You’ve probably read “The ‘Busy’ Trap” from the New York Times. Or you’ve seen friends post about it on Facebook. I’m glad friends posted and steered me to it. The author, Tim Kreider, made the argument that the new default response to “How are you doing?” is: busy, crazy busy … a boast disguised as a complaint. And the standard response to that, Kreider says, is a congratulatory statement. Awesome!
Kreider writes about the anxiety and guilt experienced by the busy people. He tried to make plans with a friend who was crazy busy. “But his busyness was like some vast churning noise through which he was shouting out at me, and I gave up trying to shout back over it,” he writes. Busyness, he says, is a “hedge against emptiness.” Your life can’t be silly or trivial if you’re completely booked up, every hour of the day, every day.
In the essay, Kreider’s schedule gets hectic. He escapes from the busyness by heading to the country and rediscovering life, peace and his writing. He makes the argument for being idle. “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.”
On the day that I read Kreider’s piece, I was responding to an email request for help with a communications project. A former colleague wanted to meet and pick my brain a bit, get some ideas for a project she was working on. I had drafted the email, said that I was flattered but wasn’t sure I was the best person to help. I wrote that I was busy during the day with current work projects and that we’d have to meet after-hours, and I wasn’t sure if that would work for her.
I’m glad that I didn’t send that email. I realized I had fallen into the trap and was also selling myself a bit short by bailing. I can help with some communications pointers and renew a work-related acquaintance. I am not too busy to spare an hour and help someone out. Connections are a good thing. And with a little bit of effort, I’ll continue to work on the ‘busy’ part of me and life and find the healthy balance in life.