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Johns Hopkins University

Health Care

Combating the ‘Cult of Busy’

Take that vacation

Published: Wednesday, June 22, 2016 - 10:56

More than one-third of Americans say they don’t have enough time in their day to get things done, and the majority of Americans who report not having enough spare time also say they battle stress, reports the Johns Hopkins Health Review.

Busyness is a badge of honor for those who equate a packed schedule with success, the cover story contends. But Joseph Bienvenu, a psychiatrist and director of the Anxiety Disorders Clinic at Johns Hopkins Hospital, tells the Health Review that being overly busy can lead to “difficulty focusing and concentrating, impatience and irritability, trouble getting adequate sleep, and mental and physical fatigue.”

The “cult of busy” and its associated health concerns can be battled by practicing mindful, restorative leisure techniques—which don’t include plopping in front of a television set.

“People use rest in two different ways,” says Erik Helzer, a social psychologist and assistant professor at the Carey Business School. “One is in an intentional and rejuvenating way, such as sitting and reading, versus the mindless rest where we end up binge watching TV shows, and you get up and say, ‘I can't believe I just wasted three hours.’ What we found is that people believed they were going to have the more mindful kind of rest over the weekend, but when we interviewed them on Monday, they reported spending more time than they anticipated vegging out on the couch. So even though we have the time, we don’t tend to use it in a mindful way.”

“If you look at the ingredients of a satisfying life, what our data show is that people are shortchanging themselves in the areas that may be most important,” Helzer adds. “The lesson is that you have to be intentional in carving out the time you want for the things that you want.”

So how do you take back your time? The Health Review provides some helpful tips:
Keep a time diary. Understand how you spend your time, and whether your time qualifies as work, housework, family time, or leisure. Strategize ways to improve if the balance is off.
Prioritize what matters. Examine what’s important to you and structure your life (and time) around those priorities.
Do one small thing. Don’t try to revolutionize your life overnight. Begin the process of taking back your time with one change—and turn that change into a habit before building on it.
Abandon perfectionism. You can’t be all things to all people, so set limits on who—and what—is entitled to your time.
Subtract, don't add. It’s natural to want to add relaxing routines to your schedule, but removing a time waster can be just as effective.
Model your behavior. Consider how your actions affect those around you, including co-workers and family members. Model your time priorities for others.
Take that vacation. Even if it’s a simple, inexpensive trip away from work, don’t put off down time.

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Johns Hopkins University

The Johns Hopkins University is a research university with campuses in Baltimore and Washington, D.C. Its mission is to educate its students and cultivate their capacity for life-long learning, to foster independent and original research, and to bring the benefits of discovery to the world. The Applied Physics Laboratory (APL) is a division of the university co-equal to the nine schools, but with a nonacademic, research-based mission. APL supports national security and also pursues space science, exploration of the Solar System and other civilian research and development.