“Hurry Sickness” and the Perils of Multitasking

I’ll start with a question from several readers of this column: Is it possible to be a ‘rush-a-holic?’

The term implies an ‘addiction’ to rushing. Is it possible that someone would actually enjoy rushing?

It’s probably not rushing itself that holds the appeal. For some, it’s the thrill of a deadline. Some people love the sense of urgency created by a deadline.

When some people procrastinate, it’s not that they want to put things off so much as create a crisis. They don’t want a disaster so much as a sense of urgency created by the need to get something done in a hurry.

I’ve seen this happen with people when they retire. Several bored and retired people have told me things like, ‘I postpone doing things so I won’t run out of things to do.’ Others who are bored describe the same feeling.

Out of context, you’ll see ‘rush-a-holics’ complaining about being hurried, but the rushing actually serves a purpose (however subconscious). The compulsion to put off and then rush isn’t always because of boredom. Some people believe that, ‘I do better under pressure.’ This feeds the compulsion to put things off since, supposedly, faster means better.

A physiological and emotional ‘high’ might result from hurrying. It’s like the thrill of the competition, the chase, almost like a compulsive gambler experiences. Does this mean you necessarily do perform better under pressure? Probably not. It stands to reason that deliberately, rationally spaced out goal-setting and implementation will beat last minute rushing any day of the week. But emotionally, and perhaps subconsciously, many rushers continue to believe that ‘I work better under pressure.’ So the behavioral pattern stands.

One self-help website calls it ‘hurry sickness.’  And it can have an interesting origin. ‘Many people with hurry-sickness have an intense fear of rejection. Trying to please everyone by rushing to meet others’ needs contributes to this problem. For example, if you must make all appointments on time, you may have an excessive need to please others. While it is important to be on time for most appointments, not all require a do-or-die attitude. Rushing though traffic, risking life and limb, to get to an appointment for which you will be a few minutes late can actually create more problems.’ [Source: PsychologyNet.org, ‘Are you always too rushed?’]

I’ve heard of people who never fully commit to any social engagement when they’re invited. Their friends come to accept, ‘Well if she makes it, she makes it; if she doesn’t, she doesn’t.’ Is this rudeness? Probably not intentionally. Most often you’re dealing with a person who overcommits by saying ‘yes’ to everything, because of an irrational fear of turning people down.

This leads to another common rationalization for rush-a-holism, or hurry sickness. It’s called multitasking. ‘I’m a multitasker’ is the excuse some people give for constantly being in a hurry. In reality, it’s a combination of poor judgment or weak organizational skills, topped by a tendency to overcommit.

I like the definition a friend of mine gives multitasking: ‘Doing a whole lot of things at the same time—none of them well.

A suburban myth has spread that women’s brains are inherently suited for multitasking, something men cannot understand. Probably closer to the truth is the theory that women are more likely to say ‘yes’ when they mean ‘no,’ and more likely to worry about hurting others’ feelings or turning them down. As a result, they end up with more to do, fueling the rationalization for ‘multitasking.’ Men or women can be guilty of it, and not all women are.

We can’t blame bad habits or poor choices on our gender. Grow up, people!

So how to solve your rush-a-holism? Go back and read this article again. Examine your mind for errors in thinking or assumptions, such as the ones just described.

And then practice living in the moment. Not for the moment, but in the moment. There’s a difference.

While effective and satisfied human beings are long-range thinkers, it isn’t wise or healthy to always spend your life living 10 minutes, 10 hours or 10 years in the future (or the past).

Stop and smell the roses, as the saying goes. But more than that: Be present and focus in the moment, in the here-and-now. That’s where life gets lived.


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