Being busy is a drug for most people

The Busy Trap

This article about men “faking” 80-hour work weeks got a bunch of attention this week. Here’s an article that probably should get more attention: it’s about how “crazy busy” is a numbing agent for a lot of people. It references Brene Brown, who’s given one of the more popular TED Talks of all-time, and this quote is awesome/insane:

Could it be true? Is the act of staying crazy busy a numbing defense mechanism so that “the truth of our lives won’t catch up with us”? If we tell ourselves that we’re just workaholics, we can forgive ourselves for not being vulnerable, but as Brown points out, “numbing vulnerability is especially debilitating because it doesn’t just deaden the pain of our difficult experiences; numbing vulnerability also dulls our experiences of love, joy, belonging, creativity, and empathy. We can’t selectively numb emotion.”

Read that end part. You know what is being described? A drug. “Numbing.” “Dulls our experiences.” “We can’t selectively numb emotion.”

Uh, yes we can. It’s called alcohol, heroin, etc.

I’ve long believed — and I don’t mean this in a way that trivializes addiction, because that’s a very real thing that I’ve experienced close to home — that when people use drugs or alcohol destructively, they’re just chasing love. They want love, or the ability to distance themselves from their true reality — which probably doesn’t include love as much as it should (or they think it doesn’t).

The whole “crazy busy!” notion is the same thing: it’s just a way for people to focus energy on the supposed “virtue” of work and, in the process, ignore their real lives and experiences they’ll covet more as they age.

Being Busy Is A Drug

Snort up that busy, baby!

I’ve long hated the whole “OMG I’M SO BUSY” notion, especially because “being busy” — at base — is actually a function of you. It’s your time management skills and your choices, so why do you constantly complain about it?

Thing is, you ain’t complaining. You’re wearing it as a badge of honor. You’re taking a hit off that busy pipe. That’s how we cope.

The major ironic subplot of all this is that the “crazy busy” culture we’ve created shields us from experiences — i.e. talking openly about failure at work — that would actually make us better managers and better people and probably even more effective at deliverables. Thing is, though … we just keep free-basing that busy, and that makes the real realities we need to achieve go right away.


Ted Bauer