Brad Feld

Back to Blog

Have You Fallen Into The Busy Trap?

Jul 01, 2012

Are you “too busy?” When someone asks you how you are doing do you immediately respond with something like “I”m incredibly busy?” If the answer is yes, go read the amazing opinion piece in the NY Times by Tim Kreider titled The ‘Busy’ TrapI’ll wait.

I’ve spent the last month at my house in Keystone in Maker Mode. I’m about to submit the final draft of “Startup Communities: Build An Entrepreneurial Ecosystem In Your City” to my publisher on Thursday. I’m closing two new investments in July. I’m running my 22nd marathon in Missoula in a week after raising $11,487 as a Random Act of Kindness for Justin Salcedo from Devine, TX who has testicular cancer. I’ve stayed on top of the 250 to 500 emails a day I get and have been responsive to all of the companies I’m an investor in.

Sure – I’ve been “busy”, but I don’t feel busy. I wake up each morning without an alarm clock and have found that I’ve been sleeping 9 to 10 hours a night. I’ve spent more time with Amy than I have in a while and as a special bonus get to sleep with her every night. We go out to dinner a few times a week. We’ve watched a bunch of movies (all of the Avenger series, Kill Bill 1 and 2, and a few others.) I’ve read a couple of  books. We’ve had a great time with a few friends who have come up and spent a night or two with us. And I’m in front of my computer a lot.

I’ve been to Boulder twice – once for Big Boulder (for 24 hours) and then last week for two days. Each time I felt ridiculously overstimulated. I was overscheduled, busy all day long running from thing to thing, and without any time and space to think. These trips were the only ones where I used my alarm clock (on my iPhone) to wake up an I ended up with 6 hours of sleep each night. Busy, busy, busy. And in Boulder, a tiny little town of 100,000 people.

When I reflect on these trips, I stayed on top of my work but I wasn’t productive. Or creative. Or particularly happy. Ok – I had fun – I like all my friends and all the people around me, but at my core I felt exhausted at the end of each day. I felt the pressure building up of the things I hadn’t had time to work on. And one these couple of days in Boulder I didn’t feel like I had time and space for anything else.

In contrast, as I sit here on a Sunday morning, I feel free. Amy is out for a hike, I’m going for a two hour run in a little while, and then I’m going to spend the afternoon working on my book. I have inbox zero (four new unread emails have appeared as I wrote this) and nothing is backlogged other than some additional writing I want to do. When I look at my schedule next week, there are a few things on my calendar during my manager hours (1pm – 4pm each day) but they don’t feel oppressive to me. I’m completely relaxed about my Thursday book deadline – totally comfortable that I’ll get there. And I’m excited about running my first marathon since the 50 mile race I did in April.

We are creating the Busy Trap ourselves. I think it’s a way of avoiding our fear of death. If we are in the Busy Trap, we don’t have to spend time alone, or thinking about ourselves, or thinking deeply about the stuff we are interested in. By always being tired and overworked, we get to claim that we are “productive” even if the things we are doing are pointless. We get to prove our worth by being able to declare how busy we are. But, in a lot of cases we aren’t really doing much.

I work hard. I work a lot. And I have in the past month. But I don’t feel “busy”. I don’t feel overwhelmed. I don’t feel oppressed. I feel like I’m doing some of the best work of my life so far. And I’m having a lot of fun.

Have you fallen into The Busy Trap?