"Busyness" is a social defense against other people making us do things we don't really want to do and a mechanism for coping with feeling guilty about things we know we should do, but don't. My intuition is that people have had to project themselves as busier and busier over the last couple decades as technology has made us more efficient in order for this strategy to continue working.
If you're always "so busy!", your boss is less likely to give you more work; your spouse is less likely to ask you to do more around the house; you're not going to feel as guilty about only seeing grandma once a year or refusing to help your friend move; you can feel a little better about yourself when a friend lands an awesome new job or plans a cool vacation and you haven't really done anything. When you haven't seen someone in a long time and they ask how things are, you can give them the impression that things must be even better than the last time you saw them, because you've clearly been so busy improving your lot in life. Well, that's the idea, at least.
After I read that article I decided to try to be more honest with myself and the people I know about how busy I really was (which is often "not very" - I, like the author, am the "laziest ambitious person I know."). It's a very hard habit to break, and it forces you to be more honest about the things you really want to spend your time on and the things you're avoiding.
It’s almost always people whose lamented busyness is purely self-imposed: work and obligations they’ve taken on voluntarily, classes and activities they’ve “encouraged” their kids to participate in. They’re busy because of their own ambition or drive or anxiety, because they’re addicted to busyness and dread what they might have to face in its absence.
There was another article (which I can't find now) that summarized this even further to state that "I'm so busy" is actually code for "I'm a self-important asshole"... and there's a grain of truth to do this. "Can you help me with X? Can you do Y?" "Oh, I'd love to help, but I'm sooo busy doing other stuff that's more important than you!"
I coach little league, too.
Notice it isn’t generally people pulling back-to-back shifts in the I.C.U. or commuting by bus to three minimum-wage jobs who tell you how busy they are; what those people are is not busy but tired. Exhausted. Dead on their feet. It’s almost always people whose lamented busyness is purely self-imposed ...
Working two jobs and rearing three kids is actually busy. Coaching little league and noodling about on HN, on the other hand, is self-imposed.
If you are working two part-time jobs, you're doing just as much work as a full-timer but not nearly as much pay and certainly not as much in benefits (healthcare, time off, stable work schedule, etc.) that could allow you to USE what leisure you have.
edit. the guy below me/above me said it before me.
Exactly. And I would add that part of the point posed by the article is that we seem to be overly busy, given whatever life objectives/circumstances we have. So, given that a person choses to have, say, a job and 2 kids, then they are busier on average than in times past.
So, the question isn't whether an individual person can choose to be less busy. The question is why do we tend to be busier than ever on average, when we should theoretically have more leisure time.
This definitely was me. Meditating was very hard for me to take up. Eventually I realized it was because whenever I had a quiet moment, I would start to think about something I didn't want to think about. I'd get anxious and suddenly find that I "had" to go do something.
People catch on if you drink all day. But if you're busy (always working, always coding, always arguing with somebody on the internet, always caught up in an absorbing game) they (and you) may never think, "Gosh, maybe there's something wrong here."
If we translate "I'm busy" as a conversational token with attributes REJECT_INVITATION, TONE:NEUTRAL, RELATIONSHIP:STATIC, BLAME:EXTERNAL, DOMINANCE:INDEPENDENT, HONESTY:FACE_SAVING, there's really nothing better for that niche.
"I don't want to," could possibly be RELATIONSHIP:DOWNGRADE, BLAME:YOU, DOMINANCE:INSUBORDINATE, and HONESTY:BRUTAL, or some combination.
A simple "no," would be TONE:CURT and possibly DOMINANCE:INSUBORDINATE. Upgrading to "no, thank you," takes you back to TONE:POLITE, but still leaves you at possibly insubordinate and still leaves several contexts undefined. That might require futher explanation.
The PREVARICATION:FACE_SAVING attribute is rather important. Anyone trying to dig past that is venturing into TONE:RUDE and BLAME:YOU territory, and a more polite response would be another HONESTY:FACE_SAVING as an honor-preserving disengagement.
On deeper analysis, busyness often turns out to be a defense around selfishness, but we protect it as a blameless social disengagement because everyone has occasion to be a little selfish sometimes. If everyone around you seems busy, it may be that you are too pushy yourself. People may be willing to make more time for you if you make that time more pleasurable or less painful for them.
