Doing more“…look for ways [that] devices or media may be making specific tasks easier or faster but at the same time making your work and life harder.” — Alex Soojung-Kim Pang
“There’s no question that labor-saving devices save labor. But they also manufacture labor. The washing machine and the dryer don’t save time if you end up doing more washing.” — Ruth Schwartz Cowan
Let’s talk about expectations. Is it my imagination, or do they mostly trend upward? Specifically, do we increasingly “need” to do more, have more, excel more and achieve more to feel content?
It would seem that greater efficiency would make our lives easier, but it’s more complicated than that. In his interesting book The Distraction Addiction, Pang discusses how Jevon’s paradox applies to more than energy consumption. When availability and/or efficiency increase, so do expectations, offsetting any potential decrease in expenditure of limited resources.
When you get a raise or other additional income, do you save 100% of it? I’m guessing not. In fact, I don’t know anyone who does that, and I’m not saying we should. But if we keep adding more and more to our already abundant collection of possessions, experiences and expectations, we don’t need to wonder why we end up feeling stressed and slightly crazy. As it turns out, more is never enough, yet paradoxically, it’s also too much.
Do you do more laundry than you would if you had to do it by hand? Do you ever buy a new appliance or piece of equipment and then feel guilty for not using it enough (in other words, for not spending more of your already limited time with it)? Did getting a cell phone make you feel obligated to leave it on and be interrupted by non-urgent calls and texts throughout your waking hours? Why?
Today, I invite you to join me in taking Pang’s advice. What aspects of your life are actually being made more difficult by things that were supposed to enhance your time, sanity and happiness? I don’t know the ultimate answer of what to do about it, but I think it’s a question worth asking. Feel free to share your own hints, tips and coping strategies in the comments below…but only if you have the time, can do it easily, and want to join the discussion.