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The Price of Busyness

Notice that when you ask people how they are, among the two most common answers are 1. “fine” and 2. “busy”. The former is a polite way of signalling disinterest in continued conversation, the latter is stated as a badge of worth.

I recently read with interest an opinion piece in the New York Times about “busyness”.  The author, Tim Krieder  believes we are driven to a frenzied state of busy out of “dread of what we might have to face in its absence”. I find it fascinating that we may simultaneously lament the frenetic pace of our lives while actively constructing our day to day to ensure avoiding…ourselves.
So busy we are that we coordinate schedules with friends weeks in advance for simple coffee dates. We push ourselves to our whit’s end, holding on to the prospect of a two week vacation, or worse yet, retirement.

Krieder adeptly points out that we are passing this same compulsion onto our children. By over-programming them, we implicitly teach them that being busy is “good”, “responsible”, “productive”. But do we consider the downside?

Some time ago, and I wish I had the source to share, I read an article that argued that scheduling kids as we are, is certain to have a detrimental impact on their creativity.

It’s both logical and frightening that a child used to regularly moving from school then to a growing list of extracurricular activities, might be puzzled in the face of “free time”. The article cited an example of such a child who was simply told to play in that free time. How saddening it was when they asked “play what?”

But we have a choice. And the choice starts with looking at busyness with a critical eye - understanding what drives us to do what we do and what we are getting from it. I am guilty of feeling proud of my busyness – juggling a variety of elective responsibilities all the time. Perhaps it’s out of fear of being associated to anything remotely resembling lazy.

I remind myself that downtime does not have to equate to laziness. Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar as they say. So take your free time, enjoy it, and let's let our kids be kids while they can.


  1. I think that's so true.. it's almost as if the default response to "How are you?" is some variation on "Busy". The ideas of busy, downtime, laziness, and play are most interesting because of how differently they're defined depending on the person you meet.

    We are all too busy, or think we are anyway.

    1. Like everything in life, it really is all subjective. I'm amazed at how much some people can juggle, while others who call themselves busy pale by comparison. Nevertheless, it's the drivers of busyness that I find very interesting...Some cultures would think we're mad!

    2. If you have time.. a very interesting paper..

    3. Thanks for sharing this paper Kevin. So many factors to consider...culture, income, and more beyond simply demands on schedule. So much appears to be perception.

  2. I loved the part of the article when he talked about how we used to go to school and then had unattended and unstructured activities. What's so wrong with that? We all turned out fine (well, most of us anyway).

    1. I certainly think we did!


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