Our frantic days are really just a hedge against emptiness.
A recent column in the New York Times really caught my attention. The column was entitled “The Busy Trap,” and in it, author Tim Kreider talked about how so many people are too busy and they feel guilty if they are not doing something work-related all the time.
I am mentoring a very talented executive and we were recently discussing the vacation he was mandated to take. I asked him to take just four hours every day of his vacation and unplug completely from work. He replied that he could not commit to that because if he did not have this to do, he would not know what to do. This executive had fallen into the “busy hole” and had no way of climbing out.
However, after much discussion and cajoling I finally got him to agree to try this four-hour plan. In the beginning it was excruciatingly painful for him, but as the vacation progressed, he began to look forward to the time he had to be with his family away from work concerns. He shared with me later that by the end of the week, he felt so great during these four-hour breaks that he wanted to continue the process of getting out of the “busy hole.”
When I think about my earlier years and ask other people if they were as busy 30 years ago as they are today, they all emphatically say, “No!” They were a lot calmer, and life just seemed to move much more slowly in the 1980’s. Why? My theory is that it has a lot to do with the ease of communications we have today.
In the early 80’s most people did not have personal computers, and if they did, there was no Internet. Now that we have become so “connected,” we stay tethered to our businesses and friends almost 24 hours a day. When I forget my phone at home, I feel almost naked and have to rush back to get it.
It is unhealthy for entrepreneurs and managers to be accessible 24/7. The stress stays with them all day and night and they have no opportunity to unwind. We all need time to just be, and with this never-ending flow of communications, so many of us do not get a chance to enjoy the moment.
I, myself, am a recovering busy addict. I now leave my phone and computer off after 6 p.m. – which, I will admit, is still tough. However, I have been sleeping much better and I know this daily break is what I really need.
I also try to take more trips where I can make myself inaccessible to calls, texts and e-mails. No matter what I do while away, I feel so much calmer when I return because I have allowed myself to unplug from these sources of stress.
Now go out and make sure you take some time every day to step away from phones, texts and e-mails. I promise that once you get used to this new habit you will feel so much better and even more productive.
You can do this.