In the past week, Tim Kreider’s opinion piece in The New York Times, “The ‘Busy’ Trap” crossed my radar dozens of times – forwarded to me via email, posted on my social networks, responded to in other publications, and brought up in the lunch room with my coworkers. The article has incited an overwhelmingly positive response; just this morning while in line at Starbucks, I overheard someone tell his buddy that the article ‘makes you think twice about pulling another 14-hour day.’
So when I finally read Kreider’s article this morning, I was surprised not to have the positive reaction that so many of my peers did. In fact, I was more than a little taken aback.
Kreider points out that many Americans choose to be excessively busy because they feel guilty or useless when they are not working. But he goes further: Kreider argues that people are secretly proud of their busyness, that having loads of commitments and little time for leisure or socializing provides them with an unjustified sense of self-importance. The ability to say ‘I’m too busy,’ according to Kreider, is “a boast disguised as a complaint.”
The PR industry is characterized by busyness. The ability to multitask, manage stress, perform under pressure, and occasionally work an extra hour or two past 6 is part and parcel of being a PR professional. I think it’s fair to say that most people in this business would prefer busyness to boredom; no one chooses PR because they want to sit idly at their desk all day, hoping their phone won’t ring.
If a PR agency is busy, it means we are excelling: we’re winning new business and projects because we’re finding ways to solve problems effectively, to innovate, and to do our jobs as efficiently as possible. Similarly, as a young person, being busy means that I am also excelling. I am entrusted with a greater workload and I have more opportunities to take on challenges and grow as a professional. Like many others in this industry, I am energized by productivity: I become more motivated, efficient and creative not only when I like what I do but when I have a lot to do.
The point is this: work and busyness mean completely different things when you’re doing something you enjoy and find fulfillment in versus something you’re doing simply because you have bills to pay. It’s a privilege, to be sure, to have the flexibility to find work that feels like more than just a job. But if you have that privilege, it’s a shame not to take advantage of it.
At the end of his article, Kreider concludes: “I did make a conscious decision, a long time ago, to choose time over money, since I’ve always understood that the best investment of my limited time on earth was to spend it with people I love.” And, I will concede, it’s hard to argue with that statement. But I would add that doing something you love – whether that’s a profession, hobby or interest – is equally important.
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