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Is Busy the New Relaxed?

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The New York Times online blog Opinionator recently published an article entitled “The Busy Trap,” which underscored how so many of us perceive our lives and work as “crazy busy,” noting that this truism may, in fact, not be entirely true unless we are actually emergency room doctors or bus commuters with 3 part-time jobs.

And while, as workshifters, we may believe that the luxuries of time and flexibility allow us to immunize our schedules (and lives) against the “busy trap,” we may actually be the most susceptible. We are pros at working anywhere, anytime, able to tune out any variety of surroundings and circumstances while still maintaining fierce focus.

But, are we simply keeping up with the work that flows in, or are we really overcompensating out of guilt for the flexibility we enjoy? Are we being proactive, or are we over-thinking about seeking out new opportunities even during downtime?

We are so acclimated to unstructured working hours that we micro-schedule and structure free time/vacations/personal outings in an effort to not disturb that delicate balance of workshifting and living. By maintaining a certain level of “busyness,” we reassure ourselves that we are making the most of our flexibility and not abusing it.

On a recent family vacation, I found myself looking forward to checking email and starting a few new professional projects in between family outings. Although the change in surroundings did contribute to my creativity, and I dared not waste the productivity I could achieve as a result, I was well aware that I might be overdoing it.

The danger here is that we forget how to unwind and live schedule- and structure-free! Is busy the new relaxed? For those of us who really do love our work, it can too easily disguise itself as a relaxation thief.

So, as workshifters, we must constantly remind ourselves that:

Idleness is not just a vacation, an indulgence or a vice; it is as indispensable to the brain as vitamin D is to the body… The space and quiet that idleness provides is a necessary condition for standing back from life and seeing it whole, for making unexpected connections and waiting for the wild summer lightning strikes of inspiration — it is, paradoxically, necessary to getting any work done.

-Tim Kreider, excerpted from “The Busy Trap”


What do you do to disconnect from your workshifting lifestyle?


Photo credit henrie

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Natalya Sabga is a project management professional and operational efficiency expert turned author, consultant and executive education advisor. Fascinated by the study of human behavior, she has parlayed this into a successful writing career. Ms. Sabga is also the author of "From Secretary to CEO: A Guide to Climbing the Corporate Ladder Without Losing Your Identity" (2010). She is also the President of DNterprises, LLC - a firm specializing in project needs' analysis, and project management from implementation to operation. Ms. Sabga is currently working on her next non-fiction narrative, "A PMP's Guide to Project Managing Your Life," and authoring the blog 'ASK N'.
  • http://pgiselfdirected.com/ John@PGISelfDirected

    A very timely post for today’s fast-paced lifestyles! When I find myself too caught up with work, I just think of my wife and kids and plan a nice weekend activity with them. That way, I get bonding time scheduled ahead of time while de-stressing in the process.

  • neil ridley

    I like the expression ‘the masterful art of doing nothing’ as a way to deal with busy.