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Posts Tagged ‘Shadow Work’

As already stated, I think the main culprits for lack of time/busyness/overwhelm is mostly phone addiction and trying to live up to certain expectations. So why don’t I just – you know – put my phone down more, and do less stuff?

Well, I’m going to go back to something that more than one person has put forward as a theory, and is a little controversial – I think because it hurts feelings – but I think goes down to the heart of the issue, at least for me. The proposed theory is that, ultimately, we are all too busy because we need to look important. And I rolled my eyes at that at first. But the more times I heard it, the more it niggled at me (YES, that’s a real word!). So many things I do – hobbies, keeping up with people, trying to know what’s on the news 24/7 – there is no doubt a lot of that does have to do with actual desire to know and enjoyment – but – I began to realize a lot of it actually is based on the desire to shape others’ perception of me – kind of like my perfection issue I posted about a while back.

I had a moment just the other night where the statements I just made in the previous paragraph came to life. I was out shopping with a friend – she had been in a wedding the weekend before, and I had been invited to the wedding, but declined. Now, I feel my decline was legitimate – I’d been to two different states in just the previous week and a half and this would have involved a third, and it was one of the first weekends yet this year where I wasn’t preparing for visitors or something – but I still felt kind of bad for declining because, technically, I could have done it. I would just have had to postpone my dentist appointment and be willing to pay for a hotel – it was a drivable distance, so no flight.

So, as I explained again, probably needlessly, to my friend why I hadn’t gone, I found myself struggling to come up with verbiage to sound busy. I had an appointment, plus a church thing the night before – it was just all so busy. Yup, literally the words I used. And as I spoke them, I realized exactly what I was doing. I was using the word busy to make it seem like I just had so much going on I couldn’t handle another thing, when in actuality, I just needed a break. And yes, I did end up having a lot going on that day – I went to my appointment, then we met a couple for lunch, and went shopping for my wardrobe refresh, plus church on Sunday, and more shopping – I got home pretty late both nights – so it isn’t like I was sitting at home. But you know what? All those things I did? They were my choice. I had chosen to do those things instead of 1. Go to the wedding and 2. Stay home and rest. It wasn’t that I was “too busy” to go – it was that I had chosen to do other things instead.

And, it further occurred to me that it was both dishonest and self-focusing to boil it down to “It is just so busy.” Yes, I had all those epiphanies in a matter of a few awkward seconds of quiet. So, I corrected myself. “I take it back – it wasn’t busy. It was just pure laziness – I didn’t feel like going.” And you know what? She didn’t yell at me, and I don’t think she even judged me. And I felt like I was actually being honest not just with her, but with myself. It felt like a major breakthrough to be able to verbally say I wasn’t busy – I had just chosen to do something else. I also immediately started judging myself for being too lazy and thinking of all the different things I should have, could have, would have. But you know – I think that was actually really important – for me to realize in my journey toward not feeling so “busy” that what I chose that weekend was actually a choice and I was out doing things of my choice that, yes, involved me being out all day – but wasn’t just busy for the sake of busy. I don’t know – I feel like I’m not explaining this super well.

I guess what I think I’m trying to get at is – due to social media, work, and perfectionism, I expect a lot from myself, I want to prove myself to both myself and others, and I fear others’ opinions. I get overwhelmed and busy because I am always trying to live up to those expectations and because I feel like there is a modern expectation to be busy – have you spoken to anyone in the last decade who didn’t respond with “busy” when asked how they were? – which I think is fueled both by the desire to hold up to unrealistic standards and so I don’t feel less important than someone else who is talking about everything they are doing. I add to my own business by constantly trying to get the best deals and therefore heaping “shadow work” on myself, and try to combat all the constant pressure and decision fatigue by mindlessly scrolling through my phone so I don’t have to think about it too deeply – which, ironically, also adds to my own perception of being too busy.

If I want to redeem my own time I think I need to reshape the way I think and act. So, here are my goals (because you all know I am a list person):

  1. Be willing to be second best at work – do my best as a Christian without having to be the person people always come to for help (because, yes, I do struggle with that desire)
  2. Be willing to accept “good enough” decisions on things like travel, and online shopping, and things like that so I don’t spend hours researching those things and become exhausted making all those decisions.
  3. Be willing to miss out on some things – don’t constantly check my phone, e-mail, or social media for missed calls, texts, posts, updated news, and other things that eat away at my time, energy, and self-confidence.
  4. Purposefully take time away from my phone and other electronics to pursue my old loves (reading, writing, etc.). Set the phone down when with friends and family – including when watching movies with them.
  5. Stop myself from saying the word “busy” and instead recount what I am actually doing with my life when asked to acknowledge that the things I am doing are my choices and not the choice of some mythical “busy” being.

I have high hopes for the future, guys! Thanks for listening while I talk through all my issues, and please pray for me as I work to redeem my time.

redeem-the-time-post

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I thought this deserved its own section because it is such a unique concept. One of the other articles I read from the website (yes, you may laugh), The Art of Manliness, discussed the idea of shadow work (Shadow Work and the Rise of Middle-Class Serfdom). Essentially, what they say is that, with the advent of internet and transportation, we have taken on a lot of tasks normally reserved for other people, which ultimately increases our busyness. It used to be that someone else had to book travel stuff for you, but now we have the option to spend dozens of hours in research online trying to find the best deals.

We used to go to the doctor if we had something wrong with us – now we spend hours on the internet trying to search for a solution ourselves or make sure the doctor’s recommendation is the best one.

We used to read the newspaper in the morning and go to work, content we knew what was going on in the world. Now, if there is breaking news and someone mentions it to you within five minutes and you haven’t heard of it, then you are not only behind the times, you might not be doing your job well (especially as an analyst). It’s called information overload, which I will probably mention again.

“Rather than experiencing long, unbroken stretches of time in which we concentrate on completing tasks for a single role in our lives, we are constantly changing the hats we wear — toggling from husband to cashier, office worker to news editor, father to travel agent.”

Anyway, it’s not necessarily bad that we do all these things – it is just another choice we have made on how we are spending our time, is how it was explained.

It also leads to what is called decision fatigue. According to more than one article I came across, as humans we can only make so many decisions before we become too tired to choose anymore, which then leads to us choosing instead to watch tv or spend time on our phones – mindless activities.

In other words, one reason we become exhausted is because every day, every hour, we are making decisions about what we want to do, how we want to do it, even things as mundane as whether we check our phones, what we might be forgetting to do, etc.

The authors in the article discussing this put it in a way that resonated with me:

I think it gets to the heart of why people feel overworked, worn out, and harried — why they just can’t be bothered to be civil or to socialize or to have hobbies, even though on paper they don’t seem to have that much going on. The stuff that’s eating away at their willpower aren’t the things you’d put in a planner, but the overlooked shadow work in the wings.

So, the question becomes, what to do about it? Well, the article has lots of suggestions, but I think some of the most useful and ones I’ve been slowly trying to implement are: Be ruthless in filtering information. Basically, don’t try to read everything, and don’t read crap. There is too much information to process.

And secondly – and perhaps what I think is most useful – is to be “satisficer rather than a maximizer” – in other words, when making decisions, don’t weigh every single option – speaking of things like buying things – pick the first thing you are happy with and assume you made the right decision. I’m terrible at that. I like measuring every single thing before I purchase and I sometimes spend hours on that. I really need to do better on that. It is probably one of the things that sucks away my time.

Hey, look at that – progress!

"I just went online for tips to help my cold, and now apparently I'm dying."

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