We are not as Busy as We Claim – and That’s Good for Both Health and Career

We are all super busy – at least that’s what everyone says when asked about their work and current state of affairs. Some of us really are, but the overwhelming majority just pretend being so, research suggests, as it makes them feel important. In fact, being less busy (or just admitting you are not as rushed off your feet as you have always said) can benefit you in a number of ways.

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Today, it is extremely difficult to find someone who does not pretend to be busy all the time. Everyone is snowed under things to do, and the talk surrounding the subject contributes to this image. The thing is, most people are not as busy as they claim to be – really, they are not. It’s just boasting hidden under a veneer of complaining – how is that even possible to imagine replying something like ‘Oh yes, I got nothing to do – just whiling away all the time’? That’s simply not cool enough!

This is not to say that everybody lies ©. The busyness epidemic embraces both feigners and those who really cannot fit in their child’s basketball game. But there is a tiny fraction of the latter – all the others just spend time doing things that do not help improve productivity or – which is even worse – are busy telling others how busy they are, studies show. We do not work more than we used to in the past, but we have changed our attitude to work.

In the past, if you could afford being idle while others are working, it meant you were well off and did not need to work hard to make ends meet. Today, it’s just the opposite: if you spend most of your time in the office, you are important and busy – or why would you sit there all the time?

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A recent study showed that the sense of well-being can be shaped by your busyness. Those who are overburdened are not as happy as their ‘lazier’ counterparts. Not only that, people who tend to work intensely are less likely to get to the top of the ladder. Compared to others, their career outcomes are not that good, which suggests that busyness can backfire and have a detrimental effect on your work.

The tasks that are seemingly urgent are often those that do not help advance your project. In fact, the fuss we usually find ourselves involved in has little to do with productivity and work efficiency. According to researchers, we tend to engage in activities that only seem to be useful, if only unknowingly, thus tiring of all this kaleidoscope of invoices and other documents.

Of course, this implies mostly to office workers – it is difficult to accuse an emergency room surgeon of the same sin of feigned busyness. In all honesty, not everyone claiming to be overburdened does it on purpose or just for the sake of boasting. Most people do not even realize they do it, and really get tired – no fake headaches here.

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Previous studies showed that the amount of time you spend in the office also matters. For instance, if you are 40 or older, working as little as 3 days per week yields the best results, as working more takes a toll on your productivity.

It is time we realized that not everything we do at work is useful, and some of the stuff we do and talk we talk do nothing but deplete the resources of the body and mind. This is not to say that coasting is a preferable option, but at least admitting we are not as busy – no, really! – as we claim and – which is even more important! – not as important as we want to seem can benefit both your health and work.

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