Busy BS: Why We’re Never as Busy as We Think We Are


hold the phone(s).


If that’s your go-to phrase, you might want to clear your calendar for the day and take a moment to think again. A new study, published in the Journal of Consumer Research, has figured out that our perception of how busy we are can be dictated by phenomena and circumstances apart from what’s actually on the calendar for the week. This totally explains why you were able to attend that going-away party, spend three hours on Tinder, and binge-watch a season of Friends on Thursday despite being just slammed.

Obviously, having to meet deadlines and get things done within a certain amount of time can make use feel busier than a bee during spring. OK. Makes sense. Interestingly, though, the study discovered that we might also start to feel busier when we are feeling anxiety about anything that’s happening in out life. When your goals are threatening to compete with your emotional energy… cue the overly-busy meltdown to all of your friends via group text.

This fluid sense of how we experience time is also why we can sit and do nothing while we’re on vacation but totally lose our sh*t when we’re sitting in traffic, even if we’re just racing home to a glass of merlot. Some outside circumstance or phenomena is threatening to disrupt your ideal circumstances, and that causes your perceptions to skew.

Another factor that can add to this not-enough-time-in-the-day feeling — even when there actually is enough time in the day — is that we tend to get caught up in the smaller “sub goals” that it takes to reach each main goal. This, unsurprisingly, can make us feel more busy throughout the process. Lots of steps on the path toward reaching a goal can make it seem like our time is extremely limited, making it difficult to relax until we check everything off of the list. When we’re closer to achieving the main goal, our sense of time might expand again — even though we actually have less time than we did to begin with.

But don’t worry, we’re not totally doomed. The same researchers suggest prioritizing, psyching your self up to feel excited instead of stressed, and then just doing what you need to do.

Plus, some studies point to the fact that we feel happier when we’re busy and can even start to compete about our levels of business. I mean, it beats being completely bored, right?

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