I've become very annoyed of late with some business colleagues. A simple "Hello. How're things?" often will elicit one of the following responses:

"My hair's on fire."
"I'm up to my ass in alligators."
"I'm barely treading water."
"I'm slammed, man."
"I'm crashing on a deadline."
"Beyond busy."

Such responses make me feel uneasy. Like I should say, defensively, "Well, gosh, I'm really busy, too." It sometimes feels like a roundelay of one-upmanship. I hate it. Particularly since I'm a businessman and writer who often needs to be systematically still to function effectively. (Laziness and Entrepreneurship--September 3, 2013)

Essayist Tim Kreider wrote a wonderful op-ed for The New York Times a couple of years ago titled "The 'Busy' Trap." Here's some of what he said.

"If you live in America in the 21st century you've probably had to listen to a lot of people tell you how busy they are. It's become the default response when you ask anyone how they're doing....Almost everyone I know is busy. They feel anxious and guilty when they aren't either working or doing something to promote their work....Busyness serves as a kind of existential reassurance, a hedge against emptiness; obviously your life cannot possibly be silly or trivial or meaningless if your are so busy, completely booked, in demand every hour of the day." 

It's like being busy these days is cool. It gives us business status. Note the word "busy" is inherent in the word "business."

Well, I don't think being busy is cool. I think expressed busyness is frequently more an evincement of fear--the fear that we may be frenetic failures, that we may not really matter that much. It's like a dramatization of our self-importance more than of our reality. It is a form of entrepreneurial "Big Dickism." (That is, mine is bigger than yours.) A sort of macho entrepreneurial badge of honor. Tim Kreider argues that this braggadocio of the busy can in fact lead us toward a sort of "histrionic exhaustion" of anxious defensiveness.

Maybe we should actually be bragging about our conscious idleness, our regularized moments of revery, our disciplined pausing to refresh.

Psychiatrist Rollo May puts it this way:

"The pause is especially important for the freedom of being. What I have called essential freedom. For it is in the pause we experience the context out of which freedom comes.... When we don't pause, when we are perpetually hurrying from one appointment to another, from one 'planned activity' to another, we sacrifice the richness of wonder. And we lose communication with our destiny."

Thanks, Rollo.