James Shelley on Busyness

scheduleJune 28, 2019

I have both written about and noted upon the false value of busyness within our societal norms.

One of my favourite independent writers, James Shelley has published an interesting take on the same topic. He cites many references, including one of my favourites, Thorstein Veblen, he of the famous Veblen Goods economic paradox.

James puts a focus on busyness as status symbol:

we need to appear busy because we all know that valuable people are busy people. When we tell others that we are working all the time we are ‘implicitly suggesting that we are sought after, which enhances our perceived status.’

So claiming to ‘be busy’ is virtue signalling our perceived value to the world. It has little to do with the actual work, but the importance of the person to whom the work is attached.

In my articles, I determined that busyness is not a badge of honour, but should be seen as a cry for help. James arrives at a similar conclusion. He explains that busyness should be perceived as one being overcommitted, unclear or unable to prioritise and eliminate.

The alternative to being busy is having clear priorities about what constitutes the highest value, triaged within strict parameters, and then defiantly walking away from everything else that falls below the threshold.

This is not something to be celebrated, so let’s not. We need to find a new definition of personal value. James has a good idea for this, but I’m not going to spoil the surprise. Go read his article and find out what he suggests!