Are You Earning Your Busy Badge?

May 13, 2021

When I run into friends, I ask, "How are you?" I ask because I genuinely want to know how their life is going. And I am astounded (although I shouldn't be) at how often I get, "I'm sooo busy." Of course, they say it like that tells me everything about their life since the last time I saw them, and it tells me nothing about their life. But I really think they think they are telling me everything and that it is absolutely true

Do you wear "busy" like a badge of honor? How often do you automatically respond to "how are you" with "I'm so busy"? What if you responded with, "I'm doing well. I'm happy, enjoying life and the family is great"?

Other than it being an automatic, canned response, have you ever considered why you respond that way? Is it a way of justifying where you are in life?

  • I'm so busy; I haven't been able to prioritize my health and lose weight.
  • I'm so busy; I haven't had time to look for a new job that would be more fulfilling and pay me more.
  • I'm so busy; I haven't had time to organize my home and make it my sanctuary.  

Or is the response the foundation for an excuse?

  • I'm so busy; I can't have lunch with you. 
  • I'm so busy; I can't help you with that fundraiser.
  • I'm so busy; I can't take on that project at work.
  • I'm so busy; I'm always late for appointments.

Have you ever stopped to think about that response and whether it is really true? Or is that just the response you are supposed to give these days?

When someone inquires about your wellbeing, they are really asking about your health or your mental state.  Busy is not an emotional state or a state of being.

So let's look at why you are so "busy."

I'd first offer that you examine how you truly spend your time before you declare yourself busy.  Then, if your day is truly chocked full of activity, think about whether you want to be doing all of the things.

You might feel that you are always busy because you're trying to be all things to all people. And you are not saying no when you want to. It is easier to say yes and put on your martyr cape with the capital B on the back than to choose to say no. You may think that if you say, no you will disappoint someone. But I'm here to tell you that you are not responsible for anyone else's feelings. So, the next time someone asks you to do something that you don't want to do, take a minute and consider the reason you want (or don't want) to do it. If saying yes will add things to your list that you don't want to do, and you are just doing it to please someone else, consider being brave enough to say no.    

You may be "busy" because you are avoiding doing something hard or unpleasant. It is easy to convince yourself that you don't have time for the hard things if you fill that time with a lot of smaller, less important tasks. If you find yourself engrossed in a million little things (or cleaning out your email inbox) when you have something more important to do, stop. Take a minute and think about why you're avoiding the task. Then, consider how you will feel when you have to complete it at the last minute and under pressure. Are you going to beat yourself up for procrastinating and swear you will never wait until the last minute again?

When you are tempted to do "busy work" instead of tackling a challenging or important project, ask yourself the following questions:

  • What am I avoiding, and why?
  • Does this move me towards my goal or towards accomplishing what I need to accomplish?
  • Does it have to be done?
  • Does it have to be done now?
  • Does it have to be done by me?
  • How will I feel later when things are urgent and I have to focus on my project?

Busy does not have to be your way of life. You can be intentional, productive, and relaxed. I work with clients to help them figure out where they are spending their time and why, what they can eliminate from their life, and how to create the life they want intentionally. You can do this, too; it just takes a lot of being honest with yourself and a little time. 

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