1. Work more intensely over the course of a fixed working day (eg. the 8 hours most people normally work in the United States)
2. Work longer hours thereby generating more surplus value while only being paid for a smaller proportion of your overall work. Today, this typically involves creating a culture that incentivizes overwork and disincentivizes the normal working day.
3. Revolutionize the means of production thereby gaining an ephemeral advantage over the competition. Think the Japanese in the 80s with just-in-time production which allowed them to dominate the automotive industry. Automating work would also fall under this category. Notice this can require (1) or (2) as a pre-requisite to such innovation.
Under this analysis being busy would be a natural byproduct of the reigning economic ordering of society.
The Red Queen hypothesis alone just claims that continued adaptation is necessary to prevent extinction. In that respect it is much more limited, as it does not predict what those changes will look like.
But in terms of mechanism, the Red Queen hypothesis is very much in line with Marx' views on capitalism. He saw the inexorable need for adaptation to remain competitive as a critical part of driving production to a level where socialism would be possible.
I think its a nearly universal truth amongst white collar employees that if they only had to be at work while actually working, they'd probably only be at work about four to six hours per day, but they'd get at least twice as much work done. This is obviously a Fortune50 kind of observation more so than a startup.
In the pre-internet era it was pointless meetings and teambuilding activities and water cooler talk and especially smoke breaks. Oh and extended lunch at desk, in addition to the actual lunch hour, plus extended breaks.
In the end, if not carried out to extremes, it works out for everyone. The white collar workers experience something like a grade school playground or perhaps kindergarten classroom experience where most of their time is spent talking about their feelings, and who's in or out of such and such club, gossip, and what they saw on TV last night, and the boss gets a promotion because obviously he's more effective because he had butts in seats for 12 hours and his management competitors only had butts in seats for 10 hours and that's all that matters because that's all that can be verifiably documented and measured. Its not a bad life, as things go, as long as you don't mind sitting around doing nothing in an office (literally) almost all day.
Where does it not fit?
...somebody shoot this guy. Please.
When will we realize that so many great thought were thought because smart people have had free time to "let their minds wonder around". Think Darwin, the leisure-class naturalist with lots of time to travel, and the theory of evolution. Think Einstein, the underachiever working in a patent office with too much free time to think and the theory of relativity. Who will have time to integrate all the knowledge that we "mine" into useful theories, when we've build a society where the smarter we are, the less time to think you have?!
This became obvious since the '30s, when Bertrand Russel realized the direction we were heading (http://www.zpub.com/notes/idle.html), despite the fact that thinking about such things was not his job, and most likely because at that point in his life he had a lot of free time to think around. As opposed to Keynes, whose job was to think at this, but was probably to "busy" to see the big picture and totally ignore the "red queen effect" of consumerism.
EDIT+: oops, I always forget that Americans can take any invitation to violence seriously :) I toned it down a bit.
Always seemed odd, this keep everyone so busy working (and consuming), they won't have the time or the inclination to question the reason they're spending so much of their time working.
And your observation about smart people having free time, links into this recent article about Peter Higgs (of Higgs Boson fame) saying "It's difficult to imagine how I would ever have enough peace and quiet in the present sort of climate to do what I did in 1964." (http://www.theguardian.com/science/2013/dec/06/peter-higgs-b...)
But inbetween... well, the typical young upper-middle-class couple (as usual, the real point of fascination here) has committed themselves to huge expenditures of interactive time with their kids. That's really where the time went.
Today, highly-educated parents bring their kids home from soccer or tae kwon do practice, pick up dinner on the way home and read to each of them for a school-mandated half-hour after helping them with homework. This is crazy different from a few generations ago. Ask even your grandparents how much time your parents spent in a "play pen" as toddlers, or roamed their neighborhood after school when they were older. Now there's a competitive cultural expectation that you need to invest in your children's development daily, so they become socially self-realized and not economic roadkill.
That's fine, for retirement. But this viewpoint presupposes that kids' education is not productive, if not immediately and directly, but eventually and indirectly (eventually as adults, indirectly as productive members of society, which is more than being trained to do some specific job). Kids spend, what, 10-13 years on elementary and high school (and equivalents). And that is not even counting the ones who go into higher education.
Supposedly, this elementary education is necessary in order to be productive in a lot of modern jobs, and in order to be a productive member of modern society - society is certainly more complex than when your whole society consisted of your family's farm and neighbouring farms and a nearby village.
