Are we actually busier than we used to be, or does it just feel like it? Do we actually have more things to do, or do we just think and say we do as a symbol of our status? As far as how much Americans work, statistics seem to agree that on average our workweeks are close to 40 hours, (1) though women tend to work just a bit less than men. (2) There are definitely those outliers that put in the 50, 60 and up hour work weeks, but that is not most of us. (3) So if we are not busier because of our work what are we so busy doing? It seems that our busy-ness often doesn’t mean literal entries on our calendars. There are a few ways that the feeling of frantic rushing has entered our lives.


The Pressure Of Fun

One way we make ourselves feel busier is that our recreation time is more structured. (4) It used to be that Sundays were a day of rest. Often our adherence to religion meant that we honored the proscription to refrain from work. Now there is a

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whole industry built around entertaining us. We have so many options for our leisure time that we get overwhelmed and it doesn’t feel as much like leisure as another to-do list. As a matter of fact so many of the things we look forward to spending our time on are now being called “work”.  We are to “work” on our marriages. Parenting is often looked at as another job we have to do. (5) Interactions with family and friends should be the things we live for,  but too often they are just additional obligations. Interestingly, the more wealthy you are the more you may feel this pressure to make the most use of your leisure time. (6) Maybe this is because you fully understand all of the options available to you, and you can afford them, whereas people with less money or education, may not know what they are missing, or be able to afford it if they do.


Technology Drain

Technology can also contribute to the feeling of working more because the long fingers of texts and emails know where to find you. Many bosses have the authority to text or call and get their minions running any time of the day or night, meaning that even off time can be spent dreading an unexpected call for action, and never allowing for full relaxation. (7) Not only does technology keep us on a constant leash, even the things we use to make us healthier can just make us feel busier. One study said that using fitness trackers can make us enjoy exercise less, relegating movement to the status of yet another chore on our list rather than an enjoyable pastime.(8) Then, when we finally stop working and texting with work, we are faced with the enormity of the options we have thanks to the internet. One study even found that using technology can make time seem to go by faster as we get sucked down possibility wormholes. (9)


Speed Status

If you haven’t noticed being busy these days has also turned into a status symbol.(10) Anyone can own a car or a phone these days if they want to, so people sometimes choose business to show how valuable they are to the labor market or the community.  If you don’t compete with the Joneses financially you can at least compete with how many activities you drag your kid to, or how many social events you attend.(11)  We often imagine that if we are under time pressure we are more important. If we are wanted at social functions we must be desired. (12)


Busy or Productive?

Another thing to be concerned about is all the stuff we flit around doing. There is a difference between busy and productive.

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Maybe some of us are running from task to unnecessary task being busy rather than developing strategies to find out what is important and spend a reasonable amount of time doing the things that really need to be done.(13) Being busy can even go so far as to symbolize that we have lost control. (14) Not only that, but the stress of feeling busy can actually lead us to make mistakes or bad judgement calls and make more work for ourselves. So being too frantically busy could actually be making us busier.  It could be that getting organized and to the point isn’t even a thing we desire. These days busyness has reached the level that it could now be treated as an addiction. We may prefer being busy because it has the ability to drown out things in our lives we would rather not face. (15)


Are we busier? For the most part, no. Which leaves the choice in your court. If you feel busy maybe you should look into what parts of your schedule are necessities and why. Some people will feel that loads of after school activities are just the price of higher education these days. Some people choose to preserve a carefree sense of childhood wonder. Your values will in some way decide how you invest your leisure time, but maybe a look into your values will reveal that slowing down is a choice that would benefit you. It may do you well to consider what we are gaining through busyness. Are we drowning out insecurity or embarrassment? Are we at a point where we should consider the possibility busyness could be an addiction in our lives? Alternatively, what If busyness truly represented a disorganized person to us, rather than a desired person? Maybe we would consider it more of a cry for help than an indicator we had made it. Maybe we could find a bit more peace, relaxation, even boredom and creativity in our lives.


  1. Kowalski, Kyle. “RESEARCH SAYS WE’RE NOT BUSY — SO WHY DO WE FEEL SO BUSY?.”, 23 Oct. 2018, Accessed 28 Nov. 2018.
  2. “American Time Use Survey – 2017 Results.” Bureau of Labor Statistics, 28 June 2018, Accessed 29 Nov. 2018.
  3. Doyle, Alison. “What is the Average Hour Per Week Worked in the US?.” The Balance Careers, 1 Sept. 2018, Accessed 29 Nov. 2018.
  4. Lawler, Peter. “Are Americans Too Busy?.” Big think , 22 May 2013, Accessed 28 Nov. 2018.
  5. Burkeman, Oliver. “Don’t Treat Love or Leisure Like a Job.” The Guardian , 1 Sept. 2017, . Accessed 28 Nov. 2018.
  6. Thompson, Derek. “The Myth That Americans Are Busier Than Ever .” The Atlantic, 21 May 2014, . Accessed 28 Nov. 2018.
  7. Jefferies, Stuart. “Work and leisure used to be separate. Now it’s just 24/7 anxiety.” The Guardian , 7 Nov. 2014, Accessed 28 Nov. 2018.
  8. Pasquale, Frank. “How Fitness Trackers Make Leisure More Like Work.” The Atlantic , 2 Mar. 2016, Accessed 28 Nov. 2018.
  9. Neild, David. “Here’s Why You Feel Busy All The Time.” Science Alert, 15 Sept. 2016, Accessed 28 Nov. 2018.
  10. Pinsker, Joe. ““Ugh, I’m so Busy”: A Status Symbol for Our Time.” , 1 Mar. 2017, . Accessed 28 Nov. 2018.
  11. Stillman, Jessica. “Study: Most People Really Aren’t All That Busy After All.”, 8 July 2016, Accessed 28 Nov. 2018.
  12. Rogers, Rikki. “4 Ways to Break Free From Being “Too Busy”.” The Muse, Accessed 28 Nov. 2018.
  13. Cohen, Jennifer. “Busy Vs. Productive: Which One Are You?.” Forbes, 25 June 2018, Accessed 28 Nov. 2018.
  14. Manson, Bess. “The modern ‘I’m so busy’ syndrome and what it really means.”, 29 Feb. 2016, Accessed 28 Nov. 2018.
  15. Rankin, Rissa. “Are You Addicted to Being Busy?.” Psychology Today , 7 Apr. 2014, . Accessed 28 Nov. 2018.

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