Doing more

Was her life harder than ours? Easier? Or both?

Was her life harder than ours? Easier? Or both?
“Housework” by Jonas Heiska [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

“…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.

This post was first published seven years ago today. The original post, comments and photo are linked, along with two other related posts, below. These links to related posts, and their thumbnail photos, do not appear in the blog feed; they are only visible when viewing the individual posts by clicking on each one. I have no idea why, nor do I know how they choose the related posts. That’s just the way WordPress does things.

4 Comments

  1. mike c

    And then there are the time sucking phones..-which i am now stuck too, also.
    After recent shootings of Uvalde, North Point and Buffalo to name a few- I find myself walking a dark road of despair. I see no hope for this land, no answers and i only have questions. I used to think things might get better someday. Not anymore.

    • Mike, I tend to feel pessimistic too, but not just about the shootings. I think they are just one symptom of what happens when God is removed from culture. Everyone is nihilistic and therefore, gives in to destructive impulses, disregarding others completely. Judges 17:6 and 21:25. Also Ecclesiastes 8:11.

  2. Good morning, Julia!
    I had been thinking that the reason I seem to have no spare time was due to a mathematical quandary of life, that each day is shirts than the last due to our age and perceptible. For example, for a five-year-old, one year is 1/5th of their life, but for a ten-year-old, a year is half as long, 1/10th of their total life experience. So now each day is really a little smaller percentage of my life than yesterday…..
    But, now that you mention it, I am probably spending too much time on maintaining too many activities, possessions, hobbies, relationships, and the list goes on.
    Every do often I clean out my closet, but I probably need to do a bigger dive-in-and-sort-out!
    Well, I know I’ll still need to make time to Defeat Despair with you. That’s one activity that certainly isn’t draining my life away!
    By the way, I do some hand-washing, too, but could certainly reuse more clothing between washings (at least during winter!)

    • Yes, many have talked about that mathematical formula– in fact, we’ve talked about it here on the blog and even in person, probably– but in reality there probably are many reasons why time speeds up. More distractions, more memories on our brain’s “hard drive” and the compressing of past years into phases that seem much shorter looking back than they felt like at the time (such as the 4 or more years it takes to get that first college degree). Every day, I seem to add more tasks to the list of “busy work I can survive without doing, at least not yet or not as perfectly as I used to.” Works for me!

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