Stop saying you’re busy

by Jamie Flinchbaugh on 08-08-16

How are you?” someone would ask. “Busy” was my natural response.

But over 100s of repeated responses, it seemed insufficient to describe just how busy I felt. So the response would vary from “very busy” to “extremely busy” to “a bit overwhelmed at the moment.”

Was I looking for pity, or trying to impress people with all the things on my plate? Neither of those were productive. Was it a competition? Was I indicating that I am busier than you? That can’t be productive either. But the problem wasn’t about how my response was perceived, but how I was perceiving it.

I was programming myself to proudly relish my busyness, having more on my plate than I could handle, which resulted in, by definition, an inability to get it all done effectively or timely. Certainly, this was nothing to be proud of. So sometime about 18 months ago, I vowed to stop saying I’m busy.

Of course not saying you’re busy and not behaving like you are busy are two different things. So I continue to work on my personal mindset and work habits to not work like a busy person, flitting about from task to task with no time in between to determine if it’s the next task, like a busy little bee.

I will share more on my work habits to avoid that “busy” feeling in the future, but in the meantime, here is a useful article to help you think about it: Six reasons you’d be happier if you stopped saying “busy”. My favorite is #3:

It is a choice. When I complain about how busy I am, it is as if someone put all these things on my plate without my approval. When in fact, I make my life the way it is. I chose to be in school. I chose to work three jobs. I chose to pack my weeks with plans and travel whenever possible. The question is: Is it all worth it? If it is, be grateful and proud of everything you do. If it’s not, make a change.

How are you?“…”Focused“.

  • yes, as a co-founder at a start-up this is something I think about too. There’s always something more to do on the to-do list so the only way I’ve found that offers some mental health is to time-box my work. Decide how much time I’m going to work in a day, prioritize activities, then start with the most important. So, not busy so much as working or not working. Then I can feel more in control.

    Tom Hussey August 8, 2016 at 6:33 am
  • The term “busy” can be construed in a number of ways and can be interpreted by others in various ways too.
    For instance if you were to observe an expert guitar player or banjo player in full swing on a lively tune you would think his activity was of a busy nature perhaps. However, there are many positions in the workplace where repetitive activities that look “busy” to the outside observer are in fact being done with the swiftest of thought. Like the “muscle memory” of the banjo or guitar player the mind and body are extraordinary things. We should be keen to be aware of our colleagues actual “perceived” busi-ness as opposed to their full potentials not being realised within a role.

    Anna McCarthy November 2, 2016 at 5:46 am

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