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Why Are We So Busy?

October 13, 2019
Why are we so busy?

When I started my slow living journey, one of the things that I focused on was removing the busyness. Why? Because I came to the realisation that busy seems to be never ending. I remembered a conversation that I had with my friend; it involved both of us using the word busy. We didn’t press on to ask what we are busy with, a simple “busy with work” and we understood each other. It got me thinking, why we are so busy? All of us have 24 hours per day, no more no less.

We are surrounded by relentless information every day, for some reason even though technology is so much more advanced there are always more incoming emails, more meetings, more things to read, more ideas to follow up – and perhaps because of the advanced technology we are able to cram more into our schedule, not allowing any white space. The result, inevitably, is feeling overwhelmed. So, I decided to dig in further to find out why we are so busy.

Glorification of Busy

A busy lifestyle has become the status symbol or an aspirational symbol for many. But what is so great about being busy? Why in the world would we all choose to be so busy? What’s in it for us? My research showed that busyness has become a badge of honour, busyness is to show our importance, value, or self-worth in our fast-paced society. We want to show that by being busy, we are actually sought after especially in the working world.

We want to show that we are doing a lot, and being productive but are we really being productive? I think that is another question that needs to be dug deeper for the answer. I do find that at times, this concept of busy seem to be viewed as equal importance to being competitive. It’s almost as if people are competing to see who’s busier, so they can prove to rank higher in social status. 

When I stopped using the word busy in my conversations, I realise how much I had been using it and it is quite ridiculous that simple things involve the word busy. I don’t use it anymore, and when my friends ask me how are you? I don’t use the word busy anymore because I find this word doesn’t serve its purpose in the said context.

According to the dictionary definition, busy is “having a great deal to do”. So, if I really have a great deal to do, then it would make sense to use the word but not to use it to glorify it. You see, I don’t benefit from trying to glorify this word, I don’t get anything out of it, so why glorify it? I stopped. For some reason, I feel a lot better, I don’t feel overwhelmed anymore. Perhaps this word had been a trigger for me to feel overwhelmed even before I actually am.

Yet, there are still many people using it and most of them in the context of glorifying it. I guess, it is their choice. However, for you and for me, we both know that we don’t want to live a busy life when we are slow living advocates. Cheers to that.

Fear of Missing Out (FOMO)

In the digital age, we tend to fill our time with experience rather than buying things. So, we would fill our calendars and social media feeds with the highlight of our experiences. We fear that if we don’t do what everybody else does, we would miss out. Seeing friends posting on Facebook visiting somewhere cool and nice, you feel a tingling pressure that you have to do the same. So, this is one way we are glorifying busy by filling up with experiences.

Perhaps it is not trying to be a show-off but rather everyone has the tendency to want to feel we belong. The sense of belonging to our community is a human need, just like the need for food and shelter. Belonging means an acceptance as a member of a likeminded community. It is such a simple word but carries a huge concept and value. It is no wonder that we naturally fill our life with many different experiences, so that we can have conversations about it, or make it a conversation starter, when we discuss about it, we are able to open up to a community of likeminded and find friendships.

Sharing experiences is a way of bringing people together and feeling we are not missing out. The flip side of this is, if we are just doing it because of FOMO and not really to be a part of the community, now that would be an unnecessary glorification of busyness.

Busyness as a Time Filler

In this modern digital age, we have abundance of choice, so many ways to fill our time both online and offline. For some reason, we tend to fill our time with endless things to do, instead of allowing time to be a restorative white space (downtime).

What is white space? White space is simply a space or free time in your schedule to allow you to breathe, take a break, to fill you with a restorative energy. It can also mean to just do nothing and relax. I think it is one of the things in our life that we tend to overlook and could be one of the main reasons why we are so very busy today. Instead of using our free time in restorative ways, we fill it up with activities that drains our energy.

For a very long time, I felt that stillness or doing nothing was a no-no. It feels awkward. How many of you feel the same? I felt that I needed to keep doing something, this or that to be productive. However, in fact, the idle time or white space can boost my creativity, memory and productivity. When I allow white space in my schedule, I allow creativity to flow to me. If I find myself having a creative block, I know that I must have not have enough white space in my days.

