Why we’re proud of our hectic, exhausting lives


We complain about being busy and always on the go, but actually like it that way. (Sarah L. Voisin/The Washington Post)

Here’s a look at five ideas that impact the way we live, work and play.

1. Being busy, the status symbol. While I’d love to see some innovations to slow down the frenetic pace of modern life, here’s an argument that deep down we want nothing to change. Via Brigid Schulte:

Somewhere around the end of the 20th century, busyness became not just a way of life but a badge of honor. And life, sociologists say, became an exhausting everydayathon. People now tell pollsters that they’re too busy to register to vote, too busy to date, to make friends outside the office, to take a vacation, to sleep, to have sex. As for multitasking, one 2012 survey found that 38 million Americans shop on their smartphones while sitting on the toilet. …

“If you’re busy, you’re important. You’re leading a full and worthy life,” professor Ann Burnett says. Keeping up with the Joneses used to be about money, cars and homes. Now, she explains, “if you’re not as busy as the Joneses, you’d better get cracking.”

2. The changing face of scientific research. Via The New York Times:

American science, long a source of national power and pride, is increasingly becoming a private enterprise.

In Washington, budget cuts have left the nation’s research complex reeling. Labs are closing. Scientists are being laid off. Projects are being put on the shelf, especially in the risky, freewheeling realm of basic research. Yet from Silicon Valley to Wall Street, science philanthropy is hot, as many of the richest Americans seek to reinvent themselves as patrons of social progress through science research.

3. Never buy a new car, and think twice before even buying one. It’s long been assumed that you can’t function in our world without owning a car. But as populations shift to cities where public transit is common and so much is walkable, cars are less necessary. Personally, I’ve found I can get everywhere I need to get in Washington, D.C. and beyond with a combination of my bike, public transit and car services such as Car2Go and UberX. Via The Wall Street Journal:

If you’re driving 15,000 miles a year—not uncommon for an American worker—in a midsize sedan such as a Toyota Camry or Ford Fusion, you’ll spend more than $760 a month on average, or $9,150 a year, on gas, maintenance, tires, full-coverage insurance, license and registration costs, depreciation and finance charges. … Buying a car new is a losing bet.

“The single biggest expense is depreciation—and that’s probably far and away the most overlooked cost of vehicle ownership,” says Mr. Calkins.

Cars depreciate at different rates, but generally, “in the first year it’s going to depreciate by roughly 20 percent,” says Ron Montoya, consumer-advice editor with Edmunds.com in Santa Monica, Calif.

4. The importance of how we think, as taught through chess. Here’s a great story of a teacher helping her students reach heights that seemed unattainable. Via Farnam Street:

Most of us probably think that Spiegel was teaching the kids chess. Of course she often passed along specific chess knowledge: how to weigh the comparative value of moves, etc. “But most of the time,” [Paul] Tough writes, “it struck me whenever I watched (Elizabeth Spiegel) at work, what she was really doing was far simpler, and also far more complicated: she was teaching her students a new way to think.”

5. A start-up that promises your e-mails won’t be ignored. Introducing Rebump:

Rebump sends friendly follow-up messages to your email recipients for you. These automated emails are customized to appear as if you sent the email yourself. You can track and analyze all of your follow-up emails with your Rebump account.

Matt McFarland is the editor of Innovations. He's always looking for the next big thing. You can find him on Twitter and Facebook.
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Matt McFarland | March 17