The only thing which might be said is unproductive with kids' childhood is the long summer breaks. Which is, perhaps ironically, a remnant of the past where kids needed to productive on their family's farm in the peak season (though I have for that matter gone to elementary school with the kids of farmers, who needed to be excused from school for some days because they needed to herd their sheep down from their gracing areas).
That assumes that schooling is relevant to a kids future. My 4th grader already operates at a numeracy and literacy level higher than adults "are supposed to". You're not supposed to be able to calculate percentages and figure out word problems, that will ruin the employment of tax preparers. You're not supposed to be able to read Harry Potter, you're supposed to watch TV. Achievement at or above a 4th grade level is strongly discouraged on a mass cultural level, although obviously not here on HN. Vocational training is useless because he won't be in the workforce for a decade or more making "training" useless, and according to labor force participation rates the odds are reasonable he will not be a participant in the labor force anyway, especially as trends continue, making vocational "education" useless. Depressingly, there are a lot of white collar jobs that boil down to adult day care, fundamentally, where lack of productivity is probably a net societal gain!
So... the true cost is free day care (aka school) is not available in the summer. On the other hand educational costs aka property taxes are microscopically lower. Obviously we are not going to permit teachers to experience a 30% boost in standard of living were we to expand their workload into the summer, so labor costs will not change but obviously energy costs to keep the lights on, and probably air conditioning, would increase, along with internet bandwidth use at the school, cleaning chemicals used, trash bags filled, etc etc.
The reason why kids "need" ever more and more years of education for ever simpler jobs (on a societal average...), is to keep them out of the labor force, to reduce competition. Otherwise, if bright teens put all the adults out of work, the adults wouldn't be able to afford children, which breaks the cycle in about a generation. You need to keep the adults employed in their breeding years long enough to squirt out the next generations kids, no need for much more, and keeping younger adults / teens out of the workforce is a social engineering technology to accomplish that. Its quite possible as existing trends continue that we'll naturally assume no one would ever hire a supermarket cashier or waitress without a PHD in something, perhaps philosophy. That would serve a useful purpose of keeping as many people in (profitable) schools as possible, maximization of student loan income, etc.
Yes, that was one of the assumptions: "But this viewpoint presupposes that kids' education is not productive, ".
That whole premise was beyond the scope of my post, though I strayed a little bit into it.
*Disclaimer : I am young (23), broke but happy.
This past year, I spent four months in Asia travelling. I rock-climbed for a while, tried bungee, canyon swing, diving, trekking and the motorcycle. I was able to afford all that on my student's salary working and studying for my degree. I met amazing people and I'm just excited about everything since.
There's been a lot of discussion lately about the 80 hours work weeks and quite frankly, I just don't get it! I did work 66 hours work weeks this past fall for my honours thesis. I started getting anxiety attacks. It wasn't healthy.
I don't mean to make a point. I want to hear some. I want to understand how some of you do it, and, more importantly why. I keep thinking that "Hey I was able to have this experience with less than 20k a year. Imagine what I could do with the salary of a `real` job! (Or freelancing)"
Why do you do it?
Then I moved to a big city and my entire savings was depleted almost instantly. I had to work two jobs to pay my bills with barely any time or money to do anything but work. It sucked really bad for about two years until I started moving up and earning a salary that allowed me to quit my second job.
Basically, though, everybody talking about their bills, mortgage, tuitions, etc. These are lifestyle choices and they require a certain amount of income to maintain. There's all kinds of reasons for making these choices. Because you genuinely want that life, because your spouse wants that life, because your friends are doing it, because that's what "normal" people do, etc. Some people want a lifestyle that they can only afford by working insane hours. Some people are able to afford all of that stuff with a 40 hour work week.
Society does tend to pressure you into doing these things in order to feel like you have "grown up" which I know all too well. But, there's many ways to live life and they don't all require 80 hours of work per week.
I want him to have a great education, wide knowledge and experience, and be ready to face life well, be kind to others, be equipped to work hard and make good money, be a good husband and a good father.
That takes lots of time and money, and is completely worth it.
So your ideal of how things should be is to have a saga of people working their asses off, in theory for the good of the next generation, but in practice for nothing because the next generation will work their asses off for the good of the next one, etc.
Maybe it's culture shock (I'm a European) but honestly, how can anyone think that is "worth it"?
I work 40 hours a week.
I commute 8 hours a week.
I volunteer (he comes with me sometimes) 2 hours a week.
Lunch breaks: 5 hours.
