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Summary: How do we escape the "busyness" trap?

How many of you would say that you are busy? We almost feel obligated to stay busy, don’t we? If you meet someone at the grocery store or run into them at McDonald’s, and you ask them how they’re doing, almost invariably they’ll tell you how busy they are and start rattling off a list of activities -- and their children’s activities.

· Monday is pee-wee football, Tuesday is ballet, Wednesday is piano, Thursday is tae-kwon-do, Friday is swimming lessons, Saturday and Sunday are the soccer travelling team . . .

Americans are busier than ever. Let me give you an example. Dinner time. The "Leave it to Beaver" picture of the family sitting around a dinner table at six o’clock eating a home cooked meal has virtually disappeared.

· These days, when Mom calls, "dinner time!" the family doesn’t head for the dining room table, they head for the minivan. The percent of meals eaten away from home has increased from 16 to 29 percent since 1978.

· Almost no one takes a traditional "lunch hour" any more.

· Not only that, but we are increasingly eating meals while we are doing other things -- working, driving, watching television. We don’t eat, we graze.

How many consider yourselves to be too busy? How do you know if you’re too busy?

· No matter what you’re doing, you have a vague sense you ought to be doing something else.

· No matter how hard you work, you always feel like you’re behind.

· You feel like your spinning your wheels -- you get to the end of the week, and in spite of all your activity, you find yourself asking, "what have I really accomplished?"

Why do we feel so frazzled?

1. Erosion of boundaries (physical and temporal). Work is recreation is home.

The telecommunications revolution has made it possible for our work to "reach out and touch us" anytime, anywhere.

· Beepers / Cell phones - worn everywhere: cars, restaurants, ball games, grocery stores.

· Home computers - can’t help children with homework, because we’re doing our homework

· People now work from home, so there is no physical boundary between work and home

At the same time, we conduct personal business at work. Lunch hours are spent running errands. In the afternoon, we’re logging on to the web to order Christmas presents, book plane tickets.

Is this a bad thing? Not necessarily. But it does add to the feeling of busyness.

2. Explosion of choices. We now have more opportunities available to us than every before.

· When I was a boy, we had one sport at a time. Your choices were take it or leave it.

· More channels to watch

· More stuff to buy and sell -- ebay has made the whole world one giant Turkish bazaar.

· More activities to participate in, both in person and on-line. Internet gaming. Chat rooms.

· Office football pool vs. nationwide fantasy football leagues.

Is this a bad thing? Again, not necessarily. But the more opportunities and choices we have, the more we feel we’re losing out if we don’t get as much as we can. This is the "All you can eat" restaurant syndrome.

Backlash against "big box" stores. We don’t really want everything. We just want what’s best.


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