too-busyI would bet that while you are reading this, you are working on a paper, Facebook or Twitter is open in another tab and music is playing in the background.

I’m right, aren’t I? And if I’m not, what I just described is probably a common occurrence. I know it is for me.

Doing many things at the same time probably seems “productive,” but in reality it takes longer to accomplish anything when your attention is divided among a handful of tasks.

Productivity is highly valued in American culture. There are only 24 hours in the day, so we better make the most of them. I know the drive to be productive all too well. I’ve worked two jobs, juggled 18 credit hours and struggled to fit in a social life. I made it work, but I was not balancing it well. I felt guilty when I was spending too much time away from schoolwork, weekends did not provide the relaxation I needed and I was not happy. I do not recommend this schedule.

Aside from productivity, work is also highly valued in our culture. When you meet someone new, what you do for a living (or what you are studying) is one of the first pieces of information that is shared. As Americans, we spend so much time at work that it becomes a large part of our identities. I think this poses an additional challenge for those who are unemployed because they are no longer able to define themselves by what they do every day between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m.

In countries like Sweden and Norway, workweeks are shorter and employees are given more vacation time. Male workers are offered paid paternity leave, which does not exist in the United States. Cultures such as these place a higher value on community, family and relationships.

In the work-oriented culture of the United States, relationships are put on the back burner. I think the busy schedules by which we abide are negatively impacting our relationships. Time spent with friends happens less frequently, and when we do sit down with friends, it is hard not to be preoccupied with everything that has to be done later on. With all the distractions around us and within us, it is more difficult to be present in the current moment.

Additionally, I think it is much harder to see God when we are busy. I know for me, my mind flits from one thing to the next — from what emails I have to send to what meals I want to eat the next day. It is hard to pay attention to how God is working in my life because I am not looking for it. I do not think it is a coincidence that a lot of people see God in nature. Being around nature is peaceful, quiet and calming — such a different experience from the everyday

hustle and bustle. Retreats are also valuable times to slow down and take a break from the normal routine. In that quiet time, we give ourselves the opportunity to really listen to our hearts and to the voice of God in our lives.

Going home for breaks is interesting for me. My mom thinks it is weird that I can’t sit still when I am home. “You don’t always have to be doing something,” she says. Having an abundance of free time is so contrary to the lifestyle I am used to living at Xavier that it takes me a few days to adjust to it at home. This restlessness shows me that sometimes I forget how to relax and that taking breaks is very necessary.

I think allowing yourself leisure time is the best thing you can do for yourself. Taking a little bit of time every day to do something that has nothing to do with school, work or clubs is what keeps me sane. Learning a hobby, making crafts, going for a walk and reading for fun are all great examples of ways you can “do nothing.”

So make time for that nap. Go on that walk because it is a beautiful (cold) day outside. And when you are ready to come back to work, I’m willing to bet it will be easier because you are happier and more focused.

15079_747499945261196_1738815133_nJessica Nekl is a senior social work major from Cleveland (and proud of it)! She also has her own blog called The Bold Hope Movement at http://www.boldhopeinaction.blogspot.com