On Being Over-Busy

March 21, 2006

Such a boring modern first-world plight. One takes on things and takes on things and never discards things. And by things I mean things, which is bad enough because for most of us storage space is finite, but also projects, activities, goals, habits, commitments. And it is so hard to part with those already in the queue. But really time is finite too. At least as far as we know within this mortal coil.

My roommate Gretchen back in Ann Arbor had a good way of looking at life—from the college students’ perspective. You take so many classes, say, four or five in a full load. But then you have a boyfriend maybe, that’s equivalent to another class (at least). And if you live in a shared household, that’s like another class. Say you belong to the rowing club—another class. Work a few hours in the library? Class. Volunteer at the food coop for discounts? Class. Have a social life? Class. Now you see your course schedule is rather overloaded. How do you keep up with the homework???

The trouble is, especially further on in adult life, where you have things you are somehow more obliged to do than when you were in college and where the view of the short horizon of life is clearer and fills you with the existential hum (Vonnegut’s phrase), the course schedule builds and builds and you never graduate from any of them….

You often hear people say, I have to simplify, I want to scale back on things. My problem is, I don’t really want to. I want to keep adding more. But I’m rather more dreamy than efficient, distracted by the trees when observing the forest, etc., so it pushes one (me) to the brink of idiocy trying to do it all.

So I’m interested in the life hacking concept.

After perusing Lifehack.org and Hackyourlife.com, I have to kind of conclude it’s just a modernized, expanded, searchable version of Heloise’s Hints. (There’s still a Heloise, though she can’t possibly be the original. (I’ll look into that, in all the spare corners of the day life hacking will give me….)) Whereas Heloise’s hints are mainly aimed at the home and personal care spheres, life hacking extends to work, maintenance of one’s electronic identity and presence, and Internet powerusage. You’ll still find tips on more efficient sleeping, eating, and bathing, but it sounds ever so much cooler as “hacking.”

I like the idea, whether it’s a 50s era Heloise or a 00s era hack. I started practicing a little hack unknowingly. I really like to work out at lunch, either running and weight lifting or playing pickup basketball. But I always am running late at work or know I’ve got to leave early…. Working out for 45-60 minutes is great, but the whole getting geared up and then cleaned up is maddeningly time consuming. So I’ve started wearing the “foundation wear” of the workout to work on the days I think I’m going to go play. That means I’ve switched to black athletic socks, and I do have to adapt my wardrobe choices to accommodate the T-back of a typical sports bra (no scoop necks on those days). But it saves minutes! Also, combined shower/shampoo gel helps…. Or just living with sweat-dried hair. It’s work, for heaven’s sake; I’m not a model nor do I meet with “the public.”

So, would putting enough of these neurotic hacks together actually amount to another hour in the day? Or just make me a compulsive oddball? Guess we’ll see.


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