(so far 50 hours)
Then I do all the routine stuff that needs to be done: Grocery shopping, hardware store, car maintenance, etc.
Then I spend another 15 hours a week working on extra stuff (learning, following the news, doing stuff for clients, coding).
Then there is the social events, the school events, church on Sunday, basketball practice on Tuesday at 7 and games on Saturday at 1 or 2.
Then there is sleep, and making dinner, cleaning the house, etc.
In the end, there is about 10 hours a week for just me and him time (watch movie, play games, go out and explore the world, park, read together, etc)
For me? I'm lucky if I get 2 hours a week for me. I'm even more lucky if they're contiguous.
(No time for TV, you notice, and precious little for computer games.)
There's an easy way to get a bunch of hours a week back.
Yes it'd depend on what you want from your life. Priorities are different for all.
However, chances are that the son looks up to his father, thinks his father's life is normal and how it should be, and will (unconsciously) copy it.
If that happens, will he really have the better life that his father worked for and wanted him to have?
But do you also want your boy to dream, and try something noble and possibly fail but get back up, to experience as much as the world as he can, and to understand that limitations are self-made? Of course, you do.
So you tell him all this, but he may look at you and say "Well Dad, if you want me to do all these things, why didn't you do them?".
- The average annual mortgage repayment is over $20,000/yr.
- Private/Independent school tuition for one child will also cost you more than $20,000/yr by year 12 and continue through University for degrees in Medicine, Law and Engineering. Multiply that by the average 2.x children.
Add in living expenses, utilities, rates, sports, entertainment and trips, a tax rate that has you working for the Government for almost half the year and the required family income quickly jumps to six figures which is where the extra hours come in. Paid overtime, side projects, freelancing, second jobs; whatever it takes to give the kids the best start in life you can stretch to afford.
I do sometimes wonder whether home schooling them might have worked out better.
Public Schooling is the only way to not burn yourself up, and to get that you have to live in the right districts.
Public schools in Australia generally lack the culture for kids to achieve academically without it being an uphill battle against their peers. It's that environment and being around like-minded families that you pay for.
Originally, we both worked full time, lived in a small house, and had income to spare to save some and do some small-scale travelling within Europe. With no kids, there was not really a lot of stress and "busyness" for us; the household chores had to be done in the evenings and weekends, but other than that we didn't feel overwhelmed. (Although it sometimes did feel that way anyway.)
After the first kid was born, my girlfriend started working 80% instead of 100%, to cope better with the additional tasks imposed by caring for the child. The second kid added to the child care burden, leading us to delegate some of the cleaning chores to a household helper (4hrs every 2 weeks), which is not for free. The situation stabilized, but we do feel overwhelmed by the tight planning of each day, and chores left to do in the evenings and weekends.
Weekends are not always relaxing any more: even family visits have a tendency to start feeling like a burden if they displace other things that you have to do, and if several of them queue up in the same weekend or if several consecutive weekends become fully booked this way. Also, we try to build in "down"time in the weekend to let the kids play or to do something with the 4 of us, but this becomes more difficult with all the other engagements competing for time.
I too have requested a contract change to work 90% instead of 100%, so that I can move some of the chores from the evening and weekend to a weekday. This will hopefully leave us with more relaxed evenings and weekends.
I realize that in some sense we're lucky that our finances permit us to trade some income for more time off work. I think (hope) we're approaching a OK balance between work, child care, "obligatory" off-work stuff, and "voluntary" off-work stuff.
(Note: 100% means 40hrs/wk here)
Not everybody does. You sound like you might enjoy Mustachianism. That's the idea of keeping a lifestyle much like yours and using the low costs to work less, even while "growing up" and raising a family. http://www.mrmoneymustache.com/
It's certainly possible to keep a minimalist, low-burn lifestyle. But it's hard. At 23, you're at the easy end of it. I don't think it's that most people really say, "Hey, I'd like a busy, harried lifestyle in exchange for nice material circumstances." It's that they don't have a guiding passion or enormous discipline helping them say no to every single physical comfort or material pleasure that society offers them.
I maintained a travel diary but travel blogging isn't something that interested me much. And I worked as an intern turned into a web developer before leaving.
I don't work 80 hours a week, but I also would have trouble getting by on less than $20k/year, largely thanks to cost of living. I am bound to a limited set of locations by the career I want to have.
