Busyness What is Busyness Impacts of Busyness Why are we so Busy? Busyness Culture Becoming Busy Alternatives to Busyness Busyness Practice & Exercises Busyness Resources


John Maynard Keynes (1883-1946) was an English economist with some influential ideas that affect our world even today.

In his 1930 essay “Economic Possibilities for Our Grandchildren,” Keynes predicted by the 21st century, humans would have solved the “economic problem,” and transitioned to a 15-hour workweek.1 A schedule maintained not out of necessity, but in order to keep ourselves occupied and not experience a societal “nervous breakdown.” “The economic problem” Keynes is talking about is the age-old issue that throughout human history, survival has always been the primary occupation of our time. Keynes traces this phenomenon all the way back to Adam and Eve, saying even if we suddenly don’t need to work in order to survive, the “Adam within us” will still have an instinct to work. Humans, on the whole, he suggests, aren’t used to leisure, or questioning the purpose of their time if not for survival work. A core idea of his is simply:

If everyone suddenly had enough money to support themselves, they wouldn’t know what to do with themselves.

Why did John Maynard Keynes predict this, and why did he even say this about humans? His position essentially states that if humans don’t keep busy, they feel lost. “If the economic problem is solved, mankind will be deprived of its traditional purpose,”1 he writes. According to Keynes, mankind is so used to working for survival, that without survival-work, we feel purposeless. He warns when the economic problem is solved, for an interim period, it will be replaced by dread.

However, Keynes’s essay also remains optimistic, and while he does point to wealthy people as an example of how surpluses of time can be wasted, he also says “I feel sure that with a little more experience we shall use the new-found bounty of nature quite differently from the way in which the rich use it today, and will map out for ourselves a plan of life quite otherwise than theirs.”1 Keynes believes after a few decades of growing pains, humans will map a different way for their lives, and depart from the usual frivolous uses of money and time when survival-work is not a concern. Over time, they won’t feel the need to stay “occupied” if it’s not necessary. They will move on to the new problem: “the permanent problem of the human race.”1




In other words, humans will again ask, what is the meaning of life?

When we don’t need to work for the philosophical concept of “survival,” why DO humans feel the need to be busy? To stay “occupied,” even if our survival does not depend on it? Are there aspects of busyness ingrained in our nature, or learned deeply over time – “the Adam within us,” as Keynes suggested? Do we stay busy in order to avoid a “nervous breakdown”, or existential dread? Why are we so busy?

Many of us do still keep busy for survival. Bills still don’t pay themselves (unless Keynes has an idea for this…?). Most people need to work in order to survive. We haven’t solved the economic problem for everyone as posed by Keynes, even though we are more productive now and have made significant technological advances since 1930. A lucky echelon of people are freed from the economic problem, yet even the richest man in the world, Jeff Bezos, still works with Amazon. Why do many ultra-rich people, especially in the 21st century, still work? Have any of them thought about solving the economic problem altogether? Would it be too much of a sacrifice of some other value they hold? Or, are we stuck on the economic problem because it’s something the human race has simply never solved, no matter the historical period? Economics Online suggests we haven’t yet solved the problem of limited resources because humans have unlimited wants and needs.2 What aspects of our nature and culture are influencing our desires to be unlimited?

And as discussed in other sections, busyness is a paradox: feelings of busyness are on the rise, but leisure time is also on the rise.3

What accounts for this paradox? Why do we report feeling busier, when on average we are less busy? What makes us feel busy when we are not?

Busyness in Our Nature

Idleness Aversion: We Don’t Tend to Enjoy Sitting Alone with Our Thoughts

“All of humanity’s problems stem from man’s inability to sit quietly in a room alone,” – Pascal

In 2014, University of Virginia psychologist, Timothy Wilson, and his team conducted 11 studies in which they asked participants to entertain themselves with only their thoughts. The goal of the studies was to determine whether people purposefully engage in, and/or enjoy engaging in an activity that makes us uniquely human: default-mode processing, or in other words, directed conscious thought. Some recent survey results had suggested that people do not tend to set aside time to think,4 and Wilson’s studies revealed on average, people don’t enjoy sitting alone with their thoughts.

