Feeling Rushed this Year?

A new calendar year is upon us — with all the new hopes, goals and expectations that we put upon ourselves.

This year, before we get too carried away down our own chosen paths of self-improvement and over-achievement, let us consider how all of our best intentions can make an excellent, if accidental, excuse for the mental disease of what is called “hurry sickness.”

This refers to the common malaise where a person always feels short of time, tends to perform every task as quickly and efficiently as possible, and/or gets flustered whenever encountering any kind of delay. “Hurry sickness” was coined in the 1950s when scientists were researching personality types and came up with the now-classic “Type A personality” definition, a key element of which was a “harrying sense of time urgency.”

This feeling of urgency is not necessarily associated with doing the things that are important. For instance, I know I can feel rushed even going for a walk — as if I must have a destination, or be in a hurry to “get somewhere” … no lollygagging, please (I love that early American word “lollygag”). I can be in a hurry reading, as I rush through a book to achieve completion, i.e. getting to the end of the story. And rushing when I play golf is just terrible for the tempo of my swing! How commonly do we observe people’s hurry to get off of an airplane, so that they can stand by an empty baggage claim that much sooner? How absurd we are to hurry up and wait!

Perhaps we should include in our new resolutions allocating some time to go off the clock. In fact, this is one of the prescribed antidotes to hurry sickness: as you plan each day and look ahead to the week, block out windows of time to simply go off the clock. This might include taking off your watch for an evening or weekend, or deliberately enjoying daydreaming. When was the last time you set aside time for doodling?

All the spiritual disciplines recommend that you plan silence into your life, a period of meditation. How much healthier and more creative would we be if we allowed ourselves the luxury of listening to our bodies, our feelings and intuition? The inspiration of genius arises out of silence.

Afterward, when you evaluate your day, week or month, treat yourself to some rewards for however much you have succeeded in creating a little more of a balance between doing and being, accomplishing work and smelling the roses, being efficient and becoming aware. Good luck!