Why is Everyone SO Darn Busy and Tired?

Category: Weekly Columns

Panda asleep in a tree - busy and tired

I continue to marvel at how busy everyone seems to be these days. Wasn’t all this new technology supposed to make our lives easier? Do any of you feel life is easier today? Or, are you busy and tired ALL the time? My wife has two favorite words – “I’m so tired.” So, I can’t count. Why is she so tired? Why is she so busy? Why are we all so (apparently) busy? Is this a new way of life or do we have some choice in it?

Kitten asleep in funny position

Obviously, we all have certain choices in how we live our lives and allow ourselves to get too busy or tired. Some things are out of our control such as raising a child with learning disabilities, having our own health problems, or dealing with aging parents. These add stresses that we can’t avoid, but we can perhaps manage.

I remember taking a Time Management class long before there were personal computers and smart-phones. We had analog answering machines in those days, but not much else. Pencil and paper and manual or electric typewriters were our tools. Television consisted of three networks and if we wanted to see a movie we had to go to a movie theatre. Oh, and long distance phone calls were expensive and an expensive indulgence. We were busy and tired too, but not to the extreme I feel is going on today!

Wrinkled funny dog face

Yet, then many of us felt overwhelmed with life. Hence, I took that Time Management class and this was before I was married, had kids, or had sick parents. And I thought I was busy then! Looking back, my life was mighty simple then though breaking into showbiz was a continuing challenge that I conquered to a degree. And, that choice of career was as much of a 24/7 job as there was then – and now, for that matter.

My tool of choice for so many years was a handwritten To-Do list. I would write it out by hand every evening. If I completed the list, I’d start another. Since I rarely completed any list, I carried over the undone things – often using the same piece of paper – and added new things to go with the crossed off ones that I’d actually accomplished. When I got to my office each morning, instead of unpacking a laptop or turning on a desktop computer, I simply pulled out my list.

Baby gorilla sleeping on mom's back

How did I go about doing the tasks on the lists? They usually involved calling business associates, reading scripts, books, or other submissions, and/or replying to correspondence I’d received. No email since everything came by mail. No voicemail of any import, just a secretary keeping a phone log or receptionist that would write down a missed call on a duplicate form (see below), putting one copy in my inbox and keeping the other as back up. I’d line up those small pieces of paper and prioritize them.

Duplicate phone message form

My secretary would bring in her separate call log. I’d pencil next to open calls the order in which I’d want her to place the calls for me. Depending on my office configuration at the time, she’d either shout out “Bruce is on line one” or, later, we got this fancy contraption where I’d get a screen sort of notice saying the same thing. Wow, that was high-tech.

Long-legged sleepy dog

That’s my walk down memory lane. Let’s answer the question posed with the title of this column. I think we are busier and more tired today for real. I don’t think it’s anyone looking back and just saying it was easier back in the day, one of our current done-to-death expressions.

We are busier today because most everything today is more complicated. We now live in a 24/7-connected world, if we choose. We now cannot trust our public institutions to take care of our kids and we now – not always for the best – don’t give our kids much independence.

The result is that every aspect of our lives is actually more difficult. Again, we all have choices, but we are also living in one, if not the worst, economic times of my life.

Dog asleep on the couch

My generation’s ability to get into college, have a summer job, get internships, and ultimately get employed upon graduation from high school or college was bluntly, easier. Many young boys took shop classes in high school – recognizing they either were not interested or just were not college material – and began making money as a mechanic, plumber, electrician, etc. immediately after getting their diploma.

While I don’t mean to sound like Abe walking six miles in the snow to get to school, I actually went to work immediately after receiving my high school diploma. That afternoon! I worked as a recreation aid at a local elementary school and my shift occurred shortly after our graduation ceremony. Can you imagine a high school grad today doing that instead of the myriad sort of after-school affairs that occur today?

funny photo of kitten asleep

Is there a solution to the hectic nature of life today? For some, yes: for others, it may be harder. If unemployed, the pressure is extreme for any individual or family. Support, in the form of extended family, is less present than in the past. Life is harder and I do fear for my kid’s future in so many ways.