During that trip I have met lots of different types of people. Relevant to this discussion would be the ones travelling with their kids, and a grown up kid who was raised for a couple years on a sail boat (turned out to become the youngest surgical clinic manager in his home country, was also a lobbyist before that and now refused an even more prestigious job for the sakes of travelling for a while)
This is anecdotal evidence. True. But it is/was enough for me to question how we live, raise children, and the norms.
Obviously, I don't intend to keep going with only 20k a year. I'm finishing my degree soon. What I'm actually really questioning is anything beyond 40 hours a week. Maybe I'm young and hopeful, but I'm sure there are ways. Different ways. And they may even have better returns than what we are used to. I'm going to try at least.
I don't travel much (I don't have much of an urge to), but I tend to live pretty leisurely, even with two young children, a house to pay for, a number of bills, etc. I don't have every luxury my friends have, but I tend to not need those things (and I do have the luxuries I want to have).
That all being said, I live in Canada and not the US, and some of the descriptions I hear about work-life south of the border gives me chills. I suppose we're not much better up here, really, but I'm happy to say I can personally get by without over-stressing my workload (and, of course, that's probably just because of my personal circumstances and whatever luck has befallen me).
And maybe he can experience feeling this fantastic smugness.
Why, in real life, do we ever encounter hard instances of NP-complete problems? Because if it’s too easy to find a 10,000-mile TSP tour, we ask for a 9,000-mile one.
Why are even some affluent parts of the world running out of fresh water? Because if they weren’t, they’d keep watering their lawns until they were.
Why don’t we live in the utopia dreamed of by sixties pacifists and their many predecessors? Because if we did, the first renegade to pick up a rock would become a Genghis Khan.... [See Aldus Huxley's Island for a particularly depressing exploration of this concept.]
Again and again, I’ve undergone the humbling experience of first lamenting how badly something sucks, then only much later having the crucial insight that its not sucking wouldn’t have been a Nash equilibrium. Clearly, then, I haven’t yet gotten good enough at Malthusianizing my daily life—have you?
This is bullshit. If you are working at Walmart you can't just take the day off on a whim nor would you because you can't afford it.
This quote from the article pulled me out of whatever fantasy bullshit land the authors are writing from.
People are busy because they want meaning in their lives. Doing things gives you a sense of purpose.
Friend of a friend owns a modest investment fund and hasn't set foot in the office in a year. He directs his staff via smartphone from his boat.
Yes, it is all conjecture.
Change your language. Instead of saying "I don't have time" try saying "it's not a priority," and see how that feels. Often, that's a perfectly adequate explanation. I have time to iron my sheets, I just don't want to. But other things are harder. Try it: "I'm not going to edit your résumé, sweetie, because it's not a priority." "I don't go to the doctor because my health is not a priority." If these phrases don't sit well, that's the point. Changing our language reminds us that time is a choice. If we don't like how we're spending an hour, we can choose differently.
The problem is that it's more lucrative to manipulate people to buy things they don't need or to trick them to pay more. Note that there are industries where marketing costs are outrageously high, sometimes higher than production and/or R&D. A company that doesn't spend the same amount on marketing or lobbying might make less profit (e.g. due to network effects, other scaling effects, special protections or subsidies) and thus seem like a bad investment.
This leads to a sort of arms race: everybody needs to hire more and more marketers, patent lawyers, etc. and donate more to political campaigns.
Solution: Heavily regulate advertising and lobbying. Some kinds of advertising could just be outlawed, and the rest could get (time or space) limits. Anonymous electronic cash would also help to make internet publications independent from corporate advertising money. Tax money could be used to support independent institutes or publications that try to spread actually helpful consumer advise.
I think some winner-take-all mechanics might also be at play on a personal career level. Note that there are actually lots of people with nothing but free time, though usually not by choice. Many governments deny those people a decent standard of living (some even a home, food or medical care), forcing them take shitty, low-paying, insecure jobs. The constant threat of losing your income to someone else who will work harder or for less money kind of naturally creates a situation where you either work long hours or not at all.
If my job is to do a, b, and c and using technology I make it so I only have to spend time doing a, then an employer is going to find something for me to do. Could be busy work, could be letting someone go and giving me their job to save money.
If I don't they'll find someone else who will.
Technological advances that were suppose to help the employee work less, has only helped business run at lower operating costs.
My hunch is that we're so busy because capitalism seeks to find local maxima in the possible space of all profits, and because so many people are involved in it, it works pretty well (as far as hill climbing algorithms go).
