Keele professor awarded prestigious research fellowship

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Professor Clare Holdsworth has been awarded a £152,000 Leverhulme Trust Major Research Fellowship to explore how people cope differently with being busy.

The three-year study, The Social Life of Busyness in an Age of De-acceleration, will explore the diversity of experiences of busyness, including individual differences in experiencing busyness as stressful or therapeutic. It will address the association between being busy and being productive and the extent to which busyness is an expression of time.

Professor Holdsworth will also explore how busyness shapes social relationships and experiences of work, family leisure and the intersections between these. The study will focus on how busyness hinders or promotes productivity, and whether it disrupts activity and creates wealth.

‌Professor Holdsworth said:

“A contemporary dilemma for economists is that global productivity is slowing down. This is a challenge for conventional social acceleration theories which have been formulated during an era of economic growth, yet as the global economy de-accelerates the pace and character of social acceleration may also change. While we might be doing more, this activity does not necessarily translate into economic gain.

“A novel aspect of my proposed interrogation of busyness is that it will explore the association between activity and productivity, and while influenced by theories of social acceleration I will also consider how busyness is conditioned by economic de-acceleration. In directing attention to the social life of busyness I will evaluate how experiences of busyness, including whether being busy is stressful or therapeutic, is conditional on relationship with family, friends and work colleagues.”

Over the three years Professor Holdsworth will be writing a blog to explore the social dimension of busyness. The blog will draw on reviews and applications of ‘self-help’ books that are currently available on time management. She will carry out secondary and primary data analysis of how people at different stages of their life experience busyness.

The research will be developed in collaboration with colleagues at Keele and further afield, including travelling to the University of Melbourne to collaborate with geographer Dr David Bissell.