Saturday, 2 February 2008

Overload

Most people I know seem to be permanently overloaded - with work, with children, with domestic chores, with sick relatives. They barely have time to sneeze, let alone relax properly or take up a serious leisure interest.

They're constantly rushing from one thing to the next, juggling a dozen different commitments and emergencies, frantically emailing and phoning and texting, forever postponing things they would like to do but just don't have the time until next week - or next month or next year.

I don't remember it being this bad when I was young. I recall laid-back workplaces where you had plenty of time to chat, plenty of help with demanding jobs, and long boozy lunchhours.

There were always far more employees than work to be done, and less inclination to work yourself into the ground for a slightly higher salary. People felt comfortably off if they had the basics - a house, a spouse, a hobby and some friends - and weren't seeking the relentless lifestyle upgrading that's rife nowadays.

Of course this might be just the 'Good Old Days' syndrome and I'm overlooking the subtle pressures people were still under even if they seemed relaxed. But I think the pace and frantic-ness of life have definitely increased dramatically.

Today even phone conversations are often brusque to the point of rudeness as something is dealt with in the minimum time and the phone is slammed down. Face to face, people are constantly preoccupied with other pressing tasks, checking their mobiles and riffling through notebooks and diaries. Nobody seems 100 per cent focused on anything, their minds fluttering about like restless birds.

Can we all please slow down a bit, shed a few supposedly vital duties, and become a bit more human?

23 comments:

Manuel said...

unless you have a table booked.....then you need to hurry up a bit....hehehehe

Grannymar said...

Yipee! Somebody agrees with me.

All the rushing about will neither lengthen or shorten a life! We all have an alloted time.

Imagine rushing about like ants for eighty or a hundred years. What a waste!

laurie said...

my god, that picture! that poor donkey. jeez....

i do agree with you. for me the difference came when i moved from a small city to a big one--takes longer to get everywhere, more time in traffic, more people around, everything is crowded, going to festivals and movies and concerts and out to dinner is a big pain because there are SO many people, rush rush rush.

living in a small city i made almost no money (and so am way behind my friends in terms of savings and will likely never retire!) but oh i liked the quieter pace of life. i did not know the meaning of the word "stress,' even though i had a relatively high-stress job--i just dind't have stress in any other part of my life.

Nick said...

Manuel - Haven't you heard of the slow food movement? In future your diners will arrive when their stomachs are good and ready and not before!!

Grannymar - Hi! I'm used to seeing you on 100 other blogs so it's nice to see you here! Yes, maybe that's true that we all have an allotted lifespan so it doesn't really matter whether we're busy bees or couch potatoes.

(Manuel - btw, I'll have a side order of couch potatoes)

Laurie - You're right about small and big places. That's one reason Jenny and I moved from London to Belfast, for a slower pace of life, friendlier people and generally less stress.

Dave Hampton said...

:) You know I'm one of the guilty one's, Nick...

I've actually thought that the Dutch have forced some better balance into my frantic life. Stores aren't always open, co-workers aren't always on, and the whole culture seems less prone to stagger through a series of 'must-see' events. I actually shop in smaller amounts at a quieter pace, read a book or magazine for an hour each evening, and go aimlessly explore the countryside each Sunday.

I think that a lot of the frantic pace in the US is driven by a sense of competition more than embracing a lifestyle. As such, I'll have completely lost my edge if I ever have to go back to the US, but I agree that we're all better off with a slower life.

(I'll scribble it into my to-do as soon as I find time?)

Hullaballoo said...

I am seeing this in my kids too, the need to rush from one activity to the next. School seems more full on than I remember it. I don't book them in for any after school activities because I feel they need the time just to wind down, play, be kids.

My friends look shocked when I tell them that I am not taking them to mindlab, french, gymnastics, drama, singing, pottery, violin lessons etc etc. At their age, I just wanted to come home and sit in a tree and make mud pies.

Nick said...

Hi Dave! - sounds as if the Dutch culture has had a very positive effect. And I assume you find life more relaxing and enjoyable as a result. Yes, competition is the big driver in the US and UK, but isn't competitiveness ultimately in the name of enhanced lifestyles? Otherwise, why bother, why not just take it easier?