What keeps me up at night is knowing that there is a higher point that can only be found by going down the descending side of the hill, potentially for an extended period of time.
So here I am at the bottom, wondering if I should turn back or try another hill. It was a lot more work walking downhill than I thought it would be. I keep wondering if there’s some other search function I could employ that would reveal where the peaks are or even transport me to them. Sometimes I picture where a hill would be but nobody listens. They are too busy climbing their own hills. Then it vanishes and reappears under someone else, and people admire how hard that person climbed. Lately the best strategy seems to be doing as little as possible and riding the hills as they grow around me. As someone born and raised to climb, I don’t know what to make of this.
I am not quite convinced that this solution is universal (which is a claim you didn't make) or practical for a large set of people. What does it translate to in more tangible terms? Refuse to go to school/seek a better job/invest in something more worth one's time in wait for an unexpected propulsion to the top of a hill?
I agree that the hills are rather unstable and various unaccounted for factors can cause the searching algorithm to fail. Most often being that we fail to account for all the other dimensions which also have hills that somehow need attention. One dimension is profits and it is a very popular hill, but all of a sudden you hit a point and realize that there exists a hill in health, and relationship, and personal growth, etc.
What do we do as a response? Stop searching? I doubt it. It might be better to instead, accept the fact that our algorithm will never provide the perfect solution; that to optimize for one dimension (income, for example), we will have to sacrifice optimizations in other dimensions (relationships, leisure etc.) due to a finite resources and constraints outside our control, and in doing that, define priorities.
The priorities need not be final values, but mutable based on environmental conditions. Today, a 60hr week might be a reasonable priority in order to - or at least, in the hopes of being able to - eventually drop that to 20hr weeks and 40 hours with family and other interests.
[btw, great analogy]
At least for myself, I've noticed that I have used busy-ness as an excuse to not do something I dislike. A rapidly growing synonym by the way, is I'm "tired."
As for why people stay "busy" beyond the excuse factor, I buy most into the argument about keeping up with the Joneses. We live in a very consumption-driven society and people are always scaling up their "needs" rather than being happy with what they have. Consider the consultant that buys a house upon making manager, and then a bigger house upon making partner. Were any of those upgrades truly necessary for the 2-person couple? No, but they"felt" necessary because that's what we do. We climb ladders and scale up.
I'm less inclined to buy the argument that people stay busy because working provides meaning. It's not that I don't think work provides meaning, it's that I don't think most people find meaning in their work today. Rather, work is the tedium that you experience so that you can climb a ladder and get stuff, and continue the up-and-to-the-right cycle.
http://www.tradingeconomics.com/united-states/productivity change the start of the graph to 1959. I would argue that technology has radically helped our productivity but at the end of the day, people are always expected to get better.
Honestly I don't know if this is sustainable but the idea of always growing from a gut check doesn't seem to be. The question could be what is the breaking point and what will break?
Those who predicted a "leisure society" back in the 1950s obviously didn't realize Marx predicted the opposite would happen a century earlier.
If you use the same link and look at GDP per capita on that same graph, in 2008 area, productivity started to overtake GDP.
I'll call it the Deal or No Deal irrationality. Essentially, if you go on that show hoping to win $1,000,000 but end up with just $100, you probably feel pretty disappointed. The $999,900 you didn't win ends up eclipsing the fact that you won $100. $100! A free night out with your friends! A nice fancy dinner! Who doesn't want that sort of bonus?!
[I might have accidentally stolen the above example from a Dan Ariely book. If I did then I do apologize]
Now in our society we have competing forces of remaining sociable, watching TV, browsing the Internet, maintaining hobbies, going on vacations, and (as the article notes) trying to work and more more in the process. I mean, I've had to sacrifice watching TV and playing video games just because I need to to have 'more productive leisure.' Board games, lifting weights, going out with friends, and programming are things that I like to do, sure, but that doesn't quite fill in the gap a video game may do in the same way. At the same time I'd like to do more biking and get into other more artistic hobbies, but the time cost to learning is so great and the ROI relative to what I already have on my plate.
"This is the true joy in life, being used for a purpose recognized by yourself as a mighty one. Being a force of nature instead of a feverish, selfish little clod of ailments and grievances, complaining that the world will not devote itself to making you happy. I am of the opinion that my life belongs to the whole community and as long as I live, it is my privilege to do for it what I can. I want to be thoroughly used up when I die, for the harder I work, the more I live. I rejoice in life for its own sake. Life is no brief candle to me. It is a sort of splendid torch which I have got hold of for the moment and I want to make it burn as brightly as possible before handing it on to future generations."
