发布者: 千缘 | 发布时间: 2019-11-28 02:02| 查看数: 388| 评论数: 0|



Few facts about modern life seem more indisputable than how busy everyone seems to be. Across the industrialised world, large numbers of survey respondents tell researchers they’re overburdened with work, at the expense of time with family and friends. And it’s possible that the most overwhelmed people weren’t even asked how they felt: According to one ingenious 2014 study, one major reason people decline to take part in surveys is … that they feel too busy.


You might assume the explanation was straightforward: We feel so much busier these days because we’ve got so much more to do. But you’d be wrong. The total time people are working—whether paid or otherwise—has not increased in Europe or North America in recent decades. Modern parents who worry they’re spending insufficient time with their children spend significantly more of it than those in generations past. “The headline changes over the last 50 years are that women do a whole lot less unpaid work, and a whole lot more paid work, and men do quite a bit less paid work, and a whole lot more unpaid work,” says Jonathan Gershuny, of the Centre for Time Use Research at Oxford University. But “the total amounts of work are pretty much exactly the same.” What’s more, the data also shows that the people who say they’re the busiest generally aren’t.


What’s going on? Part of the answer is simple economics. As economies grow, and the incomes of the better-off have risen over time, time has literally become more valuable: Any given hour is worth more, so we experience more pressure to squeeze in more work. But it’s also a result of the kind of work in which many of us are engaged. In former eras, dominated by farming or manufacturing, labour could certainly be physically punishing—but it obeyed certain limits. You can’t harvest the crops before they’re ready; you can’t make more physical products than the available material allows.


But in the era of what management consultant Peter Drucker called “knowledge work,” that’s changed. We live in an “infinite world,” says Tony Crabbe, author of the book Busy: How to Thrive in a World of Too Much. There are always more incoming emails, more meetings, more things to read, more ideas to follow up—and digital mobile technology means you can easily crank through a few more to-do list items at home, or on holiday, or at the gym. The result, inevitably, is feeling overwhelmed: We’re each finite human beings, with finite energy and abilities, attempting to get through an infinite amount. We feel a social pressure to “do it all,” at work and at home, but that’s not just really difficult; it’s a mathematical impossibility.

但是在这个被管理顾问彼得·德鲁克(现代管理学之父,代表作包括《德鲁克论管理》(Drucker on Management)、《21世纪的管理挑战》(Management Challenges for 21st Century)等)称为“知识型工作”的时代,情况发生了改变。《纷繁世界:游刃有余》一书的作者托尼•克拉布曾说,我们生活在一个“无限的世界”。总会有更多的未读邮件、更多的会议、更多要读的东西、更多要跟进的思想——而数字移动技术意味着你可以在家中、假期或健身房里,轻松地迅速搞定更多待办清单里的事项。其结果难免就变成你总是觉得事情太多:我们每个人都是有限度的凡人,精力和能力都有限,却试图完成无限的事。无论是在工作中还是在家庭中,我们都会感受到要求“全部做完”的社会压力。但这并非仅仅是难以完成的问题,这是一个从数学角度而言不可能完成的任务。

With that kind of time pressure weighing us down, it’s hardly surprising that we live with one eye on the clock. But psychological research demonstrates that this kind of time-awareness actually leads to worse performance. So the ironic consequence of the “busy feeling” is that we handle our to-do lists less well than if we weren’t so rushed.  The economist Sendhil Mullainathan and the behavioural scientist Eldar Shafir describe this as a problem of “cognitive bandwidth”: Feelings of scarcity, whether money or time, prey on (折磨) the mind, thereby impairing decision-making. When you’re busy, you’re more likely to make poor time-management choices—taking on commitments you can’t handle, or prioritising trifling tasks over crucial ones. A vicious spiral kicks in: Your feelings of busyness leave you even busier than before.


Arguably worst of all, this mindset spreads to infect our leisure time—so that even when life finally does permit an hour or two for recuperation (恢复), we end up feeling like that ought to be spent “productively,” too.


“The most pernicious (有害的) thing [is] this tendency we have to apply productivity to realms of life that should, by their very nature, be devoid of that criterion,” argues Maria Popova, who runs the popular ideas blog Brain Pickings. She watched it happen with one of her own hobbies: photography. “In my past life, I walked around everywhere with a professional camera,” she says. “But now the sharing”—the idea that the reason for taking photos is to post them on Facebook or Instagram—“has become its own burden.”


If there’s a solution to the busyness epidemic, other than the universal enforcement of a 21-hour workweek—it may lie in clearly perceiving just how irrational our attitudes have become. Historically, the ultimate symbol of wealth, achievement and social superiority was the freedom not to work: the true badge of honour, as the 19th Century economist Thorstein Veblen put it, was leisure. Now, it’s busyness that has become the indicator of high status. “The best-off in our society are often very busy, and have to be,” says Gershuny. “You ask me, am I busy, and I tell you: ‘Yes, of course I’m busy—because I’m an important person!’”

如果要为这种极为盛行的忙碌病症寻找一种解决方案,除了普遍实施每周21小时的工作制以外,其解决方法可能在于清晰地看到我们这种态度已经变得多么不理性。在历史上,财富、成就和社会优越地位的终极象征就是拥有无需工作的自由:用19世纪经济学家索尔斯坦·维布伦(,美国经济学巨匠、制度经济学鼻祖,代表作为《有闲阶级论》(The Theory of the Leisure Class))的话来讲,真正的荣誉勋章就是“有闲”。而如今,忙碌已经成了崇高地位的指针。“我们社会上最富足的人们通常也是最忙碌的人们,这种忙碌身不由己,”格尔舒尼说道,“你如果问我:‘你忙吗?’我会告诉你:‘是的,我当然很忙——因为我是个重要人物!’”

To see how absurd it is to value sheer activity in this manner, consider a story told by the behavioural economist Dan Ariely, about a locksmith he once met. Early in his career, the locksmith “was just not that good at it: it would take him a really long time to open the door, and he would often break the lock,” Ariely says. Still, people were happy to pay his fee and throw in (额外奉送) a tip. As he got better and faster, though, they complained about the fee, and stopped tipping. You’d think they would value regaining access to their house or car more swiftly. But what they really wanted was to see the locksmith putting in the time and effort—even if it meant a longer wait.


Too often, we take a similar attitude not only to other people, but ourselves: We measure our worth not by the results we achieve, but by how much of our time we spend doing. We live frenetic (狂热的) lives, at least in part, because it makes us feel good about ourselves. To put it mildly (说得婉转些), this makes no sense. Perhaps we’d pause long enough to realise that—if we weren’t so damn busy.



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