Last Sunday’s article in The New York Times, “The Busy Trap,” could have been written about me. These days I reply to “How are you?” with what author Tim Kreider calls a default response: “Crazy busy.” And he’s right, it’s “a boast disguised as a complaint.”
But where does all this busy-ness come from? Much of it stems from the dizzying rate of change in how we accomplish tasks—and how many tasks there are. There aren’t enough hours in the day for all the continuing education required, no way to stay even close to the cutting edge of what’s possible.
YouTube is a prime example. Although most think of it as an entertainment site, I use it primarily for work: posting videos about boats, boat reviews, and boating related shorts. Since almost all of these posts involve engines, Google (which owns YouTube) thinks I will click on ads promoting outboards the size of Mount Everest. But I digress…
All the top social media sites are constantly adding features and updating menus, increasing opportunities for integration and visibility until they seem nearly infinite. That’s great, but it also means that every time I log in there’s something new to investigate. Not only does this decrease my efficiency, it decreases my sense of a job well done. Because just around the next corner, there could be something even more cool than what I just learned yesterday.
Previous generations of writers and editors worked within a strict template, rewarding those who stuck to their assigned word count. Once a magazine or newspaper was printed, that was that until the next issue—even if a headline had a glaring typo.
Online, it’s easy to fix mistakes. It’s also easy to go back and add links to previous posts. I know several authors who have uploaded new versions of their novels, after cringing at a section that needed editing. And all this post-publication tweaking is eating up our spare time—that is, any spare time we have left after delving into Facebook’s latest and greatest new sharing features.
I agree with Kreider that most of our busy-ness is a self-imposed vicious circle. But since I enjoy what I’m doing (mostly), my own busyness doesn’t seem like a trap at all. It’s just other people who are too busy doing things that won’t really matter, six months from now. Right?
I’m so busy, my head is spinning
Like a whirlpool, it never ends
And it’s YouTube making me spin
You’re making me busy
(With apologies to Tommy Roe, singer of “I’m So Dizzy”)