“I wanted to figure out how to make my life less hectic,
but I never seemed to have enough time to do it.”
Are you feeling it? Are you tired of it?
I’m talking about the hectic pace of life. Too much to do… and never enough time. Hurry, hurry, hurry. Can’t slow down.
Research has now revealed a disturbing dark side to all this go, go, go… even beyond the physical toll it takes.
In fact, the effects of busyness are actually MUCH WORSE than you think … if you desire a life of greater impact and significance.
Here’s why: It is actually preventing you from living the life you really want.
But, the good news is there are ways to reduce the negative effects. Over the last year I have been experimenting with ways to get off the crazy ride of busyness. I am encouraged by what I have discovered.
Ready to get off the crazy ride? Read on.
Alert! This article is packed with lots of actionable information. But, there is even more that I couldn’t include (then the article would be really, really long).
You can download a Cheat Sheet Summary on how you can transform a hectic life into one with more peace and purpose.
The Invisible, Rampant Sickness
It all started with getting sick.
In 2005, researcher Richard Jolly from the London School of Business and Finance noted an alarming increase in a new pandemic:
Hurry Sickness is a compulsive need to do more and to go faster… even when there’s no real need for urgency.
For example, in one study it was noted how people using a microwave start to look for something else to do if the food is going to take longer than 30 seconds to heat up.
Yep… I’ve done that.
Hurry sickness is the compulsive feeling that you must incessantly hustle or else you will fall further behind, or miss out on something.
Do you have hurry sickness? Just ask yourself–
- How long can you go without checking your phone or looking at email?
- How quickly do you get restless when you have to wait in line?
- Are you skimming this article as quickly as possible, instead of reading it?
Professor Jolly noted in 2015 that 95% of the people he interviewed showed signs of having hurry sickness.
How Your Busy Life is Crippling the Life You Want
Here’s where this problem gets alarming. This sense of urgency is undermining the very priorities and values we embrace.
In a fascinating research study conducted by Princeton University social psychologists John Darley and Dan Batson, the researchers wanted to see the effects on a person who is being hurried.
The unknowing test subjects were conscientious, caring Princeton Seminary students. They were asked to prepare a sermon from the parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:29-37). Then, they would deliver the sermon to their professors for evaluation.
The (Clever) Experiment
The students were brought into a room to prepare their messages. At some point, they were given one of three time impacting instructions:
- A high-hurry condition: “You’re late. They were expecting you a few minutes ago…You’d better hurry. It shouldn’t take but just a minute to get there.”
- An intermediate-hurry condition: “The (studio) assistant is ready for you, so please go right over.”
- A low-hurry condition: “It’ll be a few minutes before they’re ready for you, but you might as well head on over. If you have to wait over there, it shouldn’t be long.”
As each student was heading from the preparation room to the auditorium to present their message, they encountered a ‘victim’ in a deserted area.
This victim (who was part of the experiment) appeared destitute, slumped over and coughing. He was clearly in need of assistance.
Hmm… that sounds coincidentally just like the wounded traveler in the parable of the Good Samaritan.
Here’s the test: the seminarians, who were not only familiar with the story (and the lesson Jesus applied about “loving your neighbor”), they were about to teach it (thus, it was top of mind).
Bottom line: Would the values they know, embrace and be top of mind be impacted by hurry?
The Disturbing Results
- 10% of the students in the high-hurry situation stopped to help the victim. (9 out of 10 ignored/dismissed the need right in front of them).
- 45% of the students in the intermediate-hurry stopped to help. (Note: Even in a moderate rush, over half of the “caring” pastor types did not stop)
- 63% of the students in the low-hurry situations helped the victim.
The researchers concluded—
“A person not in a hurry may stop and offer help to a person in distress. A person in a hurry is likely to keep going.
“Ironically, he is likely to keep going even if he is hurrying to speak on the parable of the Good Samaritan, thus inadvertently confirming the point of the parable.
“Thinking about the Good Samaritan did not increase helping behavior, but being in a hurry decreased it.”
The Deeper Implications This Experiment Reveals
Here’s why this experiment is so troubling to me…
- You can embrace a priority or value (“I want to live this way. This is important to me.”)
- You can even be thinking about that priority or value (Top of mind awareness)
Yet- in the heat of being even moderately rushed- what you affirm (even deeply), can get pushed aside by “the tyranny of the urgent.”
Note: you can also experience the distorting effects from being hungry, being tired, etc. It is worth taking those into consideration separately. However, that is another article for another day.
The effects of hurry can impact so many areas of life. A few of the countless examples include…
- Wanting to lose weight or get fit… yet you end up eating the wrong foods, and not having time to exercise… all because “I don’t have the time.”
- Pursue an important goal you have put off (get your degree, take that class, volunteer at the non-profit, etc.)
- Overcome a bad habit (or start a new one).
- Regularly go on a date with your spouse
- Fill in the blank: a good thing (something really important) that keeps getting putting off or erratically pursued because of time pressure.
I’ve seen this in my own life. I value my family. Really, I do. I want to be “present” with them when I am around them. That means they get my undivided attention.
Yet too many times I am NOT fully there. They only get bits and pieces of my attention… because I am trying to multi-task, and get more stuff done. “Once I get this or that done… then will I give you my full attention!” Uh-huh.
Hurry sickness deceives and hijacks me again.
It’s tragic: what I value, affirm and even seek to prioritize evaporates when I am in a hurry.
Hurry undermines the life I say I want to live.
In an excellent essay on the Princeton experiment, Nagesh Belludi notes that when we feel time pressure…
We experience a phenomenon known as “narrowing of the cognitive map.” That is, we miss details, we are not present enough in the moment to notice what is really important and we do not make the most beneficial choices for ourselves.
Hurry is like a drug that distorts all you hold dear, causing you to become the person you don’t want to be… and you don’t even realize it.
Well, I’m sorry but I don’t want to live like this. I don’t want to look back at my life and regret who I’ve become… and how it has impacted lives around me.
That means I must control (it’s hard to totally eliminate) “hurry” in my life.
So, what can you do?
How to Reduce Hurry & Live the Life You Want
First and foremost, you must be committed to, even “on a mission” to reduce hurry from your life. Half-hearted measures won’t work.
It is kind of like the inertia of gravity. If you aren’t “all in” to get into orbit, it will slowly, inexorably pull you back into its clutches.
The late Dallas Willard put it this way: “You must ruthlessly eliminate hurry from your life.”
Here are the preconditions to seeing progress:
IF — you recognize the impact of hurry on your life and those things you hold dear, AND…
IF — you are committed to ruthlessly eliminating hurry from your life…
… then here are 10 things you can start doing TODAY to combat the hurry, hurry life:
1. Intentionally Add/Create Margin In Your Schedule.
Dr. Richard Swenson in his book Margin prescribes the need to add margin in our lives. Margin is like elbow room in your schedule.
For example, your daily schedule needs to be filled at no more than 80% capacity (leaving 20% margin) since there are always time demands we didn’t anticipate.
It’s why you don’t fill a glass to the very top with Coca Cola. If you do, it will invariably overflow and make a mess.
Just like life.
One thing you can do to give yourself more margin in your daily schedule is to allocate more time for the completion of tasks.
Think something will take 15 minutes? Give yourself 30. Or, if you think you can knock something out in an hour… give yourself 2 hours (or at least 90 minutes).
There is a common phenomenon that research has identified and proven (we ALL suffer from it) called The Planning Fallacy. In our planning for the future, we perennially underestimate how much time, effort, etc. it will take to complete a task.
As you plan your day or your week, add buffer time around your tasks, meetings and other time obligations. They will compensate for time overruns, unforeseen events, and other time sucks.
Like buffer zones around a wildfire, margin will help reduce the likelihood you will get caught up in the hurry, hurry pace caused by an overloaded schedule.
2. Say “No” Often.
One of the reasons we find ourselves being too busy and stressed out is because we too quickly and easily say yes to things (because we hate saying no).
Sometimes you say yes because you are people pleasers and you don’t want to disappoint anyone… even when it is harming you.
<link to an article on how to say no>. If you have a hard time saying no, here’s a good article that will help strengthen your ability to say no when you know you should but feel obligated to say yes.
Other times you say yes to too many things because you don’t want to miss out on anything.
- You want to get our XYZ certification… AND
- You want to attend that cooking class… AND
- You want to remodel that one room in your house… AND
Or, you don’t want your kids to miss out on anything so they are involved in 5 sports, and dance, and science club, and…
Sorry, but you really can’t do it all. You must learn to say no to some things so you can say yes to others.
3. Relax Your Self-Demands.
Sometimes you and I deep down feel compelled to do more because we are trying to prove ourselves. You secretly feel your worth is on the line.
What I have found that helps me in this area is a Bible verse and a quote.
I believe God has created you and me with gifts and a purpose that will make a difference in the lives of others… and make God smile with pride in us. With that understanding, Psalm 139:16 says…
“All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.”
I don’t have to make a name for myself. God already has a plan for me, based on how he made me, that will be used by God to impact the lives of many.
Which leads me to that quote:
“There is enough time every day to do the will of God.”
Every time I start running faster and faster, feeling like it will be the end of the world if I don’t get to this, or finish that, I must remind myself that God’s plan for me is allocated day by day.
There is enough time every day to fulfill my God-given destiny. I don’t have to hustle to keep up with God’s (better) plan for my life.
Just look at the life of Jesus. He NEVER stressed over his schedule. He ALWAYS had time for interruptions.
Bottom line: Relax! The hurry, hurry life is not a requirement to living a full, meaningful life. In fact, it often hinders it.
Want 7 more ideas on how to reduce the effects of hurry on your life? Download the complete cheat sheet —> 10 Ways to Reduce Feeling Hurried & Regain Control of Your Time.
YOUR TURN! What things have you found that help you slow down so you can experience more of life? Leave a comment below. I’d love to hear!