I did make a conscious decision, a long time ago, to choose time over money, since you can always make more money. And I’ve always understood that the best investment of my limited time on earth is to spend it with people I love. Tim Kreider, Lazy: A Manifesto


“I hate a short working week”, said no one ever.

I just read We Learn Nothing by Tim Kreider, an essayist and cartoonist for The New York Times and the New Yorker. And it is excellent. Among the many topics covered in the book, there’s a fabulous chapter titled Lazy: A Manifesto.

In this chapter, Tim writes about the affliction of busyness in America in the 21st century, which applies equally here, and I suspect most major cities of the world. How it has become the default response when you ask anyone how they’re doing: “Busy!” As Tim accurately points out, the response often disguised as a complaint, is also a bit of a boast. And our stock standard response along the lines of “Better than the opposite.” is really a form of congratulations, that serves to underline the importance of having busyness in our lives.

Tim describes this busyness as a “distinctly upscale affliction”. Notice that the people who are working 3 jobs just to make ends meet, pulling back to back shifts in a hospital or caring after elderly parents don’t need to tell you how busy they are. Because they aren’t busy – they are dead tired.

Busy, on the other hand, is a word used by people whose busyness is voluntary – whether it be work or social obligations that they have chosen to take on, classes and activities they have decided their kids should participate in. People who are busy because of their own ambition or drive or anxiety or because they fear what they might have to face in the absence of busy.

Tim argues that idleness is as “indispensable to the brain as vitamin D is to the body, and deprived of it we suffer a mental affliction as disfiguring as rickets.  The space and quiet that idleness provides is a necessary condition for standing back from life and seeing it whole, for making unexpected connections and waiting for the wild summer lightning strikes of inspiration – it is, paradoxically, necessary to getting any work done.”

So as we head into this luxurious long weekend, instead of filling up the white spaces with activities, chores and social obligations – do nothing. If that’s too much of a stretch for you right now – do less. Look at how much you usually do, and do less than that. This may mean you naturally end up choosing the more essential things to do, but it’s possible that you won’t, and you might end up choosing whatever is easy or convenient or fun. That’s OK. Go with that.

Once you start doing less than you were before, try to do even less than you were doing above. Pare it down even more. See if some things really aren’t as necessary as you thought they were. Maybe delegate some things to others, automate some tasks, pause or delay others, and maybe even get out of doing certain things by saying “I’m sorry, I can’t do as much as I originally planned.”

Because in the end, to quote Tim,

…it’s possible I’ll lie on my deathbed regretting that I didn’t work harder, write more, and say everything I had to say, but I think what I’ll really wish is that I could have one more round of Delanceys with Nick, another long late-night talk with Lauren, one last good hard laugh with Harold.  Life is too short to be busy.



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