Productivity & Work Psychology Social Media

Never sitting still

rihanna work work work work

We vacuum our free time up only to replace it with busyness.

Busyness is the purposeful avoidance of doing something with long-term significance in replacement for doing something with immediate tangible results, like answering email.

No one will be thinking about inbox zero on their death bed, says Dan Ariely, Duke Professor of Psychology and Behavioral Economics. “Why is email available 24/7?,” calling the email game ‘structured procrastination.’

Play the long game

We pursue meaningless stuff all day like email and social networking instead of thinking or working on long-term projects because we can’t stand boredom. We’d rather be something rather than nothing, even choosing electrocution over silence. Joelle Renstrom, a writing professor at Boston University punishes students who leave their cell phones on by making them “sing a song or bust some dance moves in front of the class.”

But there are also people who are work-obsessed and take on too much. Their compulsiveness with doing is an escape from difficult emotions, caring more about their work than taking care of their kids, as one workaholic admits.

‘Try harder!’ ‘Go faster!’ ‘Do more!’

People schedule and accept more meetings just to keep busy. There’s a misperception that the more you work you have, the busier you are, and therefore more important you are. We become slaves to the ‘always-on’ Internet. Busyness relegates life to secondary status, which can take a toll on our health and relationships.

Yet, as much as technology increases busyness and productivity, it could also help save it. Apps like Headspace and Calm encourage people to use their devices to step back into the present.

Busyness needs a deeper purpose for it to be justified. It can’t all be about enjoying the stimulation and creating unnecessary stress. Sometimes the quiet moments are exactly what we need to do better work.

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By Wells Baum

Wells Baum is a daily blogger who writes about Life & Arts. He's also the author of and four books.