Friday, April 02, 2010

Working hard or hardly working?

If you just groaned, that's quite alright...I generally groan/wince/frown when my grandpa says that yet again, but I thought it seemed apropos.

(Incidentally I cannot seem to type "groan" properly. It kept coming out "goram" or "graon". Crazy fingers.)

I've been thinking recently about this apparent need to be busy. Provided a person isn't honestly overwhelmed with all the things they have to do, so many people seem to take a sort of pride in sighing about how they don't have time for such and such leisure activity because they're just so busy____fill in the blank: running something, working, driving places, participating in various activities, etc.

We seem to have developed a culture of busyness. In order to actually be accomplishing something and an important part of society you have to be properly "busy". If you don't have work to complain about you must be slacking off. Maturity and success seem to be partially defined by how much you accomplish...or at least appear to accomplish. As long as you keep busy with little things even, constantly having some project needing to be done "as soon as you have time!", then you're sufficiently busy.

I've been caught by this idea as well to a certain extent. I feel like I ought to be doing more than I'm already doing. I think perhaps it's a feeling of inferiority and a fear of laziness that's making me feel this way because I'm not part of the group of people who are properly busy. It seems like I know lots of people whose jobs consist of sitting at a desk and doing important things on the computer. I don't have any job that requires that, I don't have a desk piled with important papers and tasks to get done. I don't end up with much to show at the end of a work day: I didn't get anything typed up, I didn't email people about work-related things, I didn't take a lunch hour (or work through it) and then go back to the pile of projects on my desk, clocking out at fifteen after five because I was in the middle of something at five.

But is that all really necessary? And I don't say that just to justify myself; I think it's a legitimate question. I completely understand if your job really does require you to work through big piles of things and deal with annoying dad has to do that all the time, and I know he's not doing it merely to stay busy. But is it necessary to put more pressure on yourself by adding extra things to your workload? I feel like I ought to have some other job to do, so that on the days I'm not working I'm still accomplishing something. So do I not accomplish anything on my days off otherwise? If I don't it's only my own fault. It may not be the typical "work" sort of things, but there's certainly plenty of cleaning, cooking, organizing that I could be doing. And when I'm done with that I can sit down and sew or knit something. Or read, or study...the list goes on.

And then my job is not typical work either, but I'm taking care of a little kid. That's important even it's not filled with things I can check off a list at the end of the day. I suppose I could look at it that way:

Do a fun activity
Read a cute book
Read an educational book
Do an activity that builds fine motor skills
Prepare a properly nutritious lunch
Etc. Check, check, check.

But how ridiculously mechanical that sounds. How about we add some planned spontaneity to that list? Not that there aren't some kids who get raised that way, but that's an entirely different subject.

Back to my point, which I've kind of lost track of, I'm not sure why one has to be busy all the time. I mean, it doesn't just depend on the job, there are moms who do the sort of things I'm doing, PLUS being involved in various activities, either for themselves or for the kids, and breathlessly exclaim that they have "No time!!".

How has this happened? Some sort of remaining Puritanical feeling that one must be diligent (which is translated as "busy"), or trying to somehow compensate for so many conveniences and fulfill some need to be working? I really have no idea. (And did I really just say 'Puritanical'? Wow.) I'm not criticizing really, so if you feel like this applies to you, I certainly don't mean to offend, I'm just curious about why we seem to feel this way. Once again, I don't mean necessary work and activities, I mean the things that give one a feeling of accomplishing things. (Does that make sense?) It all boils down to busy-work vs. real work, I guess, and I dislike busy-work no matter the situation.

Personally, I think I need to adjust my thinking as well. Focus on getting done the work I could be doing, and not feeling lazy when I then take a break to do something else. Apart from spending time on the computer most of what I do is not wasting time really, I usually do something while listening to music or watching TV, and I read some non-fiction along with my fiction. :D

I found two articles on this exact topic that I thought were least I'm not the only person who feels this way, if nothing else. :)

Does Being Busy Add to Your Life?

Are You Suffering from "I'm So Busy" Syndrome?

Anyway, just something I've been thinking about in my usual confused way. Thoughts?


Abigail said...

I've wondered the same thing!! I find myself feeling like busy people are living more "successful" lives than me, that surely they are accomplishing things of significance while here I am, taking care of the house, my critters, doing school, etc., living life at a very comfy pace.

But that begs the question: what is success? I believe that success is "glorifying God." Because that's why we're here, right? To glorify, worship, and enjoy Him. If I am accomplishing these things in my everyday activities, then I am successful! Even if I haven't changed the world, or been doing something none-stop all day. As we try to live each day with the mindset of living each moment for Christ, we will not be wasting our lives. I think I will be doing a blog post of my own on these topics, soon. :)

mandolinartist aka amanda said...

Interesting post... I seem to tend to use the word "busy" often, but I don't always mean it in the same context. Life is about going from one thing to the next whether we have 5 minutes, 5 hours, 5 days, or 5 months between these activities. Most people can always be somewhere, do something, or be with someone at most times. However, most people can usually find some downtime also. I agree that while we have responsibilities and things to do, it is also important to take time to do "nothing," (aka relax, rest, think, read, watch/observe, watch TV, etc.)

Natalie said...

Exactly, Abigail. It really all boils down to making sure we keep our focus on what God wants us to be doing, and define success by that. Of course that goes for all areas of life, not just our level of busyness.

Amanda, taking off of what you said about relaxing/watching/etc., I feel like it's silly if we go through life way too busy to notice God's creation and enjoying it. I hardly think He intends us to ignore all that. Indeed it is a fallen world, but it's still His creation for us to enjoy, and that includes taking some time for pleasure, even in this fallen world. :)

Natalie said...

Re: my last comment, that's what happens when I write a comment and then half-way rewrite it. :P

Sure, it's a fallen world, but I didn't mean to say it twice. :D