An equity partner at my firm once asked me how I was and I replied with what I thought was the perfect answer – “Good. Busy.” He gave me a quizzical look and walked away. I still don’t know what he meant by it.
The Cult of Busyness
This was years ago but I still remember the encounter, likely because I’ve never been one to say I’m “busy.” Sometimes I have conflicting plans, but I’m not busy. I spend a few nights a week sitting by myself in my apartment, writing this blog, cleaning, doing work, cooking, etc. To me, busy people are the social butterflies who have way too many invitations to make time for whatever boring thing I’m up to. I’m sure you have busy friends that are the same. Maybe you’re that busy bee.
I started to wonder about busy people several years ago when I noticed that the people I saw most often were
- the med student I was dating, who I would see once a week between 7pm and 9pm, in between his hospital shifts and classes and studying for tests;
- my sister, who was working full time and pregnant with her second child, her first son a rambunctious 3-year old;
- my lawyer and consultant friends, who I would meet up with around 11pm at night to get a break in during our 80 hour work weeks.
Still, we were not the busy ones. These people always were ready and willing to meet, because their schedules left so little downtime.
I know what you’re thinking – the people who were “busy” had the time, they just didn’t make the time to see me. YES! Exactly. I wasn’t a priority to them so busyness was a good cover. But I wonder if they really thought they were too busy to do anything besides their normal lives. A lot of people do.
Are You Really Too Busy?
I wrote a comment on a blog recently that I didn’t understand why people didn’t make their own peanut butter. It takes literally 10 seconds of blending peanuts with oil and salt and you have a much tastier, fresher, cheaper product. I got a reply – the reason people don’t make their own peanut butter is “time.”
Do people really not have enough time in their lives to spare seconds to make something better, cheaper, and healthier? Again, I see what you’re thinking. Of course they have the time, they just don’t care about the difference between store bought and homemade peanut butter. And that’s fine. But why not just say that?
What would happen if that person said, I do not care enough to spend literally 10 seconds to have a tastier, fresher, cheaper product. If you don’t care about pleasure, health or expense, then it seems you care a lot about time. But what are you using that extra ten seconds for? Probably nothing. People fritter their time away in worse, more meaningless ways than they fritter away their money. Maybe if we’re honest, we would say, I care about convenience more than anything else.
What if we were Honest about Our Time?
It would be an interesting experiment to stop saying we’re too busy to do anything. We all have the same 24 hours a day, and for most of us, we have some choice in what we use it for.
I have time to take public transportation but I care more about convenience than getting out of debt.
I have time to exercise but I care more about having an easy comfortable life than my health.
I have time to read books but I care more about watching junk TV than learning.
What if we said, I have everything I want and need to achieve my goals but I choose not to?
It’s very difficult to save money if you believe you are so busy that you need to revert to convenience for every decision.
- Accepting the salary given to you is easier than negotiating a higher one.
- Contesting bank fees is less convenient than paying for them.
- Researching the best items for purchase or for discounts is less convenient than buying whatever is available.
- Learning about investing takes time.
Saving money isn’t necessarily hard, but it does require some effort and a little time. If you think you have little to no time to do the things that are cost-efficient, then it’ll be very difficult to save money. Hence you’ll always be broke. But if you can learn to carve out some time to reach your goals, that’s the start of something possibly life-changing.
The truth is, we all have 24 hours a day and we all have some choice in how we spend that time. But many of us are on auto-pilot, and don’t stop and wonder what would happen if we scheduled our time based on our values and goals, instead of just following the status quo. Many of us think that all our time is out of our control and if we “spare” 10 seconds to make our own peanut butter, maybe people will think we are lame or stupid. We think that using our time to save money is a waste, which couldn’t be further from the truth.
Is the Myth of Busyness Keeping You Broke?
Are you suffering from the cult of busyness? Is it keeping you from admitting what your true priorities are in life? Or are you actually so busy that you can’t spare 30 seconds to make your own food or read this blog post?