For the past few days, an interesting blog post on the NY Times has been popping up in my Twitter timeline. In your as well, probably, since almost everyone I know has retweeted it a couple of times. Which blog post? The one about the so-called “busy trap”.
The idea is simple: we’re all caught in the busy trap. Everyone feels busy, runs their life and activities at 200%. Here’s a great summary from the blog post:
The present hysteria is not a necessary or inevitable condition of life; it’s something we’ve chosen, if only by our acquiescence to it. Not long ago I Skyped with a friend who was driven out of the city by high rent and now has an artist’s residency in a small town in the south of France. She described herself as happy and relaxed for the first time in years. She still gets her work done, but it doesn’t consume her entire day and brain. She says it feels like college — she has a big circle of friends who all go out to the cafe together every night. She has a boyfriend again. (She once ruefully summarized dating in New York: “Everyone’s too busy and everyone thinks they can do better.”) What she had mistakenly assumed was her personality — driven, cranky, anxious and sad — turned out to be a deformative effect of her environment. It’s not as if any of us wants to live like this, any more than any one person wants to be part of a traffic jam or stadium trampling or the hierarchy of cruelty in high school — it’s something we collectively force one another to do. – From http://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/06/30/the-busy-trap/
Everyone I know from the Belgian IT community is in this trap. I’m in there. My wife is in there. My boss probably is, too. We’re all too busy to realize this. We’re used to it, and it’s really easy to say “yes” to things because those things nag you and you just want to get them over with. And the easy way often is not saying “no way!”, it’s often just doing it. Reinforcing that same busy trap.
Lately, some people I know quit their 16-hours-per-day-consultancy-job and switched to a nine-to-five closer to home to gain time for themselves. Another one is maxed out and on the verge of cracking and relying on social security for a couple of weeks, if not months (if you are this person or you know him, have a break and get well soon buddy!). I find myself in this busy trap too, but I usually manage to balance it pretty well. There are of course periods in the year where the balance flips over to busy, but I have established a few ground rules that I agreed on with my wife and family.
- During the week, I’m owned by the community (and work, that too). That does not mean I will be out every night to some event (our Belgian community has interesting sessions almost daily). It does mean that I don’t really have a problem being out one evening a week.
- The weekend is sacred. Weekend mean: No computer will be switched on. Ever. Unless it’s to order pizza or to do taxes or something.
- In the weekend, don’t use Twitter. Unless an occasional check (some of my friends don’t txt me, they send me tweets) or to tweet about drinking/brewing beer or having a great barbecue.
- Vacation? Long weekend? The computer stays at home. Roaming and wifi on the smartphone get disabled. Phone call from anyone but close relatives and friends? Ignore it (by pushing the ignore button, voice mail will handle it).
These don’t get you out of the busy trap, but it will help. It certainly helps me. Which rules help for you? Comments welcomed!
Here's a list of tips I got from the community:
- @ToJans: Another tip: treat the hours you invest in your work as a limited resource; this will help you to focus on what's important
- @DavyBrion: don't waste spare time when you don't feel like it, and keep in mind that you don't owe it to anyone
- Some Scott Hanselman tips: http://www.hanselman.com/blog/ItsNotWhatYouReadItsWhatYouIgnoreVideoOfScottHanselmansPersonalProductivityTips.aspx
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