Why “crazy busy” is, well, crazy


Dennis Sparks

In a culture that venerates overwork, people internalize crazy hours as the norm.  —James Surowiecki

I have heard people say they are “crazy busy” with a kind of pride that indicated they viewed it as a badge of honor. Exhaustion is viewed as a status symbol, and productivity and self worth become dangerously intertwined.

There are only two things wrong with “crazy busy.”

The first is ‘crazy,” which is self evident. Administrators and teacher leaders who are stressed are toxic. Not only does that stress negatively affect their performance, it infects the emotional lives of others and undermines their performance

The second is “busy.” Many of us—me included—thrive when our lives feel full and rich. We would rather have too much to do than be bored with too little to do.

However, busy also carries with it the possibility that there is no down time in one’s professional or personal lives, that we move from one activity to another without opportunities for restoration or reflection.

So, the next time you hear someone say that he or she is “crazy busy” or some variation of that theme, invite that person into a dialogue about whether that state of affairs is good for them and for others.

And don’t allow “I don’t have choice” to put an easy albeit superficial end to the conversation.

Go deeper, without judgment, to help your colleagues consider the effects of such craziness on themselves, their families, their colleagues, and their students.

What do you do to avoid feeling “crazy busy”?


9 Responses to “Why “crazy busy” is, well, crazy”

  1. 1 Jim KNIGHT June 11, 2014 at 9:13 am

    I’ve come to see boundaries as critically important. I know set aside one day a week to relax. I dedicate significant time to my family at night. I don’t take my iPhone or iPad to dinner or to the bedroom. This means I don’t get back to every email right away, but I’d rather be present to my family and miss an email than the opposite.

  2. 2 Dennis Sparks June 11, 2014 at 9:31 am

    I like the phrase “present to my family,” Jim. Thanks for offering such a “simple” and powerful strategy!

  3. 3 sarasybil June 11, 2014 at 10:15 am

    So true. Thanks for giving us all great food for thought. Particularly appreciate Jim’s comment and your response. Sybil

  4. 5 Jamie June 11, 2014 at 7:18 pm

    When I was a school principal I learned (about 5 years into the job) that staying late to finish this or that was counterproductive. The work took longer to do and by Friday I was worn down and not much good to anyone. I gave myself a cut-off time and created a new habit. Occasionally I’d have a report to write on a weekend morning but learned it went faster and the result was better when I wasn’t trying to do it when I was crazy busy.

  5. 7 Mike Phillips June 11, 2014 at 10:50 pm

    I must admit that I need continuous improvement with this habit. I often reflect on this video from S. Covey’s – 7 Habits, http://youtu.be/KPsLnnAse0A . So today I booked an evening round of golf with a friend and yesterday was family time. Being more introverted, I also like scheduling some “me” time too.

  6. 8 Dennis Sparks June 12, 2014 at 6:43 am

    Congratulations on all of the above, Mike!

  1. 1 Better than Busy | Teaching Your Way Around the World Trackback on September 13, 2014 at 5:34 am

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