As we enter the Christmas/holiday season, I’m asking lots of friends how they are doing and how their year has been. Almost everyone says “it’s busy”. This takes many forms, from “crazy busy” to “absolutely busy” or “scary busy”. Since words often lose their meaning, I’ve thought about a scale we could use to better convey the level of busyness in our lives. I think the best way to delineate levels is by the loss of freedom that occurs at each inflection point.
Can turn on the TV, read a non-fiction book, take a nap, go for a walk, drive the scenic way home; write this blog post
Can buy groceries, play with kids or have coffee/breakfast with a friend; Can send a non work-related email
“Normal” – state 0
The modern baseline. Ability to get some quick exercise in, play with kids, read the headlines and perhaps a news article. No time for shopping, TV, or recreational reading. Can prepare quick food.
“Not bored” – state 1
No discretionary time for entertainment or non-essential work. This means no TV, news, personal finance, or working out. No time to prepare food.
“Busy” – state 2
No ability to pause and decide what to do next. No time for sitting down to eat or even to go grab lunch. Sleep is at minimal 5-6 hours. 14-16 hour work days.
“Too busy” – state 3
Out of control. Multiple things you are responsible are happening at the same time. You must choose between multiple unfavorable outcomes.
“can’t talk now” – state 3
Emergency mode. No time for eating, sleeping or dealing with anything other than the emergency. Can’t take calls.
<Can’t tell you I can’t talk> – state 4 Crisis mode.
Sprint, don’t stop.
My Personal Experience
On reflection, I spend about half my time in state 0, about a quarter in state 1, about 15% in state 2 and the remaining 10% is divided equally between the others. Many of the folks I work with are more busy than me and spend most their time in states 1 and 2. I’m not sure how standard this is, but I do think we all think we can’t be any busier and it helped me to create some kind of scale to put it all in perspective. This list is convicting and shows a mismatch between my priorities and how I spend my time.