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
Anne Schmidt, I love this post SO MUCH. 😀
P.S. the sheep were a good choice. 😉
Stop Saying You Are Busy http://t.co/O5jQZDCosA via @vividandbrave #banbusy
And sometimes we do it on purpose to escape an unpleasant reality rather confront the underlying issues.
That’s exactly what I wrote about in my piece 😉
I call it the Battle of the Busy. Like saying how busy you are and listing all the reasons why somehow makes you more important than someone else, hence the battle as to who is busier. I know I have been guilty of it but unknowingly (i.e. not saying it to feel more important). And I try to remind myself that yes, some weeks or months are going to be busier than others but I don’t need to keep up that frantic pace all the time.
I went to a villa in Napa with a bunch of startup founders. These weren’t people who were solving cancer, mind you. They just had their own companies.
I left the hot tub after a 20 minute conversation about the best ways to get through email. HI, WE ARE IN NAPA IN A HOT TUB. CAN WE TALK ABOUT ANYTHING ELSE???
I refuse to use my phone at the dinner table, and answer almost no emails on the weekends.
Maybe that’s why I don’t feel I exactly mesh here in Silicon Valley.
Michelle Greer, you & my friend Tara HannahHacker need to talk. The “busy” of San Francisco makes her crazy, and I *KNOW* better than to whip out a mobile device in her presence unless it is for a fast photo and to put it away. Social time is social. LOL
Christine Tremoulet Happy to meet the people who buck the tech borg trend.
I just miss funny people.
Oh Tara? She brings on the funny. In spades.
Michelle Greer – I like to be as present as possible. I guess some people would be worried about “missing out.” I typically end up feeling more relaxed when I have time with friends that doesn’t include having our faces shoved in a screen.(DUDE, Christine Tremoulet there is another effing add for an egg freezing event. The lord is testing me for real.)
Tara HannahHacker Yes, faces in screen = disaster.
What’s hard is that almost every employer I’ve had here expected that. Email threads on the weekend and in the evenings. I had a boss who worked through lunch, so of course, so did her whole team. It drives me nuts, bc they don’t even work that efficiently. They just…work.
Tara. PODCAST. We really MUST make this happen.
YES. What are you doing tonight and Friday night?
Uhm, recording our podcast?
Wait. Not tonight. I’m busy. <– haha! But no, really, I do in fact have an event that I have to be at.
FRIDAY, son, FRIDAY.
Frozen Egg Friday.
I turn 36 next week. Likely going to get some Frozen Egg Friday ads myself.
If I am having quality time with friends I have a strict no phone policy. If they fail at this, I spam their fb wall with ridiculously offensive stuff in retribution. they good now.
“Busy” is not a status symbol. #banbusy http://t.co/O5jQZDCosA via @vividandbrave
“I’m busy” might be someone’s polite way of saying “I have things to do that are boring life maintenance, and I hoping I can get to them.”
Kind of like when someone “asks” “how are you?” You just say “yes”. Because the real answer would take too long and bore you.
Bill Shirley true, and she mentioned that. For most people though, they love to celebrate busy as if it is a great thing.
Let’s stop