our personal efforts should be rewarded, despite the outcome.
This is why we’re continuously starting projects that we don’t finish, because, for us, the most important thing is to be, or perhaps to seem, busy. Flow Theory explains this psychological process using boredom as motivation, and satisfaction as a reward. We need drive to do things, and so, out of boredom, we start something new. Once we achieve the wished-for satisfaction, we drop the project and move on to something different, not always having finished what we started.
So, busyness isn’t always a synonym for productivity.
What’s the problem with being lazy?
If time is money, and if we do not seem busy while going through our daily routine, then we are not making our lives profitable. Putting aside the fact that laziness is not an attractive label to carry around, it is not something that settles well with our human psyche. We are made to survive, and so we are, consciously or unconsciously, continuously looking for new ways and methods to transcend ourselves and our current situations. Any lack of activity in our lives is often associated with a psychological deficit.
But let us challenge “laziness”, why is it a bad thing not to be busy? It is because leading a YOLO life makes us seem easy-going, and unrealistic. Everyone desires the life of “Eat, Pray, Love”, but in real life, one doesn’t simply wake up to meet wonderful people and end up sharing Thanksgiving with a family of wonderful strangers. In real life, everyone is busy chasing their dreams; and if you are not chasing yours, your life will come to a halt.
You will lose drive, motivation, and will appear strange to those around you who never seem to stop.
The trick, then, is not to stop. The trick is to walk more slowly, giving yourself time to think about your steps, and allowing yourself the opportunity actually to finish what you start.
So, so-called lazy people may seem stagnated to outsiders, but they are, in fact, engaging in a much needed stage of introspection that “busy” people lack.
So how can we find the right balance?
It’s established that productivity is related to success, and that this can create a good environment for happiness. But it is also important that we take care of the little time we have to maximize such happiness.
The first step is to remove the authority that comes with “being busy”. It’s not a state of being, so it’s not something that we should “be”. Busyness is a means through which you achieve something, and not the ultimate objective. Think about how long you need to be busy for, and what it is that you want to achieve during this time.
Secondly, use your time wisely. Being wise about your time means that you don’t always need to make time for everything. Remember, time exists, irrespective of how you use it. There are things that you need to prioritize and that do not need to be confined to your diary. Family meetings, outings with friends, and self-time are all activities that contribute to our mental health and happiness.
Third and perhaps most importantly, sleep more. Sleeping is not only a time for physical rest, but a vital component of your mental development. When you sleep, your entire body refreshes itself. You might find that you wake up with fresh ideas, with a new spurt of creativity, or with a rested heart. That is because in your sleep, your subconscious is processing the day’s events and preparing itself for the next.
In closing, it is not healthy to lie in bed all day, nor to be on your feet without rest. At the end of the day, our lives are precious, and time is what enables us to fulfill our dreams and explore our potential. So, we must take care of ourselves and know our limitations, but never allow stress and the barrenness of a busy life dictate how we should use our time.