Is Being Busy a Status Symbol?

Two years ago, as a freshman, I wrote an article professing my love for having a busy and packed schedule. Two weeks ago, I finished Naoise Dolan’s Exciting Times, which features gems of lines like, "'Why do you want to be busy?' 'It's a status symbol. It's like, "I'm so in-demand in the skilled economy."'

We’re exposed to a lot of different conflicting information here. I admire the bite-more-than-you-can-chew-and-chew-like-crazy work ethic, but there’s merit in not having a million to-do list items, too. Just the other day on LinkedIn, I read a post that criticized the pride that results from saying, “I’m too busy.” The author claimed that it should instead invoke embarrassment—being busy means not managing your time well.

Back-to-school supplies, agenda Alexa Williams Ever since classes have started, I’ve been thinking about the Dolan quote. It doesn’t quite apply to students, though you could argue that my tiring days are in preparation for being in-demand. But it does inspire more thought. My Covid-19 summer was a blissful vacation from life. Outside of the mere five hours of work per week for my job, all of my other time was wide open—with virtually nothing to do.

Now, my days are packed. Back-to-back classes, seemingly endless reading assignments, studying, work, extracurricular activities, and trying to squeeze in quick phone calls with friends here and there. There are clear benefits: I’m not worrying about being unproductive all the time, and I obviously get a lot more done. But the other side of the coin is being overwhelmed and staring down my planner, where my pink highlighting has become more akin to an aggressive micro-manager than a gentle reminder about due dates.

Silver macbook by planner and flowers Pexels / Alana Sousa

And yet, I have friends that are busier than me, and I admire them for it. I’m never one to think, "Oh, thank god I’m not that busy." My behavior definitely leans towards wanting to add to the busy. I used to rationalize this by saying that I just like being productive, but recently I’ve been inclined to think more deeply about what drives me to pile up my commitments like this.

The answer is different for everyone, but mine is simple. I think I’ve associated busyness—with all of its caffeine-fueled frenzy and jobs that don’t end at 5 p.m.—with success, and then I’ve made the jump from success to status.

Do you like being busy? If you do, what do you think are the reasons for that? Let me know!

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