In 11 different study variations, Wilson et al. asked student participants to put away their belongings and sit in a room alone for between 6 and 15 minutes. The only rules were they had to remain in their seats, and stay awake. At the end of the experience, students had to rate how enjoyable they found their session, among other questions. On average, “participants did not enjoy the experience very much: 49.3% reported enjoyment was at or below the midpoint of the scale.”5 The psychologists repeated the study with differing variables: a version where participants completed the study at home, a version where

participants were given the choice to read instead, and a version where participants were non-students contacted via pharmacies. All of the studies found similar results: the experience of doing nothing was not very enjoyable, and it was difficult to concentrate.

The only factor scales found to predict whether someone would enjoy the experience more or less on average were a positive association with daydreaming (e.g. “My daydreams often leave me with a warm, happy feeling”), which predicted a more positive experience; and poor attentional control (e.g. “I tend to be easily bored”), which predicted a more negative experience. Being easily bored made the experience more unpleasant, while enjoying daydreaming made it better.

However, the most striking variation of the study was the variation in which participants were given the option to either sit alone with their thoughts or while sitting alone with themselves also administer an electric shock.

Participants were asked to rank the enjoyability of the shock prior to the study, as compared with other negative and positive stimuli (photos of pleasant objects for example), and even asked how much they would pay not to receive the shock, if they were given $5. Participants were then asked to entertain themselves with their thoughts for 15 minutes, while also having the option to shock themselves, if they wished.

Many Would Rather Shock Themselves Than Sit Alone With Their Thoughts

What happened next reveals a telling aspect of human behavior. More than half of the male participants chose to administer themselves an electric shock, and about a quarter of the female participants. “67% of men (12 of 18) gave themselves at least one shock during the thinking period… [as did] 25% of women (6 of 24).”4 Many people would rather shock themselves than sit alone with their thoughts. One participant even shocked himself 190 times!

The results of these studies seem to suggest people do not like to do nothing. Or at least, they do not like to sit alone with their thoughts for 6-15 minutes, when they could presumably be doing something else.

Doing something, even something negative, was better than doing nothing.

Busyness for a Purpose

Other researchers propose people not only dread idleness and desire busyness but want a justifiable reason for their busyness. A myriad of studies supports the concept people dread idleness and desire busyness, “including research showing that people dread boredom, that waiting is aversive, that work is perceived as virtuous, that labor leads to appreciation, and that people seek varied experiences.” 5 In “Idleness Aversion and the Need for Justifiable Busyness”, Hsee et al. explore the latter half of this statement – that people prefer to have a reason for their busyness, and also people are happier when they are busy, whether being busy was their choice or not.

In their studies, Hsee et al. had participants fill out a survey about their school, and then gave them the option to either wait 15 minutes (idle) and then deliver the survey right next door, or to walk to another location about 15 minutes away (active), and deliver the survey there, and then be allowed to leave right away. Participants were told both locations would give them a piece of candy as a token of appreciation. In one condition of the study, they were told both locations had the same candy, and in the other condition, they were told the further location had two choices of candy: light and dark chocolate. Afterwards, participants rated how they felt.

The findings confirmed the study hypotheses, which were people were more likely to choose the busy option if they felt there was a justifiable reason, and busier people were happier. Participants were more likely to choose the further location if they were told there were two choices of candy waiting, and participants were more likely to choose the closer location and wait 15 minutes (idle) if they were told the candies would be the same at either location. However, in either scenario, participants were happier if they travelled to the further location. They liked being busy better, but they weren’t as likely to choose being busy if there wasn’t a justifiable reason (even if they also accurately predicted walking to the further location would make them happier). People wanted a purpose for their walk.

Participants in another condition of the study were not given a choice. Some participants were told they had to go to the further location, regardless of if there was a choice in candy or not. In this version of the study, the results were the same. Participants were happier if they had to go to the further location. This supported the hypothesis people are happier if they are busy rather than idle, even if they are forced to be busy. The justification for the busyness in this situation came from an authority figure, yet still was enough.

And, participants even predicted they would be happier if they walked to the further location, yet some still didn’t. It seems we know we will be happier if we stay busy, but we desire a reason to be busy, or else we won’t pursue it. Even if we know it will be better than being idle.

