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Recognizing our ever-increasing stress-inducing ‘faff’: Wynen

Faff: ineffectual, overcomplicated, time wasting tasks
Man looking up at the sky in distress with a computer in front of him

I was at uncle/daddy and me drop-in at the children’s centre the other week, a great program for all you dads, uncles and granddads every Saturday 10 a.m. to noon, when an interesting word came up.  Colm, originally from Scotland mentioned it to me. I had never heard it in Canada: “faff.” 

The word came up in one of the many conversations we have about topics as diverse as good whiskey, Trump and the trials and tribulations of being a dad while we keep an eye out for the little ones racing around the playground. We were talking about all the extra items, actions and thoughts we deal with that are just so unnecessary, a waste of time and stress inducing––basically the opposite of keeping life simple. Yeah, I know what you mean, it’s all that faff.

I have been on a somewhat successful journey to eliminate the faff in my life. Partly to eliminate stress, save money and because it just doesn’t bring much happiness to one’s life. In the book, The Happiness Equation, author Neil Pasricha dedicates and entire chapter to removing decision from our daily lives. Decisions come with stress. Routinizing daily tasks can remove a lot of life’s decision making. 

Faff often requires more decision making. 

It is something I speak to my clients quite frequently about: set up your fitness routine on a certain date/time and stick to it. Whatever the time is, Monday, Wednesday and Friday at 8 a.m., exercise at those times. It removes that battle of “should I or shouldn’t I go to the gym today,” the guilt of not going on that day and the nagging in one’s head about getting those three workouts in.  Hey, it’s Tuesday, not my gym day, I don’t have to feel guilty about not going.

The word came up in our conversation when Colm was explaining the benefits of his GPS system on his phone that he uses for commuting on his motorbike. “It lets me know when there is a traffic tie up, which route will get me there faster…” 

I told him this wasn’t for me.  To me it was just another piece of faff, one that requires another set of decisions to be made. If I hit traffic, I’ll deal with it. No big deal. I’m not into figuring out a new route to take; I don’t need the extra stress of making another decision. We all have our ways. Colm wasn’t convinced––I think he will be sticking with his GPS.  

Faff is one of those factors that I think has created so much more stress in our lives, especially during these COVID times. Our routines have been turned upside down. Simple tasks have become complicated, stressful, some to a minor degree, some more major. It has taken some of the fun out of life. At the pub I needed to use an app to get the menu, although they know me well enough to usually bring a paper copy. Simple tasks such as walking into a grocery store have been complicated with arrows pointing in all directions. Finding ferry seats, figuring out where to stand and how to hand merchandise over to the teller have become a chore. At my work clients now have to sign up online for gym visits, pick a time slot, figure out their pass codes, pay online…so much faff.  

I was recently speaking with Bill, an elderly man swimming in our pool. Bill was lamenting the loss of his post-swim hot tub reward, the closed change rooms, the online booking, waiting outside in swim trunks for his designated swim time and the need to plan his recreational activities in advance instead of just showing up. “Rob, it’s all work now.”

Faff is increasing at an incredible rate in our society as is stress and anxiety. It makes people irritable, wastes time and knocks us off course. Shopping is less enjoyable, focusing on what is important becomes more difficult and it just isn’t fun. As Bill succinctly put it, life has become more work. Sad when we already see our work consume so much more of our lives than a generation ago. 

In these times you would think we could all do with a bit more simplicity in our lives, the opposite seems to be happening. One wonders if this will be the “new norm.” As we increasingly put in place measures to deal with our new reality, we would be wise to keep in mind the importance of fun, relaxation and reducing stress whenever we can.  We need to recognize faff, ensure it is really needed and recognize that it does create extra stress.