Is Life Better When You're Busy? | Scott H Young - Deepstash
  • Busyness as signaling. Complaints about busyness are like complaints about paying too much in taxes—something that allows you to subtly communicate your status.
  • Busyness as dodging commitment. Claiming busyness is a socially acceptable way to decline social obligations. 
  • Busyness as self-deception. When you work on things, your goal is always to move toward a state of having less stuff left to do. Since less outstanding tasks is better within the context of your goal, you may incorrectly extend that to assume that having no outstanding tasks in life is ideal.

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Finding the Busyness Sweet Spot

Busyness exists on a spectrum. We may abhor idleness, but being too busy stresses us out. There’s a sweet spot in the middle that suits us, and fine-tuning that amount is tricky.

There seem to be two different settings in the busyness-happiness calculation: first, what your ideal set point is, and second, whether your temporary situation is above or below this optimal set point.

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Finding a good project to keep yourself busy can be tricky. Just wanting to fill time doesn’t seem to be a good enough excuse.

Goal-setting and planning are vital because they’re the tools we use to find motivating activities. Making concrete improvements to your life may be secondary to the well-being boost of having a reason to be optimally busy.

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Do You Really Have Too Little Time?

Strictly speaking, we all have the same amount of time each day. Nobody has more or less. 

  • What feels like a lack of time is, more accurately, a conflict between priorities.
  • One problematic form of busyness occurs when your activity has low intrinsic enjoyment.
  • Expectations are another issue. If you intend to work full-time, stay in shape, spend quality time with your kids, and keep up with friends and hobbies, you may find there’s not enough time to do all of those to your desired standard.

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  • Expecting too much from yourself (or too little) is a recipe for stress. Sometimes the key is to take a step back and ask yourself what’s actually realistic.
  • If you spend a lot of time doing things that don’t satisfy you psychologically, you can feel like you have too little time. Perhaps the problem isn’t a lack of time but a lack of activities that actually meet your needs.
  • Temporarily feeling too busy or bored is often a problem of balancing new opportunities and existing commitments. Better managing this flow can solve some of the busyness problem.

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