You're not as busy as you think you are. Why our busyness culture needs to change

How are you? Let me guess... 'Busy'.

Busy trying to finish off that extra report you were asked to write for Head Office, plan the weekend away for your big birthday, write that speech you need to give in Shanghai... all while getting five hours of sleep a night.

The Art of Busyness, writes Slate's Hanna Rosin, is to convey 'genuine alarm at the pace of your life ... yet simultaneously make it clear that you are completely on top of your game'. What it seeks to convey is 'I am busier and therefore more sought-after than you.' Busyness has become a status symbol. Even for those who don't want to take part in the game, the 'culture of busy' leads companies to reward over-workers, putting extraordinary pressure on people trying to fit other things into their lives (a family, a side project, a hobby, a life...). And it needs to stop.

In her book, Overwhelmed: Work, Love and Play When No One Has the Time, Brigid Schulte calls this 'the overwhelm'. To be deep in the overwhelm requires not just doing too many things, but doing so many different kinds of things that they all blend into each other and a day has no sense of distinct phases. Researchers call it 'contaminated time,' and women are more susceptible to it than men. Surprised? The first release of 2016 Census data shows that the typical Australian woman spends between five and 14 hours a week doing unpaid domestic work (as opposed to the typical Australian man, who does less than five). And 38.3% of workers say they find it difficult to switch off after work.

The suggested antidote isn't to meditate, or take more holiday, or walk in nature. The answer to feeling oppressively busy is to stop telling yourself that you’re oppressively busy. 'Our consistent insistence that we are busy has created a host of personal and social ills,' writes Rosin. Including 'a conviction that the ideal worker is one who is available at all times.' No one benefits from this, especially women who are already taking on the lion's share of extra, unpaid work. So next time someone asks you how you are, respond with something other than 'busy' or 'flat out' or 'crazy'. Use it as an opportunity to ground yourself and remember what's actually important.