Hullaballoo - That's right, so many parents nowadays seem to be rushing their kids not just to school but to endless essential out-of-school activities. The parents are terrified their little darlings might miss out on something. Yes, aren't tree-climbing and mud pies enough?

Baino said...

Less Haste - More Speed. Fortunately, I am a good time manager and I think I have my priorities in the right order. I work to earn a living, I don't live to work. There are those in my office particularly who think they gain kudos working long hours and blustering about their workload, rarely do they achieve much in a day. I also have a particular friend who arrives for lunch with his phone, blackberry, laptop and I always have the feeling his mind is elsewhere. We live in a society of instant gratification so that means requiring instant access and results. Sometimes it's best to just let things ride, it'll get done in the end.

heartinsanfrancisco said...

The insanity abounds. Even little children have every minute of their lives scheduled in busyness. No wonder few of us even know who we are, let alone get to relate to others in a meaningful way.

Nick, I gave you an award. Please come by when you get a chance.

Nick said...

Baino - good for you, you seem to have worked out the right balance. The thing about the long-hours crowd is that they think they're impressing the bosses, but usually the bosses don't care a less and they can be sacked just as easily as anyone else.

Heart - Exactly. If we're busy every minute of the day, when do we get the time to just withdraw and discover ourselves? And how can we communicate properly when our minds are on the next meeting or that missed phone call? An award, huh? Will check it out....

Wisewebwoman said...

I was soooo guilty of all of that Nick. I don't know what I was trying to prove, all tied up with self-esteem and working twice as hard as anyone else to show women could do the job. Insane.
Now I am more relaxed and can laugh at my younger self and have compassion for the people who are doing what I did, juggling everything and enjoying nothing.
XO
WWW

Nick said...

That's so common isn't it, women working twice as hard just to prove they can do the job as well as a bloke? I've seen a lot of that. And yes, juggling everything and enjoying nothing - so often that's exactly it. No time to just savour the moment and the little wonders of life.

Medbh said...

I have the opposite problem, Nick.
Too much time on my hands, to be sure, but I do savour it.

Jenny said...

Love the picture - and I'm so busy at the moment that I've even had to give up blogging for a few weeks - otherwise I'll be standing up to give a lecture with nothing to say!

Nick said...

Medbh - lucky you. Enjoy the privilege before you end up back in the hurly burly! Meanwhile I look forward to plenty more posts puncturing my ideological complacency....

Jenny - That's a shame. Hope you're blogging again soon, sweetheart. And good luck with the remaining lectures.

Jenny said...

Oh and I forgot to say, congratulations on your nomination for Best Newcomer in the Irish Blog Awards. No-one else has mentioned it!

citizen of the world said...

Here via Heart's blog. It's not just Good Old Days syndrome. At the community mental health center where I worked for 6 years. I watched it evolve (devolve?) from a place where people had a little time to just be colleagues, to wacthful eyes ensuring we packed in as much work as possible. I had to leave. I'm a little over-loade d in my own life right now, but I am rying to slow down.

Nick said...

Jen - yes, funny that. But then I'm not an obsessive follower of the awards. I just carry on blogging and having fun! And the anarchist part of me rather likes the American custom of just giving awards to your fellow-bloggers whenever you feel like it!

Citizen - Welcome! Glad to hear you don't think it's Good Old Days syndrome either. And I've experienced that watchful eyes thing myself - a manager who scrutinised my every move all day. Incredibly stressful.

Mes Deux Cents said...

Hi Nick,

First; it sounds like the American workplace has been exported. The standard here seems to be get every last bit out of your employees.

And on cell phones; I refuse to have one. Why do I need to talk to someone on the phone while I'm shopping for groceries or walking down the street? I don't!

Now if only other people would realize they don't have to talk on their cell phones while they are standing behind me at the market or next to me on the bus, life would be much better.

Nick said...

You're right, MDC, people keep saying it's the American bleed-your-employees-dry model that's being exported over here. And as you say, why are people so dependent on cell phones? Do people really need to know that you've just tripped over a wheelie bin or found some bargain detergent? I think not.

Grannymar said...

Nick I tagged you today, I hope you will give it a go!

Medbh said...

Nick, congrats and good luck on your nomination!

Nick said...

Gee thanks! But bearing in mind the number of contenders, if I actually win I think I'll die of shock!