People seem to like to say they are “so busy”.  In fact, I have found people say they are busier than they actually are in order to seem more important. Why? Why does anyone want to be pretend-busy? I am so stressed people say and while it may be partly true, is anything being done to manage it? Can anything be done?

I find myself in stressful situations on the daily; student loan payments, work drama, deadlines, being pulled in a hundred directions, making time to be healthy and workout – if I dig deeper I could consistently find stress; what am I doing with my life? where will I be living in five years? If I really wanted to, I could make sure I had stressful thoughts to keep me busy 24/7. Alas, I relish being happy much more so I work at keeping stress at bay.

Are people piling on things because they feel it will make them happier or are people addicted to being busy even though they are unhappy thinking it will distract them? I like having things to do, don’t get me wrong. My calendar this week alone is filled with events and errands and tasks to complete but most are fun and most are things I am actively choosing to do but I am not “busy”.

I pose a question to you then, do you live to work or work to live? It is actually true that American’s work 50% more than their European counterparts and here’s the Harvard study to prove it, from the Journal of Happiness no less…  “The findings suggest that Americans may be happier working more because they believe more than Europeans do that hard work is associated with success” Employees stay late and come in early and may be more likely to get a promotion even though their cube-mate might come in right at nine and head out no later than five and get the same amount of work done. In Europe, everyone leaves at 5pm. This circles back to society as a whole and the fact that America is more individualistic where Europe has a more collectivist culture, much like that of Asia. In my personal experience, I much prefer the laid-back, family-centered way of life. “Americans maximize their utility (happiness) by working and Europeans maximize their utility through leisure”.  Interesting, right? In the end, it seems that American’s aren’t really that much more successful than their European counterparts who value leisure time more.

I have a good work ethic and like feeling accomplished and being deemed ‘successful’ at work but I value time doing things outside of work too. I firmly believe you can do both with a bit of balance. Knowing yourself and your values as opposed to society’s values or values you feel you should have, helps.  Your work speaks for itself and in the end a few more hours here and there won’t matter, at least I don’t feel that they do. We have 168 hours in a week. At the very least (or at the very most) you spend 40 hours working. 40 out of 168! Ok, now take into consideration the time you spend sleeping, that should be about 8 hours a night, so 56 hours of sleep time. That leaves 72 hours for you to do as you please if you only have one job. That’s 72 hours to take a class, get a hobby, go to the gym, learn a new skill, spend time with friends and family-whatever you choose. How are you making use of that time?

I made an Excel spreadsheet for myself to see where all my time is going. Disclaimer: you may not like what you see. Or you may realize you have more time than you really thought and be ecstatic. In the winter especially, it takes a shift in perspective to realize the day isn’t over at 5, it is just beginning. From 5 until at least 9 I have time to do loads of things instead of coming home and just sitting on the sofa every night. Once you see where your time goes, it’s much easier to make it go where you want it to. As I like to say, you have time for what you make time for. 

Stress is a real thing and in our society people are expected to do so much. We are constantly pulled in a hundred directions and we are pressured to be ‘the perfect wife/employee/friend/neighbor/sister/blogger’ etc that we can possibly be. I want to be successful in all aspects of my life but in order to do that, I have to relinquish perfection and accept that I can only do my best.

On this Sunday, wherever you are. Take a moment to be with your thoughts and do something for yourself. Stress will inevitably come so let it be and take care of yourself right now.