One way that Trump’s America is no different than Obama’s America is that people are busy. Really busy. All you have do is Google “too busy, ” and you’ll find hundreds of articles posted in just the last few weeks describing the state of busyness in America.
New Hampshire’s lawmakers are too busy to show up for regular meetings, according to a recent NHPR report, leaving committees understaffed and some bills dormant with insufficient numbers to hold a vote. Doctors like Kimberly Becher in Virginia wrote in this month’s AAFP.org issue about “hitting the wall in medicine—reaching a point of exhaustion and work fatigue that lead to depression.” Bryant Stamford warns in last week’s Courier-Journal that our Baby Boomer generation is suffering from the condition of being “too busy to exercise,” with many waiting until retirement to increase physical activity (often after destroying their health with years of bad lifestyle habits).
There are countless lifestyle “news” reports about celebrities and famous athletes who claim to be too busy to date, too busy to have a family, too busy with family to work—one story this week accused Prince William of being too busy with his children to fulfill his royal duties.
The point is, whatever we may be busy doing, we can’t seem to win. We can’t shake the feeling that no matter what we are doing, we should probably be doing something else.
There is no shortage of debate and criticism over how people spend their time today. The Wall Street Journal published an article last month by Elizabeth Bernstein titled: “Your Not Busy, You’re Just Rude” that chastised those of us that have cut back on time with friends and family time in favor of other demands on our time such as work and fitness. The author was offended by a friend who responded to her request for a dinner date with the message: “Sure. Why don’t you stop by for 45 minutes to an hour on Monday night around 8:30.” The advice given to readers was to either “be specific” about what you are doing in place of spending quality time with a friend or “cut back your calendar” to allow more time for your friends. In short order, he article drew a mass of outraged responses, including an opinion piece in Harper’s Bazaar by Taylor Lorenz in defense of being busy.
“There is nothing worse than a “friend” who feels entitled to your time. I used to surround myself with people like this. I bent and caved to other people’s whims and schedules… If a friend wanted to hang out with me, I shuffle things around to make time. [Then] I realized that my time is just as valuable as anyone else’s.”
The response goes on to explain how now Lorenz plans out a schedule weeks in advance to accommodate regular work, freelance work, evening work obligations, yoga, errands, and cleaning the apartment. What is left is one “cherished” free night a week (Saturday) for social time.
No matter how we choose to allocate our time, one thing is clear: The coin of the realm today is time. Time is more valuable than money.
We are living a Slammed life.
In our book Slammed, we describe the Slammed experience as a widespread socio-professional disorder that erodes self-worth, health, teamwork, innovation, productivity, relationships, and happiness.
We are living a task-saturated lifestyle. Like the old tale about slowly boiling a frog, the Slammed experience has crept up on us, catching us unaware of the ultimate consequence. The human race is capable of remarkable innovation, including the increasingly precise and automated ways that we are able to measure time. In Slammed we write:
“The result of inventing more sophisticated ways to measure and manage time is that we have become the unwitting victims of a technological innovation so transformational that, along with incredible possibilities, it comes with unanticipated restriction and even damage to the human condition. With the ability to accurately track time, a chain of invention unfolds with lightning speed – from wristwatches to mobile phones to smartphones, and evermore sophisticated personal devices capable of linking and syncing our time and, more importantly, our work, play, and personal tasks. More people can see our calendars, evaluate our time, and add yet more tasks to our ever-growing lists. Who hasn’t had the experience of pulling up the daily calendar on our mobile device only to find that three more meetings and two phone calls have been added without our knowledge by some beleaguered scheduling assistant desperately trying to squeeze a bit more into our already busy day?”
And the worst part is, the harder we work, the worse things actually seem to get.
But we can’t simply blame America’s “workaholic” culture, the rise of technology, globalization or the demands of the information age. Worse, we can’t continue to prescribe more “time management solutions” that seem to come with an extra dollop of guilt built-in when we fail yet again to “maximize our productivity.” The Slammed condition is more complex than we believe, and we can’t time manage our way out of it.
It should not come as a surprise that the solutions to the Slammed lifestyle are as complex as the problem. We describe them in our book and encourage you to check it out—but here is one thing you can do to start making a big difference.
Clarify your personal values. Ask yourself: “What do I value most?” and really take the time to dig deep and answer honestly. Then ask yourself: “Am I spending my time on what I value?” No amount of time management will help you if you don’t believe that what you are doing is somehow bringing you and those you care about value. If this is your situation, take a long hard look at it. Do you need to make a change—possibly a big one? If you can make that change now, do it. If you can’t, start planning for it RIGHT NOW.
Because life is short, and you are running out of time.