This relates back to our questions on how busyness and purpose relate. It’s not just being busy we crave; it’s having some meaning behind the busyness we seek. Money is a very common example of a justification for busyness. Just think, would we go to our day job every day just to stay busy if our boss didn’t pay us? For most that is an, “absolutely not!” However, this is because many of us only go to work to survive than out of any real sense of existential purpose derived from it.

“In busyness, time generates happiness, as long as it is used toward a purpose, even a feebly justifiable one.” 6

However, if we find purpose outside of work, we may still confront this issue from time to time. Especially if the benefits of our passion project aren’t immediately apparent, or if we feel the desire to pursue hobbies more out of pressure to conform than out of personal desire. This is very apparent in the dozens of think pieces and articles (like this one) suggesting ways to monetize our passions. Our cute knitting endeavors could be the perfect side-hustle if we got our ducks in a row! Why would we simply enjoy knitting for knitting’s sake? What are we going to do with all those mittens and scarves? Even though it’s been proven we enjoy many benefits from having hobbies or methods of keeping our minds occupied outside of Netflix, merely having the hobby is not always seen as enough.

Does All Free Time Need Purpose?

During the onset of the 2020 pandemic, some were admitting to their therapists an inability to make the most of their quarantine time. Other people were picking up baking, craft-making, learning languages, or redecorating their homes. Yet, they could hardly do more after work than watch TV. They weren’t being productive with their “free time.” What was wrong with them? 7 The therapists response was to look at the underlying reasons keeping someone from pursuing a hobby: why were they afraid of “wasting” their free time, and how might taking away the pressure to be like their coworker who learned a language in three months change their search for a hobby? What was the role of blaming themselves for their lack of focus and discipline?



Desire for Engagement: The Boy Who Automated His Own Job So He Could Go & Play

“The desire to avoid an unproductive use of time underlies many human activities.” -Yang et al.6

Alongside idleness aversion and the desire for justifiable busyness comes the desire for cognitive stimulation. We like to be busy, we like to have a reason that we are busy, and we like to be truly engaged by that busyness. Humans don’t simply enjoy being busy for the sake of it, – we also want our busyness to actively interest and challenge us the right amount. We find mundane, repetitive, or unstimulating tasks so unpleasant that we invent creative ways to avoid them! These new inventions can lead us to engagement. Engagement is a great word to describe the shape and size of the perfect busyness. Ideally, we can live life with a balance of busyness and idleness, challenge and detachment.

In the book, Out of My Skull: The Psychology of Boredom, psychologists James Danckert and John D. Eastwood tell the story of Humphrey Potter, a boy that sought engagement by inventing a clever way out of his day job. Danckert and Eastwood are advocates for the power of boredom, as a signal and motivation to change one’s situation and become truly engaged. They write, “without the potential for boredom, the motivation to engage our cognitive capacity, we would squander our resources and fail to recognize our potential.”8

This was certainly true for Humphrey Potter, a plug boy at Newcomen in 1713. His job was essentially to open and close valves at the exact right time in order to operate Newcomen’s atmospheric machine. The task was exceedingly boring. So boring, in fact, that Humphrey set about inventing a device that could do the task for him. What he came up with was a system of cords and gears that came to be known as the “skulking gear” — a “monumental evolution of the steam engine”! In the 18th century, “skulking” was literally the word for shirking work. Humphrey’s boredom and desire for engagement led to one of the greatest evolutions of the steam engine. 8

Hundreds of Programmers Have Automated their Own Jobs

In modern times, Humphrey Potters exist in a new line of work. On Reddit, hundreds of programmers have posted about automating their own jobs. Skilled enough at coding to realize the human aspect of their job can be removed entirely, some of these coders question the ethicality of keeping their automation a secret. “Is it unethical for me to not tell my employer I’ve automated my job?”9 one coder asks on Stack Exchange, an online programming community. He mentions the automation has allowed him to spend more time with his young son, but doesn’t feel quite right. At the same time, the job was so boring he invented a way out of it.

