Busy is Best

Isn’t it remarkable how we expand into the spaces given us? You move into a bigger house or apartment, intimidated by the extra space, but before you know it, you have furniture, clothes and stuff in every corner. You get a raise and think, “wow, I’ll be saving so much money,” but before you know it, you’re going out to eat and shopping more.

This expansion phenomenon is especially true with time. You have all day to do just one task so you imagine all the other things you can get done, but before you know it, you’re just barely finishing that one thing before the time is up.

The time the day gives us never changes, but somehow when you’ve 20 things to do or just 2, you’ll get them done–either as a highly efficient machine or a lazy, procrastinating blob. At least, that’s how I am. The more time I have, the more time I take.

It’s obvious on the face of it. If you have many things to do, you’ll accomplish more than if you only had a few things to do.

But there’s more to it than that. I believe that self-motivation is like a muscle–the more you work it, the better it performs (and of course, it can atrophy if you don’t use it). Do you have that little list in the back of your mind–an ongoing tab of vaguely necessary but not pressing tasks that you should be doing? When I am busy, somehow that list actually dwindles.

Efficiency becomes addictive and my high rate of functioning means that I’m often capable of fitting even more into my day than I had planned. If I want to be a useful, successful, and generally awesome person, I had better pack my schedule because when I have all the time in the world, the temptation to put things off until tomorrow tends to win.

Since finishing my master’s degree, I have definitely been functioning at a lower efficiency rate. The country life tends to be quiet and relaxed. It was nice to give myself a break after the rigours of school and through the difficulties of the last couple of years.

Excuses, excuses. With self-reflection (and taking note of the many white spaces on my daily schedule) I have realized that there has been a definite slide into languor and a deficiency in self-motivation.

But, I’m too young (and getting too old) to be useless. With our upcoming move to Toronto to open our own business, I know that the lazy days are over and I welcome that change! I am looking forward to packing my schedule with work and other activities that I hope to take on like classes and sports, and I am especially looking forward to the satisfaction that comes from accomplishment. If we expand into the spaces given to us, I guess it’s important to put ourselves in big places!

Do you have a similar experience with time and motivation?

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10 responses to “Busy is Best

  1. I agree with you completely! When I have few things to do, I tend not to do anything at all. This doesn’t bring me relaxation or calm, but frustration and uneasiness. When I am active, I get more things done and I feel fulfilled and happy.

  2. I kind of blushed at a few of these notes on procrastination. I know I’m guilty of that still at times, but it’s good to have reminders like this post to kick you back into gear. ^^ Thanks a bunch.

  3. My favorite professor at Cornell had a mantra ‘work expands to the time allotted’. I love it and repeat it almost weekly. And now I’ll fill in my to do list for today! Thanks Jean

  4. After I got my masters degree, I was teaching all day and even took on teaching a night class for the college…before marriage…then, I fit in an art class that taught me to my amazement I could render a pretty good likeness.
    Someone once told me, for every bag of stuff that comes into the house, another bag of stuff needs to be tossed out. I think about that every now and then and even act on it…but oh, the stuff. The real estate agent who sold us our house 25 yrs. ago told us “You’ll never fill this house up.” Oh if he could see it now. Since we’re planning to sell in the near future, we’re trying to donate, donate, and throw stuff away.
    Good post. I agree…efficiency does become addictive.

    • Sounds like you had a good, busy schedule after your degree!

      It is amazing how things accumulate. When we decided to move, I thought, well we don’t have that much stuff… 5 boxes later of things just from my office that are cleared out for now to show the house (so there’s still a lot of stuff in just this one room… uuuugh).

  5. I love when you read my mind. I couldn’t agree more. I’ve definitely been slipping into a lazy haze lately, and it absolutely extends into all aspects of my life. My apartment is getting messy, my work is overwhelming me, I’ve all of the sudden run out of time for working out or cooking at home, and I sleep those extra 20 minutes during which I used to make breakfast and/or tea in the morning. Laziness is contagious! My goal is to get myself together before the honeymoon, so that I can come back refreshed and ready to start taking on the world again!

    Also – as I said yesterday, this absolutely is true of STUFF as well. We threw away upwards of 25 bags of CRAP before we moved into this apartment, and now some how we’re overflowing again. Where does it come from??

    • Well, you are getting married in a week and a half! Wow!!! Maybe this is one of those times to give yourself a break! There is a lot of physical stuff that seems to come with weddings. After the wedding sounds like a good time to freshen up and set some new routines. 🙂

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