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Content Type3
TitleBut I’ve Been So Busy!: Aligning How We Spend Our Time with Our Values

By Mandy Gettler, CASLS Associate Director

We’ve all heard the excuse before and maybe even uttered it once or twice ourselves: “I’m sorry I didn’t get to it. I’ve been so busy!” The first time someone told me this, I empathically understood that even our best laid plans go awry. We lose track of time. Something urgent arises and demands our attention. The second time I heard it, I bristled, but couldn’t articulate why. By the third time, I’d had quite enough. I wanted to know: So busy doing what?

It’s easy to let the day get away from us. Balancing our professional lives with our family lives and social obligations can be challenging. There is always more we could do: give a student more feedback on her final paper, start the second load of laundry, say yes to that game of Monopoly our youngest wants to play, finish the thirty-minute YouTube workout video we started an hour ago, reply to the text our friend sent.

The answer to the “so busy doing what?” question lies in how we choose to prioritize the things we do every day. Pausing to recognize how we spend our time shifts us into a potentially uncomfortable reflection related to our priorities.

Do we want to admit to ourselves that, like most Americans, we spend almost 9 hours sleeping, 3 ½ hours on mobile devices, and five hours watching TV every day (Van Dam and Morath 2016; Koblin 2016; Molla 2017)? Do we consider those activities worthwhile endeavors? And if not, why do we spend so much time doing them? Or are we like 60% of teachers who have two jobs or stay after school to tutor (Kamenetz and Lombardo 2018)?

The stakes for aligning how we spend our time with what we care about are high. What we’re really exploring in this topic of priorities and time is our own happiness.

Nearly forty years of research on happiness demonstrates that “happiness is largely cognitive. It’s a state of mind, not an emotion” (Lambert 2007). While 40-50% of our happiness can be attributed to our genetics, another 40% of happiness is attributed to our daily life experiences (Lambert 2007, Brooks 2013, Allan 2015). How are we shaping those experiences? Do we spend time doing things that bring us pleasure, that enrich our communities, that cultivate our relationships with others? Or do we fritter our time away on activities that we couldn't, when asked directly, truly care less about?

This week’s Activity of the Week invites us to explore how we spend our time and articulate our values before diving into how we can shift the ways in which we spend our time to allow ourselves more opportunities to do the things we love. So we can say, with pride and honesty, “I’m sorry I didn’t get to it. I’ve been so busy raising my children. (Or volunteering in my community. Or giving extra feedback on students’ assignments.)" Because those things match our values. 


Allan, P. (2015, September 14). What Research Says Happiness Really Is. Retrieved from

Brooks, A. C. (2013, December 14). A Formula for Happiness. Retrieved from

Kamenetz, A., & Lombardo, C. (2018, May 2). Unionized Or Not, Teachers Struggle To Make Ends Meet, NPR/Ipsos Poll Finds. Retrieved from

Koblin, J. (2016, June 30). How Much Do We Love TV? Let Us Count the Ways. Retrieved from

Lambert, C. (2007, February). The Science of Happiness. Retrieved from

Molla, R. (2017, October 9). Americans Are Spending More Time on Media Thanks to Multitasking. Retrieved from

Van Dam, A., & Morath, E. (2016, June 24). How Americans spend their time. Retrieved from

SourceCASLS Topic of the Week
Inputdate2018-05-03 21:37:27
Lastmodifieddate2018-07-23 03:54:47
ExpdateNot set
Publishdate2018-07-23 02:15:01
Displaydate2018-07-23 00:00:00