It’s an unquestioned truth of modern life that we are all busy, busy, busy. It’s how we converse with each other. When you bump into a friend in the grocery store, and ask how things are, she says “busy” not “great.” We compare workweeks, sleep schedules, children’s activities, and even celebrate (apparently) a “Too Much On Her Plate” Week.
It seems harmless enough — a way to let the world know how incredible the demand for our time is — but there are some real downsides to buying into the myth of the time crunch. First, of course, is that we absolve ourselves of the burden of choice. The reality is that much busyness is self-inflicted. We control what we do with our time. But claiming to be busy, busy, busy and having no time lets us absolve ourselves of this responsibility. We outsource control of our own lives. Better to realize that “I don’t have time” really means “It’s not a priority.”
But on an even more practical level, the myth of the time crunch makes people feel so busy that we have to rush. I have written elsewhere of people turning left out of Sam’s school parking lot despite the no-left-turn sign, apparently believing this sign applies to other people who don’t have places to go and can afford the extra 2 minutes it takes to turn around at the next street. Backing up the carpool line for everyone else while you turn left is just collateral damage. Today I saw an even more egregious example. The little boy getting out of the car at the front of the line was crying and so the drop-off was going slowly. The car behind the front car pulled out and around and cut back in front — a sudden move that was quite risky in a parking lot of children, and that shaved a grand total of 1 minute from this person’s drop-off routine. And that no doubt added stress to the parent at the front of the line whose kid was crying. You’re not moving fast enough!
I hate being late as much as anyone. But it is not worth behaving in an anti-social manner to save a minute or two. I think the myth of the time crunch lets people believe, on the margins, that such decisions are okay. Nope. You are not that busy.