Every Friday my syndicated column appears in a variety of newspapers across Canada, and this week's builds on a blog post I had earlier this week complaining about my busy-ness. See if you can relate:
I’ve been a little panicky lately with all the stuff on my plate, and as Christmas approaches it’s only going to get worse. As I’ve been weighing the option of having a full-fledged panic attack to extricate myself from some commitments, I started thinking about the basic assumption of busy-ness. It goes like this: we have too much to do, and not enough time to do it in. In other words, there are two sides of the scale: how much is on our plate, and then how big that plate is.
Let’s look at how much is on our plate. According to time studies, we don’t actually have that much more work to do today than we did thirty years ago. We’re slightly more burdened, but it’s not catastrophic by any stretch of the imagination. So what’s up?
Certainly it could be that we’re spending too much time in extracurricular activities and in volunteer work. Many of our children are over-scheduled, and I do think we need to re-evaluate how much we’re willing to be out of the house over the things that aren’t absolutely necessary. But that’s a subject for a different column.
What I’m really interested in is this idea of how big our plate is. What if we’re not actually busier, but we just feel busier?
If we have roughly the same amount of leisure time as our parents did, and even more than our grandparents did, then what is our major malfunction? Perhaps the problem is not how much we have to do, but instead how we’re spending the time at our disposal. For instance, when we choose to spend our leisure time in front of a screen, we often lose a significant portion of our day.
When you sit down at the TV, do you think to yourself, “I'll just sit here for two and a half hours?” Chances are you don't, but often you find it sucks you in anyway. Most Canadians spend over thirty hours a week in front of a screen. That’s a lot of potential time eaten up right there. My weakness is the internet. I sit down to "check a few emails" and suddenly two hours have evaporated.
I wonder, then, how much of our busy-ness simply stems from the crazy ways we spend our leisure time. Often we turn to time wasters, like TV and the internet, because we're tired, and we just want to relax. Unfortunately, these things don’t necessarily relax us, and we end up worse than we were before. Researchers have shown that watching violent movies or television shows, or watching dysfunctional families on reality shows, actually makes our mood worse, not better.
What really relaxes me is playing games with my kids, knitting, or bubble baths. If I don't have time to knit because I've been on the internet for two hours, I don't feel relaxed, even though I've had what looks like all this “me” time. If I spend a half hour exercising, and then a half hour with my kids, and then an hour in the bubble bath, though, chances are I would feel a lot better than I do after surfing the web.
Perhaps the reason that we feel so busy isn't that we're actually busy as much as it is that we’re realizing the important things aren't getting done. If we prioritized those important things, a lot of stress would dissipate. We'd go to bed at night knowing that we had had a good day. I'd really like that feeling again, so rather than having a panic attack over my busy-ness, I think I’ll just try to leave that infernal screen behind. Are you with me?
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Labels: blogging, columns, family fun, internet, television