Rapp Art (@RappArt) | تويترArtwork courtesy of: John S. Dykes (commissioned for The Wall Street Journal)

"The more productive we are, the more pressure we feel—hence, trapping us in an endless 'busyness cycle'"

Most of us remember being kids and hearing the fable of ‘The Ant and the Grasshopper’. As harmless as the story may be, the impression it left on our young minds was understandably indelible. It was a well-intentioned moralistic tale, in praise of the ant who used all its time to gather for the winter while the carefree grasshopper sung.

The essay, as written by Oliver Burkeman for The Wall Street Journal (also based on his book Four Thousand Weeks: Time Management for Mortals), explains the ups and downs of being productive, the delight of being busy and what it brings to a person. Feeling like a functioning and contributing member of the society is, at times, paired with the feeling of being overwhelmed—you start to live in constant anxiety of trying to fit all you can do with the hours that you have.

Burkeman introduces us to what we might call “the efficiency trap”. Once we feel the success of being efficient, we render ourselves by trying different productivity techniques or generally pushing ourselves to work harder. As you successfully do more things, your goal quota changes: more tasks seem to be of importance now, valid, or even obligatory.

"...won’t generally result in the feeling of having 'enough time', because, all else being equal, the demands will increase to offset any benefits.”

The irony is, maybe making ourselves more efficient is counterproductive. A key point is learning what to prioritize first, simply accepting that there's always going to be more things to do and that some of those may never get done within the hours that you want—and that’s okay. Learning to admit this notion can help bring us a peace of mind and maybe even help us break free from the cycle and all the wasted time of trying to maximize ourselves.



You can read Oliver Burkeman's full essay at the Wall Street Journal. His book, Four Thousand Weeks: Time Management for Mortals, is available at Amazon and Goodreads.


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