We humans need downtime or white space to recharge. I still sometimes forget to give myself white space because it has become a lifelong habit to fill my time with constant things to do. However, once I start scheduling white space and practice using those time to meditate or simply just relax, it gets easier. I remind myself that it is ok to have time to relax, because when I relax, I am a better at contributing to my life and those around me. So, it is ok to relax or do absolutely nothing. Yes, absolutely nothing. You’ll be amazed at how many ideas and fresh perspective you can gain from the white space.

Why are we so busy?

I think we can all agree that this word “busy” is the opposite of slow living. I really feel that the next time I feel I am about to blurt out the word busy, I think about if I am actually busy. Instead of filling all my white spaces out with things to do, whether for myself or for my family. I actually just leave it blank, take time to slow down and relax. Even if it is just for an hour, It really helps me to feel calm and refreshed to enjoy the other moments that come my way.

What do you feel about the word busy? Have you been using the word a lot? I love to hear your thoughts about it, let me know in the comments. Have a lovely non-busy day. x

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Why are we so busy?
Hse Huey

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  • Nicola October 13, 2019 at 9:11 pm

    I definitely over-use the word, and I think it’s for one simple reason:

    I actually DO feel busy. I think there are a couple of reasons why people feel busier now than our ancestors did, even though we objectively have more free time.

    For one thing, we have more varied tasks, especially men (who still write the social narrative in many ways). 50 years ago, a man basically went to work, then returned home to eat a meal cooked by his wife in a home cleaned by his wife, then spend some time with his children before his wife put them to bed.

    Now that man’s wife is more likely to have her own job, and the kids are more likely to have extracurriculars, so now he’s taking the kids to football practice or piano lessons and doing the washing up instead of having a relaxing evening.

    So I get the impression I am busy because I read media that tells me I am. How often do we hear the phrase, “We’re all so busy these days”?

    We’re also all more distracted and interrupted in our tasks. I think I picked up my phone 3 times this morning in the time it took me to make a cup of tea and put some oats in my Instant Pot. Why on earth should I need to pick up my phone THRICE in that time? It probably meant it took longer to get those things done – at the very least, I didn’t spend the 5 minutes my tea took to steep washing the handful of dishes sitting beside the sink or tidying the post off the dining table, so those are both things to add to my plate for later today. Now I feel busy, where my granny would have just done the dishes and put them out of her mind.

    Wow, that turned into a bit of a novel 😂 tl;dr: I think everyone feels busy because we’re told we’re busy and because we spend too much time on our phones.

    • Hse Huey October 15, 2019 at 3:27 pm

      That’s a really good point about media keep telling us that we are busy. When we hear that so often, naturally our brain thinks we are always busy. That’s one of the reason I don’t like watching normal TV, the ads are just too much! LOL. You’re right that there’s a difference between the olden days and now. Now, we have more activities to do maybe because it is more widely available and the choices are also more. For example, there are so many type of dance classes to choose from! I guess when I think about it, it is one of the reason why I want to slow down and not be in a rush. Incorporating white space really helps me to make a wiser decision by removing those noises or the rushing feeling.

  • Amanda October 15, 2019 at 11:03 am

    I loved this post! I completely agree with you and have definitely been making a conscious effort to have more white space in my days. I used to pride myself on being busy all the time, but it also drained me. And you’re right, it really doesn’t bring any benefits in the long run. You can bless others a lot more if you’re making time to recharge yourself.

    • Hse Huey October 15, 2019 at 3:16 pm

      Thank you Amanda! I am so glad that you love this post! I can totally relate to that, when I was working in my previous corporate job, I preferred to have busy days so that the day will fly by quickly but then in the evening I end up being so tired. Now, having white space has been so good for me to recharge. I’m definitely cheering you on to have more white space in your days! x

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    About Me


    I am Hse Huey (pronounced “Sir Hway”), it is so nice to meet you :) I am a simple and slow living lifestyle blogger based in sunny Perth, Australia. I’m part writer, part photographer and part creative. This blog is my heartfelt hub of thoughts and experiences on living a slow, simple and joyful life. And continuing my quest for the perfect mug chocolate cake. Read More

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