So, instead of saying how much harder I had it – which had been the norm for each generation – I actually think I had it easier than my boys will. I also had and made good luck for myself. No one controls that destiny. My wish is that we all can find more balance in life and learn to turn off at least for a few hours once a week. What do you think?

How about skipping that $5 Starbucks latte and splurging $2.99 (for the Kindle on Amazon) or $2.79 for the PDF of my new e-book? Enjoy my own informercial for it! This e-book is really a virtual journey. It’s filled with 100 photos, 7 original videos, and links to many of the stops on the trip. Click on the book cover image below to find your purchase options:

Dealing with The Empty Nest

  • http://twitter.com/Spafloating Pamela Morse

    Busy is the theater of important. Weary insomniacs stay awake to worry about finances..and how busy they are..

    • http://www.brucesallan.com Bruce Sallan

      Agreed @twitter-234095769:disqus

    • http://www.wonderoftech.com Carolyn Nicander Mohr

      Well said, Pamela!

  • http://www.aha-now.com/ Harleena Singh

    Lovely post Bruce!

    I agree, we ALL are leading busy lives – right from the kids, to the vendors, to our neighbors – you name a person who isn’t! You used such apt images in this post, which brought an instant smile on my face – even our pets aren’t spared 🙂

    Yes, technology was supposed to make our lives easier, but sadly it’s gone the other way round and made it all complex and complicated. I guess it’s our lack of time management that plays a role somewhere.

    More than that – it all comes down to the choices we make in our lives. It’s all in the mind as they say – if we choose to do certain things, we do them, while what we don’t want to do – we ignore. We can get as busy as we want, and there’s really no end to it, unless we put a stop to it ourselves, and change our life . So, the solution is also in our hands – isn’t it?

    Thanks for sharing this important topic with us. Happy Easter as well. 🙂

    • http://www.brucesallan.com Bruce Sallan

      Yes, @Harleena:disqus – I think we are NOT making the right choices!

  • http://daniel-alexander-book.blogspot.com/ Daniel Alexander

    I think it’s because we value technology and business over people.
    We only perceive ourselves as busy.

    • http://www.brucesallan.com Bruce Sallan

      Yes @daniel_dinnie:disqus and I think saying how busy we are is thought to be some sort of badge of honor!

      • http://daniel-alexander-book.blogspot.com/ Daniel Alexander

        Interesting, and something I’ve never thought of.
        Probably quite true though…
        Nice one!

        • http://www.brucesallan.com Bruce Sallan

          Thx @daniel_dinnie:disqus – I like when I get other to think on something they hadn’t thought of before!

          • http://daniel-alexander-book.blogspot.com/ Daniel Alexander


  • David Weber

    To paraphrase Forrest Gump: Busy is, to a certain extent, as busy does. I came up in the same kind of milieu Bruce describes…not in arts & entertainment but in, first, public education and later organizational development in the private sector.
    I think that some people front being busy because it has become a mark of importance. I ‘m NOT saying everyone does that, I’m just saying that more people are less busy than they will admit. Or if they are not in fact as busy as they think they SHOULD be they make themselves busier, using a variety of strategies.
    i find myself being hellaciously busy at some points and not at others. Some 4- to 6-months-long periods come and go and I was devilishly busy during one and not in the next. I am DELIGHTED when one of the less-busy periods is upon me…relieved and grateful. I am long past the point of feeling bad about not being as busy as someone else…well, USUALLY past that point! Because I have a certain responsibility to conduct research and publish, during my less-busy periods, I sometimes don’t enjoy them fully because I am feeling guilty that I’m not working on some research or writing project or other. Or grading papers. Both of those are the parts of my job that I dislike … I fundmentally enjoy writing but tnot the rat race that is publishing in order to jump through the necessary hoops in the academic world.
    In summary, I would rather be not busy than busy, enjoy having free time; and probably because I don’t have a family to attend to or social media platforms to curate, have free time in my life a respectable amount of time. One of the most enjoyable things to experience in life is a sense of, “There is nothing I h*a*v*e to do at the moment, I can just completely relax.” I think that we are much more often than not “in charge” of whether or not we are going to experience that in a given period of time.

