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Digital Subscriptions > Psychologies > November 2019 > The last word on… Being busy for busyness’ sake

The last word on… Being busy for busyness’ sake

There’s nothing more satisfying that ticking off all those tasks on our lengthy to-do list, but are we causing more harm than good? Oliver Burkeman investigates

You may be familiar with the little jolt of pleasure that comes from crossing an item off your to-do list – and I know I’m not the only one who goes so far as to add things after they’ve been done, simply for the joy of marking them complete. A harmless eccentricity, I hope, but it points to a real issue: in the modern working world, we act like there’s something inherently good about ‘getting things done’, no matter what they are. If we work late and come home exhausted, we assume that it was a productive day; meanwhile, we judge anyone who works for three hours, then bunks off , as a slacker. But this means we’re constantly at risk of filling our days with our least important tasks, or even totally pointless ‘busywork’ – all for that virtuous feeling of getting things out of the way.

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