I have a real 'thing' about busyness. You know those pet hates that you get about certain things (like people eating really loud, or people who don't thank you for letting them pass in traffic, or just, you know, people)? Busyness and the constructions of busyness is one of my top pet hates.
To give a context - our society is pretty much predicated on people being busy. We're too busy to call family, we're too busy to really pay attention to that email we sent that was meant for one person but then sent to all, we're too busy to stop and smell the roses (or other seasonably applicable plant life). Busyness equals productivity. If we're being productive, we're not being seen as lazy. We're seen as worthwhile, as doing something that must be important, making money and changing the world.
Even at the wonderful TEDx talk over the weekend, there was a speaking session on 'busyness syndrome' (the speakers were women of colour, and did articulate the specific intersectional elements to this - I will link as soon as it's available).
But. I call bullshit.
I'm not calling bullshit on productivity and meaningful work, but I am calling bullshit on the societal pressures that perpetuate busyness as being the 'right' way to 'be' at the moment. We should not designate working life (and home life, however you construct your 'balance') as a kind of 'keeping up with the Joneses'. The amount of times I've heard people competing over their lack of sleep, the ailments they suffer from, and the amount of evenings and weekends taken up with work. I completely understand that work needs to be done at whatever time is convenient for the worker - this is not an attack on those who do work at those times - but rather, it's about the way this is framed, and how this serves to position others.
Throughout the entirety of my PhD, four years worth, I worked no more than 4 weekends. I know that, because they pretty much all happened towards the end, over the last summer. When I started my PhD, and very much throughout, people would tell me how they'd not spent one evening of their whole PhD without working on it in someway. Or that they celebrated after they completed by having their very first weekend off in however long. Hats off to them, I say, but there is no way I personally would be able to keep up that level of work. I have to have breaks. Weekends for me are a sacred space of gardening and sleep and music and reading and all of the crap TV. Even though this was important to me, I still always did (and still, even now) have guilt that I should be working, writing, reading academic work. And it made me feel not good enough, not worthy, not working hard. But actually, I do work bloody hard. I just like to play hard too (check me out on a Friday night listening to Radiohead, drinking tea & playing board games, dream).
Let us be busy how we please, but let us not use this as a way of framing ourselves as better, more hardworking, more productive, than others. Busyness does not always equate to better work.
(funny: I'm sure the overuse of quotations is a pet hate for some, and I very much overused this in my PhD. Damn those post-submission reflections).