There are all of these devices that attempt to let me to do a lot more than I was able to do before they existed. It creates this new normal where now I am a superwoman. I start doing more than I was ever capable of before. Then other people start to get used to me doing a lot more. And then the expectation becomes that I can do even more than before.
I find myself in a scenario where my physical body needs to be doing something, but my mind doesn’t need to be engaged, at least not for now. So I engage my mind in something else because I have one more thing to get done. I’m standing here, I’m wasting time. Whether it’s standing in line, sitting in a meeting at work that I don’t feel like I’m getting any value out of, sitting across the table from someone that I think is a waste of my time. I have things that are more important, more pressing, that I need to get to.
It’s a symptom of how over-scheduled and overwrought we all are. We feel as though what we achieve in a day is never enough. It’s never, ever enough. We always could have done more. We always could have used our time more wisely.
We live in this world now that is so obsessed with productivity. It’s like a drug. I remember when I got my first iPhone, I immediately went to the App Store and searched for productivity apps. I wanted to try every new to-do list, every timer, everything that has to do with productivity to make the best use of my time.
There is this assumption that doing more is better, that getting more done in the same 24 hours is better. And so we’re not sleeping eight hours a day, not getting the sleep that we need, not getting the food that we need.
It’s fast-fast-fast, how much can I check off my list today?
There’s no longer that depth and that attention to what we’re actually trying to do. Everything now has become this very superficial interaction. We’re doing it by cutting as many corners as possible, and we’re doing it as quickly as possible with as little involvement of ourselves as possible.
I don’t get that. If you’re not into it, don’t do it. Just don’t go. If you’re not thrilled about the idea of sitting across from that person over dinner — to the extent that you feel the need to pull out your phone to look at what is happening elsewhere in the world — then don’t go to that dinner.
You know what the alternative is? That you could spend the whole time looking at what else is going on in the world if it’s that important to you.There’s nothing wrong with that. It’s upsetting to me, this idea that we have to do more-more-more-more, but the quality of what we do doesn’t seem to matter.
An excerpt from my dialogue with Paul McAleer on our podcast Designing Yourself, Episode #5: No Means Yes (originally aired August 20, 2013), with minimal editing for readability.
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