The conversation goes like this:
“Hey! Haven’t talked to you in a while. How are things?”
“Hey! Busy. Really busy.”
And that is it. The conversation kind of stalls and then you probably start talking about some other non-sensical thing like the weather. You don’t even bother asking the other person how they are doing! You know you’ve done it. Hey, I fully admit it; I am guilty of it too. But I ask this of all of us…
Please stop it.
Brené Brown, professor at the University of Houston and famed Ted-Talk speaker was interviewed in a 2012 Washington Post article about the topic of being busy. She actually calls it “crazy-busy.” Brown said, “‘Crazy-busy’ is a great armor, it’s a great way for numbing. What a lot of us do is that we stay so busy, and so out in front of our life, that the truth of how we’re feeling and what we really need can’t catch up with us.” Basically what she’s saying is that we do this to ourselves, give ourselves so much to do, work ridiculously late hours, “encourage” our kids into extra curricular activities and check emails at 3am because if we don’t, the fear of getting behind is almost paralyzing. As a result we then become disconnected with the people around us.
I completely agree with her observations. Corporate America has created a culture where if you are not putting in 60 hour plus work weeks then you are not working hard enough. If the boss sends out an email at 3am about changes to the 7am staff meeting that you have to present at, then you are left scrambling to prepare on time. It is not a healthy environment and people are burning out. But while this form of “busy” is pervasive in our culture, I’d like to provide another theory behind your busy life.
You’re Not Busy At All
It’s not that I’m calling you a liar (sort of), but I just don’t believe that you’re being honest with yourself or with others. I believe that “busy,” in our business or in or personal lives, is code for “I don’t want to tell you what is really going on.” How much unimportant crap have you done today? This week? How many hours have you spent on Facebook looking at the junk in your newsfeed? I bet you’ve even looked away from this piece once already because someone sent you a Facebook message! OK. Maybe you do have a lot on your plate. Maybe you had a lot of projects to complete that week. I’m not saying that we can’t work hard on our business. But if you really think about it, like really really think about it, I don’t believe that our lives are as busy as we’d like to think they are. This is coming from a work-from-home, self-employed mother of two whose children are at home with her ten hours a day, five days a week. Believe me, I get it. But are you truly that bogged down, that suffocated by your work and your to-do list (I’ll talk about that to-do list in my next post) that you honestly don’t have time for others? Are you that afraid to be honest with people when they ask how your day or week has been?
Busy Is Not a Status Symbol
Somewhere along the way we got it into our heads that being busy made us more important, as if my life mattered more than yours. Actual research has been done on this topic. One Harvard Business School study suggested that being busy at work is shorthand for inferring a higher status of themselves. How did we get to this point?! I would argue that a lot of it has to do with the constant connectivity of our lives. Mobile phones, smart devices, social media…our world, our lives and the lives of others are at the tips of our fingers. People go to very great lengths to project a certain lifestyle on social media, a perfectly manicured picture of how they want their life to look, but not actually how their life truly is. I, for one, am a little over this and I really wish that it would stop.
Let’s Be Honest
Instead of saying you’re busy all the time, why not actually give people an honest answer. What is wrong with saying, “I’m doing really well!” And then talk about the things you have going on in your business or life. Be proud of yourself! Or god forbid we open up about the opposite, “you know, I’m not doing that well at all.” Letting people in elicits genuine responses, and I truly believe that if we do not open ourselves up to honesty then we cannot be effective, authentic business owners.
Professor Brown is right. It is a defense mechanism, a way to numb out parts of our life that we don’t want to share. Instead of hiding behind these realities, let us instead be honest with our accomplishments and our failures. And the next time someone asks you how you are doing, for goodness sake, don’t forget to ask them the same thing in return.
Latest posts by Anne Schmidt (see all)
- Why I Hate To-Do Lists - July 19, 2015
- The Pay to Play Reality of Social Media | There is No More Free Lunch - July 3, 2015
- Stop Saying You Are Busy - June 11, 2015