The Busy Trap: Here and Everywhere

Slow down, you move too fast.

I hope you aren’t too busy to read this latest post.  I recall sometime this year that my landlady in California said that I’m the busiest person she knows.  Wow, I thought, that must mean I’m doing something important.  On second thought, it could have meant that I’m like many Americans, including herself, who is preoccupied with, well occupations.  We’re too busy to care, too busy to bother, too busy to matter, too busy to know that we’re too busy.  Get the picture?

Busyness serves as a kind of existential reassurance, a hedge against emptiness; obviously your life cannot possibly be silly or trivial or meaningless if you are so busy, completely booked, in demand every hour of the day.

Tim Kreider, The Busy Trap, New York Times

Do you feel like you are too busy?  Knowing your life as a full-time student, I would imagine that you must feel too busy.  How do you find time for yourself?  In an educational setting where the brain is on overdrive, we must take time to stop and enjoy the hollyhocks or just listen to the sage advice of Simon and Garfunkel or Mac Davis.  Now go grab that cup of matcha latte and relax.

18 thoughts on “The Busy Trap: Here and Everywhere

  1. Being a full-time college student in Japan, I honestly do not feel extremely busy to the point where I do not have time for myself. Universities in Japan do not have demanding assignments every day as universities in America or other countries do. Even though the department I am currently in is modeled after a liberal arts college in America, comparing the amount of assignments with my sister who goes to university in the states, my assignments are probably half of what she receives. Also, the level of content is completely different as well with my courses being easier than most of hers.

    However, I have experienced being extremely busy to the point where I barely had time for myself. During my senior year in high school, everyone was busy sending out college applications and studying for the “The National Center Test for University Applications” (Also known as “Center.”) Watching everyone being very stressed made me feel as if I weren’t doing enough, which influenced me to be absorbed in studying for more than half of my senior year.
    During this period I made time for myself by walking my dog. I really love animals and just being with them helps me feel much more relaxed. Walking my dog really helps me get away from my desk and allows me to breathe a little better. Even now in college during busy weeks like mid-terms and finals, I make time and walk my dog to get away from studying even if it is just for an hour.

  2. I feel that I am also too busy. I did not expect my university life to be so busy. The fact that is making my life too busy are many assignments and reports being assigned almost everyday. The amount of work being assigned is tremendous that I worry if I can catch up with those works. Most of my friends in the same department say that there is too much work to do. I have never heard of anyone saying assignments assigned in the department is not enough. Also, I have other facts that are making my life more busy, although I enjoy them. They are a club activity and part-time job. So, it is very hard to find my own time for my pleasure. It is true for me that I have not been hanging out with my friends for a while. All of my free time goes to finishing assignments, writing reports, and preparing for tests. My life is busy, but it is not only me who is busy. I really feel that I can continue making an effort on studying this large amount of studies because I have the club activity which I enjoy so much!

  3. This blog post reminded me of an essay by an unknown author called The Paradox Of Our Time. “The paradox of our time in history is that we have taller buildings but shorter tempers, wider freeways, but narrower viewpoints. 
We spend more but have less, we buy more but enjoy less. 
We have bigger houses and smaller families, more conveniences, but less time. ..We drink too much, smoke too much, spend too recklessly, laugh too little, drive too fast, get too angry, stay up too late, get up too tired, read too little, watch TV too much, and pray too seldom.”

    I must say, I feel pretty busy these days. I’m a senior now and even though I only have school once a week, I work 4 times a week, and the remaining two days I’m either hanging out with friends or doing shuukatsu. And it doesn’t help that I live an hour and a half away from Tokyo. I never really have time for myself and its definitely exhausting. Sometimes I like to turn my phone off and space out in my room. I like being busy, but when I realize that I’m not laughing as much because I’m just SO tired, I stop myself. Once in a while, its important to just sit down, maybe organize your thoughts, or just not do anything.

    http://www.xdude.com/paradox.htm

  4. Many of those around me and me myself are often complaining about all the work we have to do but what little time we have to do them all. As a student with classes to go to 5 days a week and being part of an after school activity where I am obligated to go 6 days a week, I feel that I am busy. I never have Saturdays and Sundays off because of the club I am part of and I have to do the assignments given in class after my after school activity is done, which doesn’t leave me much time to do things that I want to do. When I am leading this kind of life, I really wish for a day off just to do what I want to do like shopping or going out with my friends, but when I actually do get a day off, I end up lying in bed not really doing anything except catching up on my sleep. I don’t really know what to do when given a sudden break.

