Skip to main content

Being Busy is a Disease

I’ll admit it. When someone asks me how I’m doing, the first word that usually comes out of my mouth is – Busy. Usually preceded by a big, overly dramatic sigh. And I’m definitely not alone. If you live in Malta in the 21st century you’ve probably had to listen to a lot of people tell you how busy they are. It has become the automatic response to when you ask anyone how they’re doing: “Busy.” “So busy.” “Crazy busy.” It is, pretty obviously, a boast disguised as a complaint. And the usual response is a kind of congratulation: “That’s a good problem to have.” or “Better than the opposite.

Almost everyone I know is busy. They feel anxious and guilty when they aren’t either working, or doing something to promote their work. I recently wrote a friend to ask if he wanted to do something this week, and he answered that he didn’t have a lot of time, but if something was going on to let him know and maybe he could get rid of work for a few hours.

This made me think about how we glorify being busy, and the impact that this path takes on our lives. Our two main metrics for success are money and power, and they drive us to work longer hours, sleep with our phones, and miss important moments with our families and friends.

People are busy because of their own ambition or drive. They’re addicted to busyness, and fear what they might have to face in its absence. The present hysteria is not a necessary or inevitable condition of life. It’s something we’ve chosen. Even children are busy now. Their schedule is jam-packed with classes and extracurricular activities. They come home at the end of the day as tired as adults. Exhausted. Dead on their feet.

I named this article ‘’Being Busy is a Disease’’ because it is! Constant stress is linked to all sorts of issues. From migraines and anxiety to sexual disorders. All these things come secondarily to what it’s called - Time Compression. It’s when you put too many items into too little time, and you feel stressed about it. But that’s the world we live in. You’re driven to do more than feels comfortable. The mind needs to unplug, and the body needs to relax. But we’ve become so accustomed to this lifestyle that we can’t get out.

So why, exactly, is it so hard for us to slow down? Why ‘Busy’ has become the new normal?

It could be, because we love feeling important and needed, which is what busyness provides us with. Busyness serves as a kind of existential reassurance. A shield against emptiness. Obviously your life cannot possibly be insignificant and meaningless, if you are so busy, completely booked, in demand every hour of the day.

The rise of Facebook and Instagram has just magnified those ideals. We’re constantly comparing our lives to others’ lives (or, at least, what others choose to show us) and trying to keep pace socially and materially. Everyone thinks they’re only as good as their ability to produce. We get into this social construct, where you can never be happy just relaxing. Because if you’re relaxing, you’re a loser. And so we fill our days with work and social commitments. Lots of activities and distractions. There’s a lot of societal pressure to be involved in a lot, and always have a full plate.

Focusing on how busy we are is like putting on a mask. It keeps us from connecting on a deeper level with each other. In this day and age, we can all readily accept that we lead busy lives. This shows that your mind is elsewhere, thinking about work you have ahead of you, or something you just finished. Instead of, you know, the people in front of you.

But are we really as busy as we think we are? Most career-driven people probably think they work way over 40 hours a week, and spend far less time doing other things. But time is vast. We have 168 hours in a week. If you want, you can have all the time you need, and life can be pretty chill.

We overestimate the things we don’t want to do, like work. And we underestimate the things we do want to do. Negativity tends to stand out in the mind, more than positivity. Simply tracking how you spend your time, is the first step to breaking free of the ‘Busy’ trap. It’s also a good way to identify all the ways we waste away the free time we do have. Like checking Facebook and watching TV. And what about those of us, who really do clock 12+ hours in the office each day and spend more time with our friends on Snapchat than in real life? Start by recognizing that you’re mostly in charge of how you spend your time, and that you can choose differently. Sometimes that means saying - No! We all have the same amount of hours in the day.

Idleness is not just a vacation. It is as indispensable to the brain as vitamin D is to the body, and if we are deprived of it, we suffer mental affliction. The quiet that idleness provides is a necessary condition to see life as a whole. It is, paradoxically, necessary to getting any work done in a proper manner. Our history is full of stories of inspirations that come in idle moments of daydreaming. It almost makes you wonder whether idlers aren’t responsible for more of the world’s greatest ideas and inventions and masterpieces, than the hardworking. As the great John Lennon once said: Time you enjoy wasting, was not wasted. Which is true.

Oh! This is really important: Stop telling people how busy you are. Take a pause when someone asks ‘How are you?’ and give a proper answer, instead of relying on the ‘Busy’ line. Stop wearing busyness as a badge of honour. There’s a lot more to your life than your to-do list. Life is too short to be busy.


Popular posts from this blog

The Prince And The Pauper

It seems that many in Malta and around the world are awaiting with bated breath the arrival of a new British royal this month. Kensington Palace officials did not reveal Kate’s exact due date, but it has been reported to be 23rd April. This info is all over the news… But I don’t care about the royal baby much! The fact that this particular baby will be born doesn’t excite me at all. Is there anything  wrong with me? I can’t help but wonder about the estimated 371,520 babies that will be born around the world on the same day that, the third royal baby will come to be. While  some of those common children will also be born into a world of relative privilege and safety—though not the royal levels of privilege, by any means—many more of them will not. Many of the babies born on the 23rd April will inherit a world that is dangerous and even deadly. Of the non-royal 371,520 babies that will be born on the 23rd April, it is estimated that 24,000 will probably not live to see their fifth birthd…

Top 7 Amazing Fountains in Europe

Among all the other architectural wonders that there are to admire, I got really interested in fountains. As an architecture newbie, I decided to make this collection of the most striking fountains from around Europe. 1. Water Boat Fountain, Valencia, Spain
The image above is a cleverly designed fountain sprinkling water out of its man-made pores. 
Located in Valencia; it is known simply as Water Boat Fountain by visitors and locals alike.
2. The Magic Fountain of Montjuïc, Barcelona, Spain

The Magic Fountain of Montjuïc is located in the Montjuïc neighborhood of Barcelona.
The fountain was constructed in 1929, and it was designed by Carles Buïgas.
3. Swarovski Fountain, Wattens, Austria

It is quite surprising that more attention is not given to the breathtaking Swarovski Crystal Head Fountain in Austria. It is honestly one of the most intriguing and unusual displays in the world. 
The glass covered, giant outdoor water feature is built directly into a hillside.
4. Charybdis Vortex Fountain, Sea…

Ronaldo-Messi: The Infinite Challenge

These 48 first World Cup matches have ended yesterday, and these matches brought us straight to the second round, which will start tomorrow. Matches that have led us to a series of historical statistical records; the oldest player ever to be on the pitch in the World Cup, the almost endless series of games without 0-0, and the first time a team qualified thanks to the number of yellow cards. We now move on to the second round, therefore, but in my opinion there are so many other beautiful things left to discuss about the groups. Surely, one of them is the Ronaldo-Messi rivalry.
They could challenge each other in the quarters and it would be, sort of, the peak of their sporting rivalry. In two weeks we have seen quite a lot. Ronaldo’s sensational hat-trick against Spain, the total failure of Messi during the first two matches, the goal-scoring header of CR7 against Morocco, the Argentine psychotic drama, the mistakes of the Portuguese against Iran, the resurrection of Messi and Argentin…