The Pursuit of Busyness

I knew I had found the perfect apartment in New York when I spotted the two built-in bookshelves by the window. I love to read and I figured that once I no longer had to commute an hour each way to New York, I’d have plenty of extra time to read. Fast forward to a year and a half later and my books were untouched. I wanted to read, but I never had time for it. I was just so busy.

Meghan Casserly at Forbes wrote an interesting article last month about the busy lives of millenials. “Being busy means you’re important, needed, valued. Time isn’t just money, it’s the red Jaguar, the Birkin bag and the private jet all rolled into one. Have no time? Honey, you’ve arrived.” Who among us hasn’t gotten the “busy” excuse from a friend or acquaintance — even if getting together was their idea? Sorry for taking three weeks to return your email. Sorry for not texting you back. Sorry for not calling you to hang out this summer. I’ve just been so busy.

I don’t buy that.

Busyness is more about perception than reality. When a person appears “busy,” he or she seems important and in-demand. Sure, there are people who legitimately do not have a lot of free time, but I don’t think I know any of them. Carolyn Cutrone and Max Nisen at Business Insider recently compiled a list of successful people who barely sleep. I don’t understand people who think we’re all competing in the tired olympics. What do you get if you win? The truth is that most people don’t have time to write a bestselling book or launch a start-up because they’re too busy frittering away their time on social networking sites, or playing fantasy football.

I love wasting time. I’m also pretty good at it. It turns out that for creative people, wasting time is a good thing because it helps us come up with good ideas. It’s hard to have any original thoughts when you’re constantly checking Facebook for notifications. I got the idea for this particular post in the same place I get all of my good ideas: in the shower. I can’t text or tweet in there. Lord help me when there are waterproof phones.

As part of a plan to get out of credit card debt, I cancelled cable TV. No more marathons of Dateline on ID, Forensic Files and What Not to Wear left me significantly more time to read and update my blog more often. There are a lot of people on the internet who enjoy talking about how fabulous and productive their lives have become since they got rid of cable. They’ve since written a screenplay, launched a business and climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro! Don’t buy into the hype. I miss the Real Housewives dearly, but there are only 24 hours in every day and having more time to do nothing has helped me work my way through a stack of unread books and made me more productive as a writer. There are plenty of successful people who never turn on the tube; head over to Papermag to see a list of celebrities who don’t own a TV.

If the key to managing a budget is balancing wants and needs, the same is true for managing time. It’s so easy for the things we need to do — work, grocery shopping, cleaning, family obligations — to hog up all of our time, leaving little left for the activities we want to do, like working on passion projects and seeing friends. To keep our lives manageable, it’s a good idea to make time for the things we have to do, the things we want to do, and even a little time to do nothing at all.

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