Busy Time vs. Idle Time

Lately I’ve been thinking about being busy versus being idle. I hate being idle. I’m constantly doing something, even if it’s as mundane as taking out the trash or vacuuming. I get antsy sitting in front of the TV (unless the show is really compelling). I have to actually be doing something.

Even though I like to be busy, I don’t like to multitask. When I was in school, I could never listen to music and write a paper at the same time. I can’t talk on the phone and do anything else at the same time. I read somewhere (I forget where) that it’s been scientifically proven that people cannot multitask successfully, no matter how well they think they can do it. The quality of work on all the tasks goes down.

When I’m “busy,” I’m not multitasking. I’m doing one thing at a time because that’s the only way I’ve ever done things well. It’s like, I’m going to write a paper. After that I might watch some TV. Or IM some friends. Not all of those things at once. It doesn’t feel right to me when I’m doing two things and not giving my full attention to either.

Society doesn’t like idleness, but sometimes all we need is a little bit of idle time in order to recharge. I may not like to be idle, but sometimes it’s necessary to just sit and not do anything for a while. Sometimes we need to sit in front of the TV and let our minds slide away from reality. Sometimes we need to just sit down with our headphones in, listen to music, and not do much else.

I think we need to train ourselves to slow down and be idle sometimes.

20 thoughts on “Busy Time vs. Idle Time

  1. Being idle drives me crazy too. I don’t like sitting in front of the t.v. unless I’ve got a notebook in my lap, or some other project. I do listen to music when I write, or do anything else for that matter, and I have since I was like, ten years old.

    I could easily write a school paper and listen to music, though maybe the quality did go down, I don’t know.

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    1. It’s rare when I can write a paper and listen to music at the same time… it depends on how hard the paper is and how much I really need to concentrate.

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  2. I often listen to music to help me concentrate when there are distractions around me.

    What I can’t imagine is how people get things done when the internet is available. I have a friend who just finished a novel, very methodically working through a series of drafts, and he’s also on Facebook every five minutes. I don’t see how he does it.

    Me, I have to write on a computer that isn’t on the net, or (most often) on paper.

    I guess that’s why he’s a pro and I’m not. 🙂

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    1. If I get on the Internet while I’m writing, I run the risk of getting badly sidetracked, unless it’s a good day and I’m so involved in the writing that I forget the Internet exists.

      People who can “multitask” like that amaze me, too.

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  3. I have to doodle when listening to a lecture, but not when listening live to someone who is funny or animated and totally capturing my attention. But I have to write without any distractions. As a musician, listening to music I end up analyzing the piece, seeing the music in my head etc. I can’t seem to just listen and enjoy it for what it is.

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    1. I doodle while I’m on the phone. It’s a terrible habit because I’m not really focused on what the other person’s saying.

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    2. I’m the same way about music (used to be a musician — retired now). I can only work to music that I know really well, that sort of fades into the background. I can’t get anything done if I’m listening to music that I don’t know.

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  4. I’m a terrible multi-tasker. There was one time when I was cooking a stir fry and I was chopping onions whilst the oil was on and completely forgot about the oil! Luckily someone came in to yell at me :P. I completely agree with you about needing to sit down and do nothing for a while, I try and do that every so often.

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  5. I don’t like to be idle, either, so I’m always coming up with some sort of project to keep me busy. Like making maps or writing blog posts – things like that. I don’t get a lot of sleep because of it, so maybe I need to take your advice, and calm down with it sometimes. Thanks!

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  6. I generally have a news program on while I’m cleaning, and I listen to music when I’m writing. Both of those are my way of occupying one part of my mind while another part is doing something else. What works for one person won’t always work for someone else.

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  7. I too can’t think of idling even for a minute as I feel I will lose another valuable minute from my life. But we people could never relax because our consciences keep on pricking us. Good suggestion to such people (like me) Let me learn the art of idling.

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