Ever feel like there’s just not enough minutes in the day? Who hasn’t? It seems that busyness has become the new norm. For some even a badge of honour.
“Just not enough minutes in the day!” – declared with a proud smile, a shrug of the shoulders and shake of the head. “I’ve just been so busy!” The words slip off the tongue as easily as a mindless “How are you?” It’s expected.
To not declare yourself busy places you clearly on the outside, without the status that “busy” implies. The busier you are, the more important and interesting you must be. At least that’s the pervasive myth of the day. It wasn’t always so.
Declarations of what busy lives we lead permeate everyday conversation. When was the last time someone told you how busy they’ve been, how little time they have, or how tired they are? Even in rural areas, its common to hear people declare how busy their lives have become.
There is an assumption of mutuality. We’re all so busy these days, aren’t we? It’s just the way things are. So little time. So much to do. Like Alice, I find myself in a world of rabbits rushing about chanting “I’m late! I’m late! For a very important date! No time to say hello goodbye. I’m late! I’m late! I’m late!”
No time to say hello goodbye…But I’ll text you! Or email. Or leave a message on your cell phone. Maybe we can fit in a quick cup of coffee next week? Refuel before rushing off again. Checking our messages as we go.
“Sorry. I’ve just been swamped!” is now an acceptable excuse for what in the past would have been considered rude or even unprofessional behaviour. We wait in a queue for emails, text messages and phone calls to be returned. Messaging – a kind of communication ‘dump and run’ for the sender – often does, literally, swamp the person on the other end.
“Instant messaging”, meant to ensure instant response, doesn’t always pan out that way. With everyone on the run, messages pile up. By the time they are answered (if at all), they may easily have lost their relevance. If the reply is immediate, whatever other task is at hand is put on hold. Driving. Holding a conversation with the person you’re actually with. Doing the work you sat at your desk to do…
Don’t get me wrong. There’s nothing wrong with technology. Nothing wrong with being busy either. It’s the addictive use of technology to be anywhere but where you actually are that’s the worry.
In 2008, Telecom boasted to their customers that, in a survey of more than 2000 New Zealanders, “Almost one in five would prefer to lose a finger or toe than be permanently deprived of their mobile”.
That would put the Mad Hatter to shame! “More than 50% of participants wouldn’t stop using a mobile for less than $1 million” See where I’m going here? And that was 8 years ago!
Our compulsive ‘need’ to be busy – to be on the move “24/7” (we even speak in shorthand) – is a race that has no winners. To measure our worth by how full our time is rather than how full our heart is – to eventually come to the finish line without pause along the way – is not, I imagine, how most of us would want to look back on our lives.
And, of course, we have only one of those.