That drive then gets co-mingled with the need for acceptance and competitiveness (also evolution-based). The soccer mom satisfies all those drives concurrently: Improved survival rate for offspring, need for acceptance by a group, competitiveness for resources.
Thanks to evolution, we are pretty much spring-loaded to drive ourselves crazy busy in our 21st century world.
Really, you should do whatever you like, but part of the problem is that our collective winning condition is based on a number that has, after a certain point, little relation to happiness.
Personally, I try to optimize my happiness. I'm not doing that great a job though because I still spend more than 40 hours working a week. I think my ideal would be to spend 25-ish hours at work and the rest on "leisure" activities.
The nobel economist who invented the GNP (predecessor to GDP) even warned that "the welfare of a nation can...scarcely be inferred from a measure of national income". Yet here we are 80 some odd years later and it seems the only thing that matters for a nation is GDP growth and the only thing that matters for a person is salary.
Those are nice things to track, but they don't tell you anything about the welfare and happiness of people. Trying to optimize GDP/earnings growth is almost entirely the reason the US doesn't have universal health care, or a higher minimum wage, or mandated child-care leave or vacation leave, etc. We're too scared that it might impact a number without any regard to the actual humans who have to slave away in misery* to attain it. We need to recalibrate our winning conditions to something more, well, humane.
* - misery is mostly hyperbole, fwiw
 - leisure activities for me would be a side business, cycling, hiking, gardening/farming, but they could really be anything.
 - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Simon_Kuznets
Meditation does. As does therapy. And drugs.
These can move our "normal range" of happiness. Most other things, Haidt argues, will temporarily bump our happiness up or down, but we quickly revert to our normal range.
Some things that generally don't affect our happiness in the long term according to Haidt: The amount of time we work or spend on leisure activities. Major health problems that are not degenerative (heart attack, losing your legs). Winning the lottery. Getting that big raise at work.
The reason, it seems, is that we adapt very quickly. Winning the lottery will make us very happy for a short while, but without a lot of discipline we've shortly adapted to our new-found wealth and the needle goes back down to our "normal range". Losing your legs will make you depressed for a while, but soon we adapt and the needle springs back up. Getting a raise is great for a month or three, but then we're used to it and looking forward to the next one.
As long as things are steadily getting better, we are mostly happy. If they are steadily getting worse, we are mostly unhappy. Even seemingly earth-shattering events that totally changes our lives only tends to affect most people for a while.
This does explain some of the obsession with GDP: It is a proxy for growth, and ongoing growth is associated with happiness. But as point out, optimizing for GDP can happen at the cost of negatively affecting other things that are also associated with happiness, and the net result is not necessarily all that great.
An interesting aspect of Haidt's claims is that we should not aim for a too rapid improvement if they make further improvements harder. That is, it's better to get a steady 3% increase in salary, than 50% now, and then nothing for many years. If you do get that 50% raise (or a huge exit), it is better not just for your finances but for your happiness to invest most of it, and slowly increase your spending over time.
My guess is the freedom to try new things would be a way to maintain or improve ones happiness. There are a ton of things I wish I had time to do/learn/experience, but the general trend of society is to chase the dollar through "steady" work.
You can make the choice--either live an extravagent lifestyle and remain busy, or live modestly for a decade or less and then do whatever the fuck you want 24 hours a day.
Going without a fancy car and electronics isn't the same thing as "doing whatever the fuck I want."
For me, I consider myself frugal in a sense. I don't have hardly any material wants and I try hard not to buy much of anything. I don't want a fancy car, I went for a cheap efficient one. I basically don't have any wish to keep buying "stuff." I don't care what anyone thinks of me because I don't have good "stuff." I drove a beat up car FOREVER even when everyone made fun of me for it.
What I do is I spend my money on fun. Taking weekend trips at least once a month for example as something that costs money or going out with my friends. I'm not frugal in that sense, but it is what I choose to spend my money on. I try to do things cheap as possible. I have plenty of money and way more than I need even with these expenditures because I don't acquire "stuff" or want or need a big house for all my "stuff."
In all honesty from what I noticed just from the people I know that the "I'm so busy" people are the same people who are running on the hedonistic treadmill faster and faster.
