I live in London, or at least used to until I moved to 'Greater London'. I've learnt a lot about people whilst being here and that's not really surprising, I'm a people watcher and there are a lot of them. One of the things most people will learn about Londoners is that they are always busy. Except that they're not, most people aren't, they just think they are.
One of the best displays of the 'busyness' can be found 20 meters, or so, underground in the metro system that carries 1bn people a year. Here you'll see London folk cling to precious minutes of their time as if defusing a bomb in a cheesy action movie. Watch the crowds as trains enter the platform. The clock shows another train in 1 minute and then another 2 minutes after, yet people will sardine themselves into the smallest of spaces, often delaying trains. I regularly stand and wait for two trains to go past and have a very high journey to seat ratio. My commute lasts 10 minutes longer at most and I don't have to rub my face in a sweaty pit in to reach work.
When doors on the train open, herds of Gazelle-like commuters leap out and sprint up the stairs, to be a few precious seconds ahead at the ticket gate. And then you've got the platform runners. It doesn't matter how long the train has been standing there, these folks sprint down the platform. More often than not they run past 2 or 3 empty carriages before throwing themselves through the door as the closing sound beeps. At Leytonstone station I always chuckle as people sprint from platform 1 to 2 in order to get on the 1 minute earlier train in the same direction.
It's not just underground that us urbanites go mad though and I've plenty of examples. On holiday in KL I found out it's customary to press the door close button in a lift, even if trapping people outside and in some cases people in London force bus doors open at red lights so they can get off 20 meters sooner.
Sure, some of these people may be late for important appointments, but I can't help thinking that if you're late by 9 minutes you may as well be late by 10. Or at least learn to schedule better.
But people rushing isn't what's driving me mad today, it's people claiming busyness.
"How was your week?" is the default Sunday morning question people seem to ask. "Busy!" is the default reply. Next time someone says that ask them what they got up to. So often they reply with vague comments about work. Does no-one have a quiet day at work anymore?
Often it's not even work. "oh, well I met up with the girls for brunch, then Thursday had a birthday party to go to". "Oh woe is you!" is what I yearn to reply. Why has being social become a chore? If you've got a pint in your hand, you're not busy. End of.
But people aren't stupid. They must know they are over filling diaries or over dramatising them. From what I can see people are all desperate to sound like they have no time to live. For a small few it's genuine, but I'm convinced that for most it's not.
There is an old-school culture of busyness that needs stamping out. You're not amazing for sleeping under your desk at work, I'm not impressed by your commitment. Your foolishly putting work above your health and wellbeing. "I only sleep for 3 hours a night", "you're an idiot, you need sleep to function" - science.
I don't know if it's a macho thing? But it seems that so It's so 90's to claim "sleep is for the weak" and you'll die early for living that way.
Right across the world people are waking up to a work-life balance. Learning to manage energy and not time. Three day working weeks are back, and this time it's good for the economy. Ask Carlos Slim, world's 3rd richest man who just moved his staff to 3 days work at the same pay.
The truth is that we need to all slow down. Our health demands so. But we can't wait to be forced to by ill health or forward thinking bosses. We'd just fill up the spare time with more 'busyness'. The key to a better work/life balance, I think, lies in you starting to notice how long a day is.
24 hours, 8 for work rest and play. That's 16 football matches of time a day! The premier league played out in it's entirety in less than a month. Except that would be stupid, players and staff need rest a relaxation.
I'm a big fan of a long commute. When I get home I've wound down, there's a clear work and home separation. My flat is a place of joy to me, not just a pit-stop.
So some tips if you're finding yourself always 'busy'.
• Say no to some commitments, you can't go to that party because you're tired!
• Slow down! Walk slower, notice things. Wait for a space on the tube.
• Get up earlier, but spend that time reading or eating breakfast properly.
And most importantly, sleep! You need it, you'll live longer and you'll feel better.
This busy culture needs to end, and if it does then science shows something.
We'll all live longer and prosper.
THIS BLOG WAS FIRST PUBLISHED AT www.digitalgruel.com