Busy? But why? It is more and more difficult to get away from the job even though we have more leisure time than ever before. This means that even though we are working less (according to research the average man works 12 hours less per week than he did 40-years-ago) we are perhaps ‘at’ work more than ever before.
The truth is that you probably do have more leisure time than ever before but you might feel as if you have less because you are so busy! There is a distinction here between people who are professional/educated and tho the blue-collar workers. In this case, according to research, the blue-collars get the long end of the stick as far as leisure time, while professional people are living in a state of overwhelm. The reason, of course, is multi-faceted. However, the area I want to focus on is being in touch.
Being in touch means that you are reachable all the time. Modern technology, it seems, is the devil’s plaything. It keeps us in the know, on the go, and in the flow all the damn time! When was the last time you caught yourself thinking, “I’ve got too much time on my hands” when you weren’t listening to Styx? Being busy, running all the time, and being harried have become badges of honor. Psychologist Ann Burnett has collected Christmas letters spanning the previous 50 years and has found that people went from counting their blessings to bragging about how busy they are. She said, “Keeping up with the Joneses now means trying to out schedule them.” Yay us! We have moved beyond keeping up and are now working on out-scheduling. Progress! Or… not. False busy can be worse than actual busy!
We live in a time and place that encourages distraction. All the technological ‘keep in touch’ gizmos and gadgets are creating a culture of ADHD-like people who are so distracted they are often unaware of the reality that is right in front of them. And like it or not you are likely among them.
When the technology – computers, the Internet, cell phones – was first introduced it was seen for what it was – great for when you needed it. Over time that view has become distorted. Even people living in financial hardship now have cell phones and computers. Today it is expected that everyone have all the technological goodies. In fact, cell phones in particular are not viewed as a luxury but as a necessity. Keep in mind that as recently as the early 2000s most people did not own them.
The distractions created by all this technology seep into your head and scramble the here-and-now. They pull you away from both work and play; they pull you away from the present. One study suggested that many working people feel as if they have no time off and the reason for that is because even when they are at a ball game or playing with their children they are constantly checking their phone for text messages and emails that are work related. In addition, while the standard for answering emails is ‘within 24 hours’ the unspoken rule is ‘the sooner the better.’
This sense of urgency is mostly false. Yes, emergent situations arise, but we have decided to let technology dictate our time, our decisions, and our perceived level of busyness.
Okay then, the good news is that you are likely not as busy as you think you are. All this technology – you are not a victim of it; these are choices you are making. Here are a few things to do that sound simple but will probably be quite difficult because for many people cell phones and other technology [including television] seem to be an addiction.
~ Create clear rules around cell phone use.These rules do not need to extend to anyone but you, but it is important that you make your personal cell phone rules clear to others. The rules can include such things as leaving your phone in your car or at home when you are going to the gym, lunch with a friend, or to a sporting event.
Believe it or not, taking a selfie to show the world how great your life is not a requirement. You might even find that you enjoy what you are doing if you are not busy taking pictures of it, ‘checking in’ wherever you go, or posting about how much fun you are having. Practice being present. This will take patience because it is likely that the people you are with will be on their cell phones.
Other rules to consider: Let people know that the phone is there for your convenience, not theirs, and that you will reply when it is convenient for you. That is, tell people to not expect an immediate response from you, even if you are available to do so. Do not: check your phone at stop lights, use your phone to kill time when waiting for doctor’s appointments, hair cuts or other meetings but rather, let yourself experience the wonder of boredom and see where that takes you. Honestly, boredom is not a bad thing and letting the brain rest and be bored can do wonders for how you feel. Or read a book or magazine. Yes, they still make those.
~ Establish times during the day when you check email. Again, you are not obligated to live and die by responding to or checking your emails. If you have a job that requires you to do so then obviously you are obligated, but once you are off the clock the rules are yours to make. By setting times to check your emails you can avoid the habit of checking simply because you are curious.
~ Avoid things that pull you away from the present. This includes all technology. When you are on your phone, computer, or tablet you are ignoring everything and everyone that is actually right in front of you. You are blocking out the reality of what is and human beings are not created to live that way. Being nature deprived is a real thing and it wreaks havoc on your mind, emotions, and body at a fundamental level. Take a break, take a walk, take some time to just be in the moment.
Realize that you created your habits around technology and you can break them. If you have a true addiction you might need professional help, but for the vast majority (I hope) it’s a do-it-yourselfer. Simply decide to have a better life and then work towards making it happen.
~ You’re the boss. You are in control of your technological gadgets but right now you might be letting them control you. You’re the boss so you get to decide. Turn off the TV, turn off your phone, and shut down your computer or tablet. Relax and breathe. Be bored, be out of touch. Take a chance on living in the moment, in the real world rather than the virtual one. That little screen is a trickster and can make you blind to the truth.
The truth is that you can live without it. Your life is out here, not in there. The urgency created by the little buzzes, whizzes, and beeps are a lie. A lie that makes you feel busy even when you are not. Your misguided loyalty to this lie creates distraction, distortion, and stress and diminishes peace, joy, happiness, and wonder.
Take this challenge: For one week try the steps outlined above and see what, if anything, changes. Pay particular attention to your levels of stress, urgency, and busyness. Also take note of how others respond to your new way of being. Finally, take this challenge and watch others, observing their behavior, their way of being and their way of interacting with people and with their gadgets. If you have a moment, drop me a note and let me know what you learn – I would very much love to hear about your experience.
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