Workers like this have managed to find a way to collect a paycheck without lifting a finger. In their search for cognitive stimulation at their boring coding jobs, they managed to create ways to avoid the work altogether. But, like the coder quoted above, it wasn’t to do nothing rather than to do something more meaningful to them.


Certain Personalities & Demographics Are Predisposed to Busyness

Besides the fact humans, in general, don’t enjoy idleness as much as justifiable busyness, certain personality and demographic aspects have also been linked to increased busyness, namely agreeableness, female gender, and enjoyment of cognitive processing. Some people’s personalities and demographics link them more to busyness than others.10

In a self-report measure of busyness, based on the busyness subscale of the Martin and Park Environmental Demands Questionnaire, the authors of “What Makes Us Busy? Predictors of Perceived Busyness Across the Adult Lifespan” found that, “younger age, female gender, agreeableness, neuroticism, frequent participation in novel activities, and enjoyment of cognitive processing were independently associated with being busier.”11

Besides the fact humans, in general, don’t enjoy idleness as much as justifiable busyness, certain personality and demographic aspects have also been linked to increased busyness, namely agreeableness, female gender, and enjoyment of cognitive processing.10

In a self-report measure of busyness, based on the busyness subscale of the Martin and Park Environmental Demands Questionnaire, the authors of “What Makes Us Busy? Predictors of Perceived Busyness Across the Adult Lifespan” found that, “younger age, female gender, agreeableness, neuroticism, frequent participation in novel activities, and enjoyment of cognitive processing were independently associated with being busier.”11

Women generally reported being busier than men, and perceived busyness generally peaked in 30-year-olds, decreased until about age 60, and then remained stable. The authors of the study propose that certain personality aspects and desire for mental engagement can be definite sources for busyness.

The OCEAN Model

The Big 5 personality traits, also known as the OCEAN model, is a suggested grouping for personality types, which includes agreeableness and neuroticism – the other categories are openness to experience, conscientiousness, and extraversion. Studies of these personality groupings have shown they remain generally consistent across the lifespan, and can be especially useful in predicting academic behaviors. Agreeableness can be a predictor of busyness because those who are agreeable are more likely to engage in other-generated busyness, i.e. helping a friend with a project, saying “yes” to a request from a superior, volunteering, etc. Being excited to engage in other-generated busyness rather than only self-generated busyness can make a person much busier, since their sources for busyness extend beyond themselves.12

Busyness in Our Behavior

As psychologists know well, studying behavior is a starting point for understanding the mind. Since behavior is a highly measurable aspect of ourselves it is often the focal point of psychological studies and can be informative for deeper psychological phenomena that are occurring. Behavior is also something we can alter, and may therefore serve as a basis for curing “The Disease of Being Busy.” As busy people, we manifest certain observable behaviors with psychological justifications. Understanding those behaviors and why we engage in them is a great way to become more aware and begin to shift.

The Psychology of Time

In his TED Talk, “The Psychology of Time”, Stanford psychologist Dr. Phil Zimbardo presents on “time perspective,” which is “the study of how individuals divide the flow of human experiences into different time frames or time zones automatically and non-consciously.”13 The time perspectives include past, present, and future, with different subtypes for each category. Any of the time perspectives in excess can be detrimental, particularly past-negative and present-fatalistic. But the future time perspective is the one most correlated with busyness.

Holding a perspective that’s focused on the past can make us nostalgic and regretful. Being too focused on the present can lead to hedonistic tendencies such as avoiding personal responsibilities (like spending a paycheck on shopping instead of rent) or excessively dangerous behavior (like drunk driving). But, having an excessive future-time perspective can mean we focus only on future goals and rewards, sacrificing the moment to achieve them. Zimbardo outlines some of the sacrifices “Futures” make in the name of success:

Excessively busy people often fall unhealthily into this “Futures” camp, only to reach their goals and realize they carry a deep sense of dissatisfaction. If these behaviors sound like you, working on achieving balance in your time perspectives may be a helpful path forward.13

Time Perspective Inventory

Zimbardo created an assessment called the Time Perspective Inventory to help us understand our own time perspective and where we can improve.