    I think Japanese people have a tendency to brag about how they busy they are. It seems like a good thing to be busy and though it may not be thought of as a good thing in other countries, people tend to brag about how little they slept that night doing something. I know I do these things myself, but I don’t really think overworking yourself is a good thing, so it is hard to understand why people would brag about having so much to do that you cannot even do things that you really want to do. If you are not able to do things that you really enjoy once in while, you will probably not be able to go on doing things all the things you do because of the stress you will probably feel. It is not good to have nothing on your agenda, but I also do not think it is good to be busy all the time either. It is best to be able to balance your schedule out to be able to take a day off doing something you really enjoy.

  5. Yui, on Sunday I woke up and realized that since it was a rainy day I had nothing to do. My friend and I were planning to go to Kamakura but we decided to wait for a sunnier day. I decided to take a day for myself. I went to the National Museum of Western Art to see the permanent exhibit, not the special exhibit. I didn’t want to overtire myself, so I went for just 90 minutes and then came home and relaxed. I tried not to do much work and kept away from the Internet, where you can normally find me for many hours. It was a very pleasant day, not the least bit busy. You are so right to say that we need a balance between work and rest. Getting enough sleep is essential too.

  6. And here’s the real origin of “The Paradox of Time” as revealed by Snopes. It has all the cadence of words spoken in a pulpit so I’m not surprised that a religious figure was the originator. He’s not a good guy, as it turns out, but these “words of wisdom” are a good starting point for thinking about what kind of society we live in today.

  7. I guess in Japan being a full-time university student is not that demanding. However, the thing is that everybody tries to get busy with something. This is something I say every year during Freshman week to get freshman into my circle and something I have felt through the years and that is that we all try to be, busy. If it isn’t with university work we try to be busy with social circles and if it isn’t that, we try to be busy with part-time jobs. People don’t feel useful when they are not busy and feel they need to do something when they are not busy and I guess this is our nature.

  8. In Japan, being busy is kind of like having a better status. If you are busy, people tend to misunderstand that your life is well-organized. During my freshman year, I had two part-time jobs. One was as staff at Globefish restaurant and the other one was being a rickshaw man at Asakusa in Tokyo. I worked full-time on the weekends and also after school. Obviously, I got sick and injured my back and knee. I remembered that I was too absorbed at being an university student and wanted to do everything by myself. (I also believed that I could).

    Japan also has a difficult condition of getting a job, which also leads to those misunderstandings. People tend to think that getting a job (no matter what kind), they can have a brand new stable future and are pretty much satisfied when they get it. I think our country has a serious problem in dealing with the busyness.

  9. I feel that students in Japan feel they are really busy with their revision, club activities, and school festivals. Since coming to Japan, I actually do feel I am making myself busy and get a lot of pressure from the exams. When I compare the capacity of the work in Japan to that of the UK, I feel that Japanese students have to study more for their tests. For example, I used to have a lot of short tests every unit so it was easier to study and I learned more, but in Japan, there are two big tests that make up for one whole term, (mid-term and finals) which means there is more to revise! But overall, what surprises me is that Japanese students say they have no time to do anything, but yet they are somehow able to clear their tasks one by one.

  10. As a student in the so-called “tearful English Literature department,” I am almost always trying to save myself from being suffocated by a gazillion assignments. Both my weekday and weekend free times are pretty much dedicated to keeping up with them, the schedule of which I do not find particularly busy. I am indeed occupied, but the word “busy” does not quite fit with my feelings. That is to say, I am actually enjoying my studies (or at least trying to make the best even of insipid compulsory subjects) without feeling the word’s negative nuance of losing control over the situation. By focusing on fun parts of the assignments, my long hours of studying become less and less unbearable. The key is to loosely plan ahead what to do when, so that I do not have to rush at the very last moment and blow myself up. If I follow this plan, it will be easier mentally as well as physically to join in unexpected events, like a dinner with friends or a walk on a sunny day after a rain. It is quite ironic that I actually want to engage in work in order to find time for myself. (Just for my own sake, I clarify here that I do not go around bragging that I am busy.).

