The Pressure to be Busy

Something I have seen a lot of recently is the use and value of time, with a seemingly growing desire for people to fit more and more in to their jam packed days.

During a recent meeting I was shown a video designed to illustrate how valuable time is.

The video takes quite an interesting perspective, asking the viewer to imagine a bank that gave you £86,000 a day, but at the end of each day cleared your remaining balance and deposited a further £86,000, and asks the viewer that’s they would do with that money.

Spend it. That’s probably 99% of people’s initial reaction, and the video relates this to the 86,000 seconds given to us each and every day.

It’s an interesting video, and for many I am sure motivational in the sense that time is precious, and we must make the most of every moment.

A positive video, for sure. But anybody who has experienced burnout can tell you that this belief is dangerous. 

Yes, time is precious, but the sheer pressure of the idea of filling each and every second with meaningful and significant events is simply overwhelming. It’s not possible. 

The idea of spending each and every second in a ‘busy’ sense provides no scope for relaxation or flexibility. This presents some real problems.

Firstly, as mentioned, leaving yourself no room to simply relax with no over hanging pressure to be ‘busy’ and productive often leads to burnout. To put it bluntly, it’s not sustainable, and it’s not healthy.

Secondly, having a schedule jam packed to the very last moment leaves no room to adapt to the uncontrollable nature of life.

Things get in the way, bad traffic, changing deadlines, unforeseen expenses, all of these are to be expected in life but a schedule with no flexibility will leave you frustrated when things do not pan out like you had planned. Which they often won’t.

If you think back to the initial scenario, where you are presented with £86,000 every single day. How realistic is it that, given that in this scenario you are guaranteed this amount ever day for the rest of your life, you will spend every single penny of that money?

More significantly, how much of that money would be spent on the things you seem as significant or meaningful? 

Or is it more realistic to expect to spend a proportion of that money on superficial expenses. The nice clothes, the newest gadget, all of those things we don’t necessarily need in the moment, nor do they add significant value to our lives. But we buy them anyway because it’s important to satisfy these desires to keep life fresh.

The same is true for time. If you were to spend ever second of your time at social events, or developing hobbies or helping others, or whatever meaningful activities you can name, eventually none of that stuff will feel meaningful to you any more. It just starts to blur into one.

The time spent on superficial activities, like watching tv or playing video games or what ever it is you like to do is important. It makes you see the value of time spent in a variety of ways.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not suggesting we shouldn’t aim to spend time on these things. The key, I believe, is balance.

Finding a balance can be hard, but becomes impossible if you do not allow yourself scope to not be ‘busy’.

It’s okay if all you feel like doing is watching the tv with a takeaway sometimes, just don’t let it become all the time or you’ll find your balance tips too far the other way.

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