Here at Overells we strive to provide a good work/life balance but ultimately all of our staff are juggling a combination of work, study, parental (or grand-parental) duties, wedding planning, health/fitness, house-moving, relationships and/or social activities. Everyone is always busy and it seems that in today's world many people feel overwhelmed with how much they have on their to-do list.
You would think that people feel this way as they have more to do than before, but studies have shown this to be false. The total time people are working (whether paid or otherwise) has not increased in recent decades, there has been a shift in the balance of paid and unpaid work between men and women but no overall difference. So what's causing us to feel so busy?
Part of the answer (as always) comes down to technology. Back in the good-old-days work was limited by certain factors; for example crops can't be harvested before they are ready, you can't make more product than the materials available allow and you can't respond instantly when the postal service takes time. But now, we live in an 'infinite world', there are always more emails, texts, meetings, articles, blogs and posts to read. Digital technology means you can take work home, and don't have the excuse of not being able to access work information while you're away as it's right there on your mobile/tablet/laptop. The result: social pressure to do everything all the time. This mindset spreads to our leisure as well so we feel like that time should also be spent 'productively'.
Last week I was in the Solomon Islands. To get internet you had to sit in a certain spot in the hotel and even then it was as slow as dial-up. To avoid this "problem", I turned off my phone. For the whole week. I usually check the news, my emails and Facebook daily, and that's the out-of-hours stuff! Upon returning to home soil and turning on my phone, I found nothing of relevance had been missed, I had enjoyed a lovely relaxing week in the real world (as opposed to the digital one) and it felt great.
Oddly enough the ultimate symbol of superiority used to be that you had the freedom and wealth not to have to work but now busyness has become the indicator of importance, "Of course I'm busy, I'm an important person!"
To see how absurd this is, consider this story about a locksmith from behavioural economist in the UK:
Early in his career, the locksmith "was just not that good at it: it would take him a really long time to open the door, and he would often break the lock." Still, people were happy to pay his fee and throw in a tip. As he got better and faster, though, they complained about the fee, and stopped tipping. You'd think they would value regaining access to their house or car more swiftly, but what they really wanted was to see the locksmith putting in the time and effort – even if it meant a longer wait.
Too often, we take a similar attitude and measure worth not by the results achieved but by how busy we are, busyness seems to make us feel good about ourselves but this makes no sense. Perhaps, if we weren't so busy, we would pause long enough to consider this.