    • http://www.brucesallan.com Bruce Sallan

      @7f990e539df4ddefe26884eb65a5f04c:disqus – we are exactly on the same page on this one!

  • http://twitter.com/aprilaakre april aakre

    So true. People today do seem really busy and there is so much technology that can make it worse. I have taken time management classes also.

    • http://www.brucesallan.com Bruce Sallan

      @twitter-100245888:disqus – we must have times when we turn it off!

  • http://sweetbeariesart.com/ Sweetbearies

    People are always on their smart phones responding to a new message of some sort, and therein lies the answer. I am busy, but I never feel tired because I refuse to be on my phone that much. I respond to emails, and that is good enough for me.

    • http://www.brucesallan.com Bruce Sallan

      Good for you @Sweetbearies:disqus – you’ve learned to set boundaries – I fear most people have not!

  • http://www.wonderoftech.com Carolyn Nicander Mohr

    Hi Bruce, Being somewhat of a technology fan myself, my natural instinct is to defend technology. After all, technology is a tool and we are the ones responsible for using that tool, right?

    But the integration of mobile technology into our daily lives has altered people’s expectations about the immediacy of information. As you point out, long distance phone calls used to be expensive so we wrote letters. On paper. Added a stamp and would expect our reply to arrive in a week or two. Now we get frustrated if we don’t receive an email response within the hour.

    I’m wondering if the transition from horse and buggy to horseless carriage was fraught with such expectations of immediacy?

    • http://www.brucesallan.com Bruce Sallan

      @wonderoftech:disqus – I think we humans are always stymied by change…the horseless carriage example is a good one! Food for thought – all of this!

  • dadofdivas

    I find that some people that continue to say how bust they are are compensating for how ineffective their strategies are for actually getting things done!

    • http://www.brucesallan.com Bruce Sallan

      I agree @dadofdivas:disqus but I think that is the exception to the rule…

  • http://www.brucesallan.com Bruce Sallan

    I got this in an email from my friend (72 years young) Gayle Packard (I didn’t edit a word):

    Regarding your comments on the distractions of ways we now CONNECT re tech toys, etc. When my son was 9 my husband, always buying the first gadget out of the box, bought the first IBM computer. We laugh now —- but the salesman said to Phil that he more than likely would never need any more computerspace than the 128K IBM he was buying. I can’t remember exactly what year it came out but I think our son Steve was about 10 or 11 and one of the first doing his homework with the use of the IBM. We loved it and thought it to be a very important tool. Alas —- though, I now however, really do wonder if it has ALL gone too far — when I see friends at a table in a restaurant —- all trying to connect to someone, who is probably writing to them, to tell them the color of the shirt and/or blouse they bought today, while someone at the table may want to use them as a sounding board for an important decision they need to make. Smiling at their phone instead of the person sitting next to them. To me, what I see with this causing accidents while driving, it is really a LACK of connection and caring. (I came close to being run over in a Wal-Mart parking lot by a woman driving past while using her her phone. I delivered mail and had numerous people making left turns while totally oblivious to me. It is indeed a comment on what is now happening all around us and affecting the way we should relate to our fellow man/woman. This so called CONNECTION is (to coin Obama’s term) really a REDISTRIBUTION of the way to really CONNECT. And I totally fear is is an UNCARING connection. And that could indeed point to a real lack of caring that I think all of us are feeling in these times. Shoot —- I use to get my gas for 22 cents a gallon in L.A. and my windows cleaned. And sometimes the service involved more than one person. Now they are all in their own little world on the phone. SAD that what is now available to your children is overwhelming to me and the real trouble is they will never know the difference. Toys amounted to a little sectioned box in a 5 and Dime store when I was a kid. AND NOW!! Oh my goodness —– we were living in a third world country compared to what is available in every nook and cranny now. I look at what is available to what is considered the POOR now and when I was growing up we did not have a telephone until I went to work at 18. And we did not think the government should supply one. We went up to the TV store and watched thru the window because we could not afford to have one.