In my last post, I discussed the points made in The Busy Trap article from the New York Times, which portrayed the “dark side” of busyness. The good news is that busyness due to ambition or drive does not have to produce the same results as busyness fueled by anxiety or dread.
Based on my experience working with professionals from entrepreneurs and small business owners to public company executives, I believe that many people truly love their lives. We can be busy by choice, and happily so. When busyness is a conscious and welcome choice, it provides fulfillment and energy.
For this “happily busy” demographic, the consequence of their busyness is really just one of opportunity cost. A happy, busy life without idle time may prevent us from being productive (accomplishing our significant results), which requires “idle” time for learning, formulating, identifying and ruminating. And what is really needed to achieve our significant results is time that we aren’t reacting to the demands created by other people and technology, so that we can be proactive and move our own goals forward.
Even the “happy busy” or “mindfully” busy individual will benefit from idle time for self-reflection. It is in those quiet moments that you truly know whether your busyness is serving you – or controlling you.
In the information age, we tend to feel out of control when outside sources put demands on us. A lot of this pressure is technology driven. This brings me to a second point of agreement with Mr. Kreider’s arguments in “The Busy Trap.” When email or other information is the source of our busyness, we may be spending time too much time on other people’s priorities. I love my work as a productivity trainer because I see people benefit from learning to exercise control over their technology and their attention. It is then that we learn whether our busyness is procrastination in disguise, diverting our attention from personal priorities, or truly a path to our significant results.
To regain control, is it really a solution to “flee town” (as suggested in the article) where you may be “unmolested by obligations”? In fact, changing our location does not change our circumstances, only the way that we view them. What changes is our attentiveness, not our obligations. We must be able to bring attentiveness to our daily life, to immerse ourselves in what we choose, and to allow ourselves time to process it. To this point, my favorite part of Mr. Kreider’s essay is this:
“It’s hard to find anything to say about life without immersing yourself in the world, but it’s also just about impossible to figure out what it might be, or how best to say it, without getting the hell out of it again.”
Personal productivity begins with mindfulness, and mindfulness begins with controlling our attention – not just our time or location. Mindfulness is our most important defense in the coming decades against the constant onslaught of demands on our attention.
We are experiencing the beginning of a backlash against the always-on demands on our attention that this technology age has wrought. We are at the beginning of a mindfulness movement, where we stop living on the poles of “constantly busy” and “constantly idle.” Our success and accomplishments will come from somewhere in the middle, where we have the greatest control over our attention and our time.
Thanks for reading this post, written while attending BlogathonATX.