We can try completing the test, then we will be redirected to a graph that breaks down what Zimbardo believes to be an ideal time perspective, alongside our scores on the test. This can be an easy way to see where we are doing well, and where we have room for improvement. A highly future time perspective may be some justification for excessive busyness, and sacrificing the moment in the name of the future. As with all things, the best time perspective involves a healthy balance.14

Time Perspective is a simple concept, and it is being used to solve some big problems in the world:

  • Changing drop out rates of school children
  • Combatting all addictions (diseases of present hedonism)
  • Enhancing teen health
  • Curing Veterans’ PTSD with Time Metaphors *miracle cures
  • Promoting Sustainability and Conservation
  • Reducing Physical Rehabilitation drop-out rate
  • Altering appeals to suicidal terrorists
  • Modifying family conflicts as time zone clashes

What will your time perspective inventory say about you?


Multi-Tasking is A Myth: What We Are Really Doing Slows Us Down

Being busy can lead to feelings of stress, which we attempt to remedy by engaging in “time-deepening behaviors” such as multitasking, but these behaviors actually have the converse effect of taking up more or our time and causing more stress.15 Really what we do when we multitask is switch between numerous tasks very quickly. Or, we think it’s quick… what’s actually happening is less ideal. 16

In “Feeling Short on Time”, Assistant Professor Melanie Rudd of the University of Houston explains “people who feel time scarce will commonly try to alleviate their time famine by engaging in time-deepening behaviors (e.g., speeding up, shortening and substituting activities, and multi-tasking)— behaviors that have the ironic consequence of making people feel even more rushed and time scarce. Additionally, they undermine their feelings of productivity and happiness, preventing them from immersing themselves in an activity and achieving a state of flow”17 Knowing these sorts of behaviors will not actually help us achieve our goals can be a way to allow ourselves permission to take things at a more reasonable pace, and focus on one task at a time – because our brains really can focus only on one task at a time.

Multitasking Exercise

Set a timer, and write the phrase “I love multitasking” on a piece of paper. Then, below it, write the numbers 1-17 in order. Stop the timer and write down how long it took you to finish writing the phrase and the numbers.

You should end up with something that looks like this:

I love multitasking

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17

Now, do the task again. Set a timer at the start. But this time, alternate between writing letters and numbers. Start by writing “I” on the top line, and then “1” on a line below it. Then “L” and then “2.” Then “O” and then “3.” Continue writing the entire phrase and set of numbers by alternating until you run out. Try to move quickly, to match the speed at which you worked writing the phrase and numbers in the original version. Stop the timer when you finish.

Now, compare your original writing to the writing in the second exercise. Notice any differences? How long did it take you to write the second version compared to the first version? If you’re like the average person, the second task took you longer, and the writing is messier than the first version, even though the phrase and numbers are the same.

Generally, we would have better success simply choosing one task to focus on first, and then moving on to the next, rather than attempting to do two things at once. This lesson applies to work and life as well. While it may feel speedier and more productive to switch between tasks (especially for instance, taking a break to text or scroll on social media every hour or so during work), it actually makes our work worse in quality and takes longer to complete.

Attention Residue Makes it Difficult to Switch Tasks Instantly

Switching tasks leaves “attention residue” in our brains, which makes it difficult to switch quickly from one task to another.18 Attention residue means your brain is still focused on a previous task for about 20 minutes before it can move on to a completely new task with full focus. This is because part of your brain is still thinking about the previous task, and has not yet had time to adjust. 19

In “Why is it so hard to do my work? The challenge of attention residue when switching between work tasks,” researchers looked at this phenomenon through two experiments. “As revealed by two experiments, people need to stop thinking about one task in order to fully transition their attention and perform well on another. Yet, results indicate it is difficult for people to transition their attention away from an unfinished task and their subsequent task performance suffers.”18 These experiments provide evidence for why multitasking is actually ineffective at saving us time, and we would all be better off if we simply focused on one task at a time, for prolonged periods of time.

Something that can help is making a to-do list for each day, and planning out when we will work on each activity. As well as bundling “life admin” tasks such as housework, messaging, scheduling doctor’s appointments, etc. Scheduling 1-2 times per day to check email and other apps on our phones (and turning off notifications) can be helpful as well, to avoid checking throughout the day, in between tasks, and breaking focus.

