What’s the matter with being so busy? 2 invitations to Skype

The Question

Why are we so busy all the time, and why do we valorize busyness in some cases despite feeling overwhelmed by it in others?

The Proposal

Two proposals, as a matter of fact, both of which are centered on the problem of busyness.

1st Proposal: “Skype Walk-ins.” I’d like to try setting aside ~1 hour a week when someone can “walk-in,” have a philosophical conversation with me over Skype, and feel as though he/she has gotten some philosophical clarity. I’d like to start off, though, with sign-ups. I’m setting the fee at $25 per session.

Interested? Scroll down to the “Logistics” section below.

2nd Proposal: “Skype Workshop.” I’d like to try running a roughly 1.5 hr. workshop with 5 people over Skype. I’ll start off with a roughly 30 min. talk about busyness and then we’ll have a 30-45 min. discussion (who knows how long?) afterward. I’m setting the fee at $10/person.

Interested? Scroll down to the “Logistics” section below.

The Occasion

I read 2 items in the news recently that were very disturbing. Journalists at Mother Jones report that many employees are going through a “great speedup”: they’re being asked to be more productive per unit of time and to work longer hours throughout the week. In effect, they’re being asked (told!) to do the job of 2-3 people. As you might expect, workers at these companies report to being very busy: too much work, no more pay, and too little time for life otherwise (family, leisure, reading, contemplation, etc.).

The second item is just as disheartening. In The New York Times this past weekend, there was a feature about mid-20-somethings and 30-somethings who were working 3 or 4 part-time jobs in order to make ends meet. The problem was that, together, the part-time jobs added up to 80 hours a week (so more than a full-time job actually), did not amount to that much pay, and (obviously) didn’t come with any benefits. More frightening, young persons’ solution to the problem of a collapsing job market is only making it more difficult for them to think about what a more genuine, more sustainable solution could look like. And oh are they busy!

The Puzzle

We seem to be very confused about the nature of good work.

On the one hand, we often describe good work in terms of being busy. We say that we were “productive,” that we “got a lot of work done today,” and we feel a sense of pride when we say this. But is good work the same thing as being productive? And is the experience of meaningful work the same thing as the experience of being busy? I doubt it.

On the other hand, we also describe being overworked in terms of being busy. Overwhelmed and stressed out, we make our excuses and cancel our plans. We go to therapy and complain to friends. We get nasty with our kids.

How can it be that peaks and valleys of work seem to be conceptualized in the language of busyness? Something ain’t right. Is it possible to get off this conceptual seesaw? I think so. And can we take time for ourselves in order to think seriously about our lives? I hope so.

My Reasons

Why try out “Skype Walk-ins” and “Skype Workshops?” For many reasons, the foremost being that I’m trying to bring philosophy back into the public sphere and into our homes. Second, I’m saddened by our current forms of education, and I’m committed to creating macro- and micro-forms of alternative education. Third, I’m looking for meaningful ways to work with more people and to express my gratitude for my life, a life that feels blessed. And, fourth, I’m trying to see whether emergent forms of technology can actually create tactile, face-to-face, intimate experiences rather than the outsourced, thinned-out ones we’ve come to expect from social media and online forums.

Like much in life, this is an experiment, a conjecture, an invitation. Care to join me?

Logistics

If you’re interested in trying things out, then please fill in the Contact Form with the following:

  • Name, contact info, & Skype Name.
  • A thing or two about yourself and about the bugbear of busyness.
  • Preference for “Walk-in” or “Workshop” or both.
  • If “Walk-in,” indicate whether you’re free this Thursday evening (6/30) or this Saturday afternoon/evening (7/2). **Let’s see whether we can schedule something during these busy times!**
  • If “Workshop,”  indicate your general availability, i.e., the days when you’re generally free.

A note about the “Workshop”: It will only run provided that 1) 5 people sign-up & 2) the July 11 deadline sign-up (2 weeks from now) is met. If 1) and 2) are met, then the Skype Workshop will run some time after July 11, hopefully mid-July.

Requirements

  1. That you have a Skype account. Very easy to set one up if you don’t have one already.
  2. That you have a PayPal account. Also easy to set up.

I’ll have a header running at the top of my daily blog to keep you posted about availability and such. Feel free to forward this post to friends and neighbors who might also be interested.

Finally, I want to thank all those who’ve been reading regularly and who’ve told me, in so many ways, how much my writing has meant to them. It means a lot.

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