How busy should writers and editors be?

As the December holidays approach, it’s now even easier to fall into a trap of being too busy.

It’s the trap in which “busy” is the default response whenever you ask someone how they’re doing, even if it’s a result of self-imposed deadlines and activities.

Author Tim Kreider most adeptly described this trap in a New York Times opinion piece from 2012:

“Almost everyone I know is busy. They feel anxious and guilty when they aren’t either working or doing something to promote their work. They’re busy because of their own ambition or drive or anxiety, because they’re addicted to busyness and dread what they might have to face in its absence.”

Smartphones no longer just keep us tethered to the office; they also keep us chained to organizations we volunteer for, our kids’ sports teams and the neighborhood book club. The result is a “pretense of indispensability” in our professional and personal lives.

According to Kreider:

“More and more people in this country no longer make or do anything tangible; if your job wasn’t performed by a cat or a boa constrictor in a Richard Scarry book I’m not sure I believe it’s necessary. I can’t help but wonder whether all this histrionic exhaustion isn’t a way of covering up the fact that most of what we do doesn’t matter.”

Here are the jobs performed by cats and boa constrictors in Richard Scarry books:

  • Doctors
  • Nurses
  • Firefighters
  • Police officers
  • Teachers
  • Dentists
  • Plumbers
  • Farmers

Richard Scarry does mention writers: “There are all kinds of writers. The best writers write children’s books.”

I think most of us would agree that these jobs are indispensable—and there are reasons people performing them should be on call 24/7. However, must retail employees be at their stations at 6 p.m. on Thanksgiving?

Must we as writers, editors, and PR pros routinely answer emails from our bosses at 11 p.m.? Should we work late or through lunch because of a perceived demand for our time?

How much of our scurrying in the workplace is the result of the “pretense of indispensability?” PR Daily readers, please take a break and weigh in below.

This post was first published on Ragan Communication’s PR Daily.

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