Dopamine Addiction: We’ve Trained Our Brains To Want Instant Gratification

Another reason that it can be helpful to set strict limits on task switching is it may become easier to complete more difficult and arduous tasks in a state of dopamine withdrawal. It may sound crazy, but boring and difficult tasks are much more interesting when we don’t allow ourselves high dopamine alternatives such as texting, playing video games, or scrolling on social media, especially in between tasks.

How I Tricked My Brain To Like Doing Hard Things (Dopamine Detox)

Video Summary

  • Dopamine is what makes us desire things, and that desire gives us the motivation to get up and do stuff.
  • Researchers implanted electrodes in the brains of rats. In case 1, whenever the rats pulled a lever, the researchers would release dopamine in their brains. The rats developed such a strong craving that they pulled the lever over and over for hours. They would refuse to eat or even sleep. They kept pulling the lever until they dropped from exhaustion.
  • In case 2, researchers reversed the process. They blocked the release of dopamine in the rats’ brain reward centers. The rats became so lethargic that even getting up to get a drink of water was too much effort. They stopped eating, drinking, and mating. They lost all will to live. However, if the food was placed directly in their mouths, they still ate and enjoyed it. They just didn’t have the motivation to stand up and get it themselves.
  • You would think that thirst and hunger are what motivate us to eat and drink. But dopamine plays a key role.
  • Your brain develops priorities in large part by how much dopamine it expects to get from certain activities. It won’t be motivated to do tasks with a low dopamine payoff.
  • The brain doesn’t even care if the high dopamine activity is damaging to you. It wants more of it – i.e. eating junk food, or doing drugs.
  • The highest dopamine release comes from receiving rewards randomly, such as playing on a slot machine or scrolling on social media.
  • In modern society, we flood our brains with unnaturally high levels of dopamine on a daily basis. Examples include texting, scrolling on social media, playing video games, watching internet pornography, etc.
  • The reason this negatively impacts us is because our bodies have a biological system called homeostasis – our body likes to keep internal physical and chemical conditions at a balanced level. (E.g. When it’s cold outside, we shiver to generate heat.)
  • Homeostasis also manifests itself through tolerance. For example, if you drink a lot, you become less sensitive to the effects of alcohol.
  • Dopamine works similarly. If we engage in high dopamine activities regularly, our body creates a tolerance, which can become a problem, because then we won’t be motivated to engage in low dopamine activities such as hard work or reading.
  • The way to address this tolerance is by engaging in a dopamine detox. The creator of the video suggests choosing a day each week to not engage in any high dopamine activities.

Feel in need of guidance about managing dopamine addiction? 
Try this worksheet:

Another way to engage in dopamine detox is to simply refrain from high dopamine activities throughout the entire workday. Switching tasks to engage in high dopamine activities such as scrolling on social media, watching youtube, or texting not only leaves attention residue in our brains that make it more difficult to focus, but also makes it harder to even get our work done, because it’s a low dopamine activity, and our brains are expecting to engage in high-dopamine activities. We can create better motivation for ourselves by leaving high dopamine activities for when we have completed all our work (For more on creating healthy productivity within our lives, check out the pages Habits, Adulting). That way, the brain will begin to associate high dopamine with work being completed rather than work being avoided. Get more done in less time. Be less busy.


On the other side of the busyness spectrum from dopamine addiction, we have workaholism: the inability to put work down or turn off our desire for productivity.

As workaholism has become a popular modern topic of conversation, psychologists have developed a way to measure busyness as an addiction, using seven core elements of addiction and applying them to work: “salience, mood modification, tolerance, withdrawal, conflict, relapse, and problems.”20 The resulting scale is called the Bergen Work Addiction Scale.


What is your relationship to workaholism? Take a few seconds to answer just a couple of questions in the worksheet below:

Taking it Slow isn’t So Bad…

Something that is difficult to assess with studies involving boredom, idleness, and busyness, is they can’t control for the role of social norms. We mentioned at the beginning of this page that even Jeff Bezos, someone who could retire at any time, desires to keep working. More than one retirement age friend has lamented what they will do with their time once they accept a retirement package. Is this because being “busy” is innate or is it merely an expression of what our culture deems valuable?