  11. Nao, I absolutely love how you express yourself, but I do hope that you won’t “blow yourself up.” You might want to say, “wear myself out,” a little less destructive in image. Again, keep up your great writing. You have such a great command of the English language and are able to respond to my postings with very thoughtful remarks. I just wish that I could read and understand your native language.

  12. I’m not sure why people say this but some say the life of a university student is one of the most easy occupations to have in Japan. I guess compared to other countries like America we have fewer assignments and tests. Therefore we are said that we have a lot of time and money (since we have time we can have as much part-time as we want to).
    When I came back from the U.S and entered a certain University (not Sophia) I was shocked the tuition was about the same as the college that I went to in the U.S but I went to school for less time and spent less time outside to study for the tests and assignments. I wanted to study so I went to university but my expectation was betrayed. (So I’m here at Sophia, Sophia has better classes). I talked to my sister who was still a university student at that time how we don’t have assignments and I feel empty going to school. She said to me, “That is university student’s life in Japan, didn’t you know?” I can’t generalize her opinion and say every students thinks like that but I felt like many of them (at least people around me) feel that way. Since I am a transfer student I have a pretty busy student life here at Sophia and also I am senior so that I have to do the job hunting which makes my life crazily busy and difficult. Like what we read in the class about job hunting in Japan from New York Times? It is pretty weird.

  13. I am a fan of S&G, and the song “Feelin’ Groovy” is one of my most favorite songs, so I was a bit surprised when I saw the first line of this post: “Slow down, you move too fast” and wondered why I felt such a affinity to it.

    Actually, like other students also say, I have been very busy lately. The basic problem is that it takes two hours to come to school from my home. The reason why I cannot live independently is that I am going to study in the UK this September, so I cannot afford to live alone in Tokyo. However, in my opinion, you can overcome any difficulties or busy days if you can spare tiny moments to get satisfaction from your own hobby, movies, literature, delicious foods, or friends, anything you think important to your life.

    I am a big fan of music in the good old days, so when I listen to “Pet Sounds” of The Beach Boys I can always be relieved, get catharsis, and forget any troublesome things which happened to me. Of course it is true that everyone has his/her own field of hobby or preference, but still I am grateful for music when I am down and out.

    Here are my favorite version of “Feeling Groovy” by Blossom Dearie. Please try to listen when you are not busy.

  14. These days, I feel too busy. I have a bunch of Spanish tests, I have homework from almost every class, I need to study for TOEFL, and moreover, I’m in a test week. Now I have almost no time for relax. I sometimes feel as if I were still studying for the entrance exam for the university. I think I need to stop and smell the roses as the song says and have inner reserves. Busyness doesn’t always mean living a full life. We need time for ourselves because when we are too busy, we lose ourselves and come to feel nothing. By the way, I really appreciate that you procrastinated the deadline for the American culture’s final paper. It avoided me from being busier!

  15. In Japan it is said that “the college life is the summer vacation of life.” I think it describes our college life exactly. It does not mean our college life is just easy or we have plenty of free time but it means we can do whatever we want. I’m busy with studying German and English, working a part-time job and spending time with my friends and family. I’m always busy with something that I want to do. I study both languages because I want to learn them more. I work 5 times a week because I want to get money to make my life more enjoyable. I hang out with my friends and family because it’s fun. Of course I sometimes want to sleep all day. But I’m really happy with my busy life now.

  16. I do not think I am the busiest person. I am not always busy. I am busy when I do not do what I have to do, and have many assignments that I am supposed to do. But finding time is an important question for everybody who survives this present time. If we work too hard, that is not healthy and at some point we cannot help exploding. Some people think watching TV or movies and listening to music is a waste of time.
    But for me, that is a necessary moment to recharge the energy. So, thank you for the clip here and I will enjoy them in my charging time!

  17. Being busy clogs your vision to the beauty of life. One example is when you’re running late to go to school, and you’re running down the street, you don’t notice anything around you. All you have in mind is the train station. However, go down the same street on your most relaxed day, you might notice trees that stand tall, flowers that are ready to blossom, or bees flying around to find sweets for their appetite. I always try to make a day where I just appreciate life for as it is.

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