The busy epidemic
Being busy can be great if we are staying motivated, reaching our goals, making a difference, and fulfilling varied roles – whether as a parent, in our vocation or in other areas of life.
However in our 21st century we have somehow created a virtue of busyness – that by being busy it must mean we are successful. Yet busyness is an ineffective measure of our productivity, impact or success. Busyness is completely decoupled from sustainable achievement and effectiveness. In our digital era where we are always connected and “on”, we can get so caught up in being busy that we miss the important things in life – such as giving attention and focus to the relationships around us or progressing towards important goals.
We have not only filled the big blocks in our life with technology but also the smaller spaces – those times in our day which used to be built into our lives for reflection and pondering are now crammed out with checking emails, watching YouTube videos or playing apps like Candy Crush. This leads to a feeling of being constantly connected and constantly switched on.
Technology enabling efficiencies
What technology enables us to do is extraordinary. What used to take hours can take just moments and it can certainly provide far more connections, increase accessibility and enable great efficiencies. Technology is facilitating an ease of lifestyle – from GPS navigation to checking into flights from your mobile and from being able to access your calendar and avoid double bookings to being able to access documents stored in the cloud from any location, the shortcuts provided to us are ever-growing.
Technology creating complexities
But whilst providing many solutions to simplify our lives, it has also created greater complexities. Technology creates far more volumes of work to respond to and new platforms are always evolving – from emails to texts, instant messaging and social media platforms, it can seem impossible to keep up with them all at times. Technology by its nature is interruptive. It has created a mindset of immediacy and instant response, cutting through what used to be a structured day.
There is growing immediacy in the expectation that others have in getting a response to their emails within minutes and hours rather than days. Communication has become reactionary and we are living in an era of expectation inflation where we are expected to respond to everything, even though there are no limits on the number of emails or instant messages we receive. This can put pressure on us to try to get back to others all the time – and never feel like we are on top of it – leading to feelings of being overwhelmed.
Technology as a tool
We need to remember to treat technology as a tool that can serve us, rather than a tool that we serve. When our connection to technology begins to have a negative effect on our mental health through stress, on our physical health through fatigue and lack of sleep, and on our relational health where we become short and snappy with colleagues or family and friends, we need to take a step back from it and recalibrate to prioritise what we really value in life.
By its nature, technology will interrupt. It will try to grab our attention through texts, push notifications, and the addiction we can have to constantly being wired. We need to realise that constantly being connected and busy doesn’t equate with being effective or successful. For creativity to flow we need time and space so that we can lead and manage from a strategic perspective. Having self-discipline to disconnect from technology at different points in our day and in our week can help us keep a sustainable pace.
There will always be more emails, more tweets and more texts. The challenge is learning to be present in the moment – giving our attention to friends and family over a meal rather than to our smartphones – and reminding ourselves that technology is a tool rather than a direction setter and something that we can learn to place parameters around.