I thought this deserved its own section because it is such a unique concept. One of the other articles I read from the website (yes, you may laugh), The Art of Manliness, discussed the idea of shadow work (Shadow Work and the Rise of Middle-Class Serfdom). Essentially, what they say is that, with the advent of internet and transportation, we have taken on a lot of tasks normally reserved for other people, which ultimately increases our busyness. It used to be that someone else had to book travel stuff for you, but now we have the option to spend dozens of hours in research online trying to find the best deals.
We used to go to the doctor if we had something wrong with us – now we spend hours on the internet trying to search for a solution ourselves or make sure the doctor’s recommendation is the best one.
We used to read the newspaper in the morning and go to work, content we knew what was going on in the world. Now, if there is breaking news and someone mentions it to you within five minutes and you haven’t heard of it, then you are not only behind the times, you might not be doing your job well (especially as an analyst). It’s called information overload, which I will probably mention again.
“Rather than experiencing long, unbroken stretches of time in which we concentrate on completing tasks for a single role in our lives, we are constantly changing the hats we wear — toggling from husband to cashier, office worker to news editor, father to travel agent.”
Anyway, it’s not necessarily bad that we do all these things – it is just another choice we have made on how we are spending our time, is how it was explained.
It also leads to what is called decision fatigue. According to more than one article I came across, as humans we can only make so many decisions before we become too tired to choose anymore, which then leads to us choosing instead to watch tv or spend time on our phones – mindless activities.
In other words, one reason we become exhausted is because every day, every hour, we are making decisions about what we want to do, how we want to do it, even things as mundane as whether we check our phones, what we might be forgetting to do, etc.
The authors in the article discussing this put it in a way that resonated with me:
I think it gets to the heart of why people feel overworked, worn out, and harried — why they just can’t be bothered to be civil or to socialize or to have hobbies, even though on paper they don’t seem to have that much going on. The stuff that’s eating away at their willpower aren’t the things you’d put in a planner, but the overlooked shadow work in the wings.
So, the question becomes, what to do about it? Well, the article has lots of suggestions, but I think some of the most useful and ones I’ve been slowly trying to implement are: Be ruthless in filtering information. Basically, don’t try to read everything, and don’t read crap. There is too much information to process.
And secondly – and perhaps what I think is most useful – is to be “satisficer rather than a maximizer” – in other words, when making decisions, don’t weigh every single option – speaking of things like buying things – pick the first thing you are happy with and assume you made the right decision. I’m terrible at that. I like measuring every single thing before I purchase and I sometimes spend hours on that. I really need to do better on that. It is probably one of the things that sucks away my time.
Hey, look at that – progress!