Are You Really Busy or Are You Just Saying That?

Photo by Robert Mehlan

I read an interesting article from Harvard Business Review last week. The article was titled, “Please Stop Complaining About How Busy You Are.” The article makes a few interesting points. It suggests that saying, “I’m busy” has become the new cry of the braggart. If you say you are busy, you are saying that business is good, that you are successful, that people are calling for your expertise, or perhaps something else that is positive about you and your work. With so many people answering “How are you?” questions with answers like, “swamped,” “buried” or “drowning,” the true meaning of busy, the article posits, is getting a little lost in the shuffle.

The article also suggests that being busy has become a new excuse for being less social. “Can you go to lunch with me?” “Oh now, I’m way too busy.” Because we are busy, we take our iPads or iPhones or computers with us to lunch or dinner. We put up a sort of invisible wall that signifies, “I’m busy, don’t talk to me.” We have, according to the article, closed ourselves off.

A positive spin?

Let’s talk about a possible positive spin to the “I’m busy” chorus. After going through the “Great Recession,” saying “I’m busy” these days can symbolize the fact that you and your organization made it through those tough years, and that you are now on the upswing. Saying that you’re busy can be shorthand for letting friends and family know that you held on to your job and that you are still flourishing. That can be good news, and saying you’re busy can be a good way to get that point across without coming across, per se, as being a complete self-involved braggart.

What you are telling yourself?

The real question is what you mean when you tell people that you are busy, swamped, drowning, overwhelmed, or whatever verbiage you choose to you use. If you continually talk about how busy you are, for example, the amount of work you need to do can begin to seem insurmountable. All of your focus is on how frantic you are and how you don’t have time, don’t have time, don’t have time.This can increase your anxiety and stress levels, it can impact your sleep patterns, and it can raise your blood pressure.

If you are saying you are busy all of the time because you are thankful, perhaps it would be better to say, “Things are really good.” One hopes that giving that answer to someone would not turn them off, especially if they are a friend or a family member. If you aren’t really busy but are just saying that because it seems to be the trendy thing to do, you need to think about whether you really want to be “busy” and what that means to you. Why do you feel you need to lie about such a thing? Are you really lying? Maybe you are busy, just not frantic.

In the end, being “busy” doesn’t necessarily mean anything. Results, for NPOs, are what really matters. You could be running around like a chicken with its head cut off, but if you aren’t bringing in funds, it doesn’t matter. What we really should be focusing on is how fruitful our “busy-ness” is, because if we are not creating positive results, we won’t remain “busy” for long.

What do you think about our new “busy” culture? Do you catch yourself telling people how  busy you are? We’d love to hear from you!

2 thoughts on “Are You Really Busy or Are You Just Saying That?”

  1. Pingback: Freshening Up a Stale Business Model

  2. HorseSister's Clairese Yuhasz

    I’m busy this morning reading about Charity Navigator’s new matrix for measuring NPO efficiency & tweaking (not twerking) a proposal that made the first round in a grant choice, due tomorrow at noon. The article was cute, and realistic. Organize the day, seize me!

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