The Busy Trap + The Rule of Life
Seeking Balance in an Age of Busyness and Overstimulation
What’s this talk about the “Busy Trap”?
Years ago, Tim Kreider, author and essayist at The New York Times, wrote a column on a social phenomenon dominating modern culture which he coined “The Busy Trap.” In the past decade or so, Kreider explains, a subtle yet noteworthy change has occurred in America. When asked “How are you?,” people often respond with “busy,” rather than the common “good” or “fine.” If “Busyness” was a person, he seems to not only impact how people define their lives nowadays, but even how people think they ought to live their lives – he has quite the influence in culture, our individual lives and appears to steal the things most important to us…our time, our health, connection with others…the list goes on…and many of us have made him our best friend.
More social scientists are noticing the rise of this trend. “Uhg I’m so busy” seems to be a status symbol of our time. This mindset impacts the way individuals, families, friend groups, businesses, and society at large function.
Read more about The Busy Trap.
The American Workday
So, what about work? What does the typical American workday look like? Recent studies from Gallup and the Bureau of Labor Statistics show that the average American spends between 9.4 to 12 hours a day working. Research also shows that Americans spend “most of their waking hours staring at screens”…between checking emails, social media, and watching TV. This impacts our mental health. It is evident in the drastic rise in anxiety, depression, and loneliness…yet, we ask, “Why?” While it appears on the surface that culture has become so connected with social media and the information at our fingertips, it is a façade for a generation of individuals struggling with feeling lonely and unfulfilled. Americans struggle to unplug, clock out, seek balance in life, and find fulfillment in their work. Busyness has the tendency to do that to us.
Every summer, the Center for E+I sends a group of ten students to Praxis Academy, hosted by Biola University, California. One of the focuses at Academy centers around redemptive entrepreneurship and how to embrace a healthy work/life balance in a world that appears to value work and busyness above all. The leaders at Praxis introduced a resource called the Rule of Life that was designed to create balance in life and keep priorities in line. Here are three of the six “rules” from the Rule of Life that might help you escape that sticky friend Busyness, and begin to provide a framework to create balance and fulfillment:
It’s easy to fall into a pattern of working non-stop or round-the-clock. We are constantly looking for emails, taking work home, and planning for the next day. In the words of Julia Cook, “Be where your feet are.” When you’re at work, focus on work, and try not to take the stress of it home with you at the end of the day. For students and others who have work to do at home, allow yourself to really delve in and accomplish the work you have before you, and try not to stress about it so much that it becomes paralyzing. Often, people find themselves so overwhelmed by the amount of work they have that they become unable to accomplish anything. Stay focused on one task at a time, and when it’s time to rest…really rest. The Rule of Life says:
Challenge: Try to take one hour every day to be intentionally restful—meditate, pray, or just relax. You might be surprised by what a small amount of time off from work and media can do for you.
One of the main reasons people work so much and struggle to find balance is because they prioritize making money and getting rich as their main life goals. While having disposable income is great, it’s key to remember the old cliché, that money can’t buy you happiness. One thing that might help you to remember is how freeing and fun living simply can be!
Challenge: For one month, try giving away a percentage of what you make to a charity of your choice. Giving away a small portion of your hard-earned money can be a good exercise in learning to let go and bless others.
Sometimes, we forget how important and powerful our imagination is. It’s easy to spend our down time on our phones, watching TV, or listening to music. Step into the shoes of a child, who play with a limitless imagination. Before technology inundated culture, imagination and practices of mindfulness were commonplace. Try intentionally exercising your imagination by playing music, drawing, reading, journaling, or spending time in creation. Intentionally using your mind for non-work activities can help restore a proper balance of mind, body, and spirit.
Challenge: Disengage from screens for an hour. Try spending a few minutes every day journaling, playing an instrument, or even just daydreaming. It’s amazing what exercising your imagination can do for your mental health and to create balance in work and life.
What would one week unplugged look like? Check out this story, and maybe you’ll be inspired to try it!
(Read the full Rule of Life to learn about the remaining three rules including decision-making, power, and community.)
It’s important to know when to rest and when to work. Often, millennials struggle to take breaks from the busyness of work and a bustling social life to just be still. But, if you try being intentionally restful for even just a week, you’ll see how much it transforms your life.