The Philosophy of Education: Being Busy

Do you often feel you are too busy to spend time with friends or relax? Do you feel stressed because of being busy? If so, you are not alone.

When we are busy, we are often constantly in a hurry and worried about our duties. As a result, we cannot enjoy our surroundings or what we are doing. For example, many plants around campus are blooming with beautiful, fragrant flowers. How many of us even notice the flowers’ beauty, much less stop to smell them? If we are constantly focused on future obligations and thus do not enjoy the present, we cannot be happy even when dancing at a party.

There are two main reasons we feel incredibly busy and stressed. First, we may simply have too many responsibilities, classes, work hours, research positions, etc. Second, we may not have that many things to do, but we are so stressed about them that we constantly distract ourselves with Facebook, etc. As a result, we feel like we have no time because of how much time we spend in those distractor activities.

If we are busy because we simply have too much to do, we must reduce our workload. For example, a friend of mine is taking 19 units in six classes this quarter plus a yoga class. As a result, she has no time to relax and little time to sleep. She is stressed and has little time for friends. In addition, she is struggling in two of her classes. If we spread ourselves too thin, we cannot do well in any task. She realized that and is taking 14 units next quarter, a much more manageable workload.

Most often, paradoxically, we find ourselves truly overburdened after a period of lots of free time. I believe this occurs because we feel intense pressure to constantly do things — to be productive every moment. As a result, we fill our free time with more obligations such as a new job or more units next quarter. Then, after the period with lots of free time, we find ourselves with more responsibilities than we can handle, just like my friend.

But why do we feel such aversion to free time? Are we human beings or human doings? Yes, time is money, but is money the goal of life? No, I believe the goal of life is to be happy. Money is a useful tool, but it is not an end of itself. To be happy, we require time to relax and rest our minds and bodies. If you have free time, enjoy it; don’t feel pressured to fill it up.

On the other hand, we may feel overburdened and too busy despite not actually having many duties. This phenomenon most often results from our stress or worry about our responsibilities. If we feel this way, we cannot concentrate on our tasks and most often constantly distract ourselves from them, resulting in a short, simple task becoming a long, miserable day.

For example, this quarter I had to write a paper over the weekend for a writing class. I had all of my sources and had already written my outline, but had strong negative feelings about the paper: “I don’t want to write this. I don’t care about it,” etc. As a result, I kept wandering the internet after every few words written to distract myself from my pain. After six hours, I realized that I had only written the introduction. If we do our work this way, of course we will feel overwhelmed and busy!

This form of being busy results from and is completely dependent on a negative attitude towards our work. With this attitude, even the smallest task will seem like an impossible burden. Therefore, we must first change our attitude towards our work before attempting it again.

In my case, I gave up on writing the paper when I realized how negative I was towards it. I tried again the next day after clearing my mind of it; that time, I no longer felt so negative towards the paper. It flowed easily and I finished the rest of it in an hour and a half. The paper had not changed in any way, only my attitude towards it had changed. Our attitude towards a task is one of the strongest predictors of our ability to complete it.

Constantly being busy destroys our happiness and peace of mind. We must reduce our load, either in reality or in our minds, to enjoy even the best party. Isn’t the goal of life to be happy? Thus, if what you are doing does not make you happy, change it!

 

To tell WILLIAM CONNER how busy or not busy you are, contact him at wrconner@ucdavis.edu.

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