I continue to marvel at how busy everyone seems to be these days. Wasn’t all this new technology supposed to make our lives easier? Do any of you feel life is easier today? Or, are you busy and tired ALL the time? My wife has two favorite words – “I’m so tired.” So, I can’t count. Why is she so tired? Why is she so busy? Why are we all so (apparently) busy? Is this a new way of life or do we have some choice in it?
Obviously, we all have certain choices in how we live our lives and allow ourselves to get too busy or tired. Some things are out of our control such as raising a child with learning disabilities, having our own health problems, or dealing with aging parents. These add stresses that we can’t avoid, but we can perhaps manage.
I remember taking a Time Management class long before there were personal computers and smart-phones. Perhaps, we had analog answering machines in those days, but not much else. Pencil and paper and manual or electric typewriters were our tools. Television consisted of three networks and if we wanted to see a movie we had to go to a movie theatre. Oh, and long distance phone calls were expensive and an expensive indulgence. We were busy and tired too, but not to the extreme I feel is going on today!
Yet, then many of us felt overwhelmed with life. Hence, I took that Time Management class and this was before I was married, had kids, or had sick parents. And I thought I was busy then! Looking back, my life was mighty simple then though breaking into showbiz was a continuing challenge that I conquered to a degree. And, that choice of career was as much of a 24/7 job as there was then – and now, for that matter.
My tool of choice for so many years was a handwritten To-Do list. I would write it out by hand every evening. If I completed the list, I’d start another. Since I rarely completed any list, I carried over the undone things – often using the same piece of paper – and added new things to go with the crossed off ones that I’d actually accomplished. When I got to my office each morning, instead of unpacking a laptop or turning on a desktop computer, I simply pulled out my list.
How did I go about doing the tasks on the lists? They usually involved calling business associates, reading scripts, books, or other submissions, and/or replying to correspondence I’d received. No email since everything came by mail. No voicemail of any import, just a secretary or receptionist that would write down a missed call on a duplicate form, putting one copy in my inbox and keeping the other as back up. I’d line up those small pieces of paper and prioritize them.
My secretary would bring in her call log. I’d pencil next to open calls the order in which I’d want her to place the calls for me. Depending on my office configuration at the time, she’d either shout out “Bruce is on line one” or, later, we got this fancy contraption where I’d get a screen sort of notice saying the same thing. Wow, that was high-tech.
That’s my walk down memory lane. Let’s answer the question posed with the title of this column. I think we are busier and more tired today for real. I don’t think it’s anyone looking back and just saying it was easier back in the day, one of our current done-to-death expressions. We are busier today because most everything today is more complicated. We now live in a 24/7-connected world, if we choose. We now cannot trust our public institutions to take care of our kids and we now – not always for the best – don’t give our kids much independence.
The result is that every aspect of our lives is actually more difficult. Again, we all have choices, but we are also living in one, if not the worst, economic times of my life. My generation’s ability to get into college, have a summer job, get internships, and ultimately get employed upon graduation from high school or college was bluntly, easier. Many young boys took shop classes in high school – recognizing they either were not interested or just were not college material – and began making money as a mechanic, plumber, electrician, etc. immediately after getting their diploma.
While I don’t mean to sound like Abe walking six miles in the snow to get to school, I actually went to work immediately after receiving my high school diploma. That afternoon! I worked as a recreation aid at a local elementary school and my shift occurred shortly after our graduation ceremony. Can you imagine a high school grad today doing that instead of the myriad sort of after-school affairs that occur today?
Is there a solution to the hectic nature of life today? For some, yes: for others, it may be harder. If unemployed, the pressure is extreme for any individual or family. Support, in the form of extended family, is less present than in the past. Life is harder and I do fear for my kid’s future in so many ways.
So, instead of saying how much harder I had it – which had been the norm for each generation – I actually think I had it easier than my boys will. I also had and made good luck for myself. No one controls that destiny. My wish is that we all can find more balance in life and learn to turn off at least for a few hours once a week. What do you think?