I also enjoy fishing, which really only has startup costs for a rod/reel combo and some accessories (or a found stick and a hook on a line). After that, I can find bait in the garden, to my wife's dismay.
Anyway, the point is fun is really what you make of it. As they say, some of the best things in life are free.
I don't believe in any type of extreme frugality, though I do plan on increasing my spending to the 100k/year range by retirement at 35. I'm saving more now because each additional dollar saved now means a lot more than money saved later, plus since I work, I honestly just don't have time to enjoy large expenditures right now, but I will in retirement.
The progress doesn't necessarily prefer better standard of living.
It is possible to make a business out of being idle, although I suspect Tom and Victoria are quite busy really.
I think it's just an out growth of our evolution. I mean throughout human history we've had to be 'busy' to survive. Now there is a small historical ripple in that pattern where we empirically don't have to adhere to the same ethic to survive, but it's still ingrained into us from our history.
Contrary to computer science you can be right AND wrong.
Huh? There are loads of other ways to make money. Write some software for example. Or if you are the government then print some.
The rest of that time is spent acquiring and maintaining social status.
Under corporatism, you don't get a leisure society. You get total disenfranchisement of those who lose in (increasingly noisy and degenerate, over time) political tussles and end up with "the wrong kind" of resume, and a frenetic but wasteful contest in which those who are still in contention beat the piss out of each other to make themselves eligible for the (dwindling) supply of real projects.
When you have such a large number of people with nothing better to do but jockey for social status, you have a lot of cheap labor and it's easy to assign pointless grunt work that doesn't need to be done, and that does little for a person's career or general employability-- and people will do it.
That, above, is what happened. Also, read nlawalker's post, because (s?)he nailed it.
Average American watches 5 hours of TV per day: http://www.nydailynews.com/life-style/average-american-watch....
Perhaps people spend more time at work then they used to, but while not at work they spend way less time working on things like mowing the lawn, cooking, washing clothes, ETC.
Women blaming men for them being too busy need to weight their options IMO. If you are too busy, quit your job and stay home. To maintain the quality of life that existed while Keynes wrote this book, a single income is often adequate. It's not worth killing yourself over.
I think what much of what explains the wealth gap is free trade and illegal immigration. We import everything from China today. We would not allow these sweat-shops in our country with children working in dangerous conditions for pennies an hour. We wouldn't allow it here, but we do support it by buying these products. This breaks the whole premise that Keynes was basing his predictions on (Illegal immigrant employment as well). People can get rich paying illegal workers almost nothing, or importing a product from China and marking up it's price by 8-10x.
This throws things out of the balance that he envisioned.
US employers make it hard for professionals to work part-time and hard for those who do to get promoted, so it's probably better to have one partner focus solely on gaining income and the other taking care of the household. AIUI the evidence is that both men and women are happier when they adopt the traditional roles than when they reverse or try to balance them.
And strangely its not OK that the man knows how to relax, minimizes extraneous work and does a sufficient job...
Hits a nerve for me if you can't tell.
EDIT: and for anyone hating on the fact that I used the word "Feminism", keep in mind it has "misguided" in front of it. I am referring to feminism that aims to go beyond equality and simply wants to gather unlimited power for women (and oftentimes for all minorities), irrespective of where the pendulum of power currently lies.
Taking the man who is biologically programmed (via evolution or creation) to be the leader, head decision maker, and breadwinner essentially switching him into the minority power role because he is not the primary breadwinner? How could that ever hurt a marriage? How could that ever make his wife respect him less?
Taking the women and putting her in roles of abstract logic and non emotional decision making against her nature? how could that ever cause stress for her. How could sending her kids off each day to be raised by a day care provider ever cause her guilt or grief due partly to her in-built nurturing instincts/programming? How could she avoid hating her husband for not being the mother that he should be?
How could any of this negatively affect society today and for future generations? That would be obscene. Just look at the positives of where we are today... Emmm better get a microscope.
I don't blame feminists for their beliefs, I blame men (past and present). If men would have respected and taken care of their wife's and daughters the way they should have, they would have been happy, fulfilled, and never started rebelling and trying to turn against men and even against nature itself.
By the way, that's the naturalistic fallacy you're pushing, and it's horseshit. Horseshit you have elaborated into a self-justifying worldview. You might ask what's so wrong with your life that you need to spend your time like this.