Our modern-day is heavily influenced by a desire for growth, pulling ourselves up by our “bootstraps,” individualism, and well…working! But not everyone is “wired” for our fast-paced society. There is growing literature on how our labor-oriented world has othered disability communities, rather than anything being inherently wrong with those communities for being unable to keep up with the daily grind.23

In the next section, we’ll go into more depth of what those busyness cultural and social norms are and what they look like in our everyday lives.


In This Section…

  • We met John Maynard Keynes, who begged the question: is the drive to be busy inherent to human beings? If we didn’t have to work to live, would we still press ahead anyways? We learned about certain consistent behaviors many humans exhibit, including an aversion to sitting alone with their thoughts, increased happiness when busy, yet also, a desire for a purpose behind their busyness.
  • We learned about the funny ways in which people seek engagement and innovate to do so when we met one of the first people to automate their own jobs – the young Humphrey Potter, who invented the skulking gear to avoid boredom. And now, years later, coders question the morality of keeping it a secret they’ve automated their own jobs – even though their new lifestyle is pretty awesome. We learned certain personality types are predisposed to busyness simply by nature of their personal temperament. Agreeable people participate in a lot of other-generated activities.
  • We learned about the idea of Time Perspective, and what people with a Future-focused Time Perspective will sacrifice in the name of future success… (relationships, happiness, health). We uncovered the myth of multitasking and realized that real multitasking is simply quick task-switching, which leaves us with attention residue that makes it difficult to focus. We watched a video about dopamine addiction in rats, and how dopamine really affects our brains, decision-making, and motivation. And we addressed workaholism…

So why are we so busy? There are so many reasons!! Whether the drive is inherent to us as human beings, a predisposition from our personality, or a preference based on our perspective, there are lots of reasons we have a drive to be busy. And, as you’ll learn in the next section, not only are there traits that influence busyness, but also entire systems in our modern society which factor into busyness.

Busyness What is Busyness Impacts of Busyness Why are we so Busy? Busyness Culture Becoming Busy Alternatives to Busyness Busyness Practice & Exercises Busyness Resources


  1. Keynes, J. M. (2010). Economic Possibilities for Our Grandchildren. In J. M. Keynes (Ed.), Essays in Persuasion (pp. 321–332). Palgrave Macmillan UK.
  2. (2020, January 13). The economic problem. Economics Online. https://www.economicsonline.co.uk/Competitive_markets/The_economic_problem.html
  3. Gershuny, J. (2005). Busyness as the Badge of Honor for the New Superordinate Working Class. Social Research: An International Quarterly, 72(2), 287–314.
  4. Wilson, T. D., Reinhard, D. A., Westgate, E. C., Gilbert, D. T., Ellerbeck, N., Hahn, C., Brown, C. L., & Shaked, A. (2014). Social psychology. Just think: the challenges of the disengaged mind. Science, 345(6192), 75–77.
  5. Hsee, C. K., Yang, A. X., & Wang, L. (2010). Idleness aversion and the need for justifiable busyness. Psychological Science, 21(7), 926–930.
  6. Yang, A. X., & Hsee, C. K. (2019). Idleness versus busyness. Current Opinion in Psychology, 26, 15–18.
  7. O’Sullivan, S. (2021, October 24). I don’t have any hobbies – is there something wrong with me? https://www.refinery29.com/en-gb/why-cant-i-commit-to-hobbies
  8. Danckert, J., & Eastwood, J. D. (2020). Out of My Skull. Harvard University Press.
  9. Is it unethical for me to not tell my employer I’ve automated my job? (n.d.). The Workplace Stack Exchange. Retrieved March 31, 2022, from https://workplace.stackexchange.com/questions/93696/is-it-unethical-for-me-to-not-tell-my-employer-i-ve-automated-my-job
  10. Weisberg, Y., Deyoung, C. G., Hirsh, J. B., Hotchin, V., & West, K. (2011, August 1). Overlapping distributions of Agreeableness for men and women. Vertical. ResearchGate. https://www.researchgate.net/figure/Overlapping-distributions-of-Agreeableness-for-men-and-women-Vertical-axis-indicates_fig10_51594567
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