There's a ritual of the modern workplace - one you've heard and most likely indulged in yourself. It's the call and response we go through when you ask a workmate how they're doing: 'Busy!' 'So busy.' It is pretty obviously a boast disguised as a complaint. And our simultaneously grim and half chuckled reply comes as a kind of congratulation: 'Ha, better than the opposite.' When did we start doing that?
As if he didn't have enough to do, Oliver Burkeman explores this epidemic of busyness to reveal that it may not be what it at first seems. He asks if we are talking ourselves into feeling overwhelmed with busyness and if our problem with busyness is not that we do not have the time but rather we literally do not have the head space. He questions whether people have become addicted to busy, either because it makes them feel like heroes fighting the odds or because problems can be avoided by never sitting still.
Finally, he examines whether the solution to busyness is perhaps not to work harder and organise ourselves but to indulge in a little idleness.
Oliver Burkeman is an award-winning feature writer for the Guardian. He writes a popular weekly column on psychology, ‘This Column Will Change Your Life’, and has reported from London, Washington and New York.
Produced by Peter McManus.
This programme was broadcast on BBC Radio 4 as Oliver Burkeman Is Busy.