I’ll attempt to make this a short post, because you’re busy, and I’m busy too. Really busy. It’s one of the primary ways we let people know we are important. Because if we aren’t busy then we aren’t important, right?
I’ve found that the most productive and successful people I’ve ever met are busy, but you wouldn’t know it. They find time that others don’t. And while you may not get much of their time, when you do you get undivided attention. They are fully present and maximize every moment of the interaction. No multi-tasking because that’s as bad as blowing you off all together.
For most of us, we waste time. We invest our precious time on things that we shouldn’t. And that means we have less hours to invest wisely, on things that do matter. That might be improving our professional skills, pursuing a tremendous business opportunity, investing in a hobby, or simply spending more time with the people we love.
Why do most of us waste time and then make every attempt to express to others how busy we are? Because as a society we’ve come to glorify busy. We’ve all been tricked into believing that if we are busy we are important. But that’s not true.
Busy isn’t cool. In fact, BUSY IS THE NEW STUPID.
Being busy makes us hurried, creates short-sightedness, expands blind spots, increases careless mistakes and results in missed opportunities that we can’t get back. Busyness creates more woulda, coulda and shoulda than anything else in our life – which ultimately leads to regret. And regret sucks.
Regret for the things we did can be tempered by time; it is regret for the things we did not do that is inconsolable.
– Sydney J. Harris
So the next time you find yourself apologetically telling someone that you would liked to have met them, responded to them, or just acknowledged their existence but couldn’t because you’ve been so busy, consider the REAL message(s) you’re sending them:
- My time is more important than yours.
- I’m not very good at prioritizing my time.
- I want you to judge me based on how busy I am, not how productive I am.
- You aren’t a priority, or at least what you want to speak with me about isn’t a priority.
I spoke to a colleague (thanks Greg Roche) about this very issue and how we might avoid glorifying our busyness and the importance we place on it. The world is in perpetual do-more-with-less mode and that means it’s easy for all of us to fall into the trap of becoming busy. Just speak to someone a generation or two older than you to confirm that the world moves much faster than it used to, and that the pace of change continues to increase with each passing day, month and year. Well, my colleague offered me a simple suggestion on how to curb my personal glorification of busy when interacting with family, friends and colleagues.
Instead of using “I’ve been busy” as an excuse for your lack of responsiveness, instead simply say “it’s not a priority for me”.
Because that’s what you’re really saying.
Doing so will definitely set the cat amidst the pigeons and cause you to reflect heavily on whether you should have prioritized differently! To opt instead for the mainstream response of apologizing and saying your busy is just plain weak, and probably constitutes a little white lie. Because you could have chosen not to invest the last two hours catching up on email or sitting in worthless meetings. Because you could have chosen not to watch the last episode of Game of Thrones, or not taken that walk to play Pokemon Go and capture two more fictitious characters. You get the picture.
I’ve started to adopt this practice and it’s highlighted for me the importance of prioritizing my time, and not using the excuse that I’ve been too busy. Telling someone straight up that they aren’t a priority is a lot harder. Saying “it isn’t a priority” also doesn’t glorify your busyness and imply that your time is more valuable than theirs.
Try it out and see if it drives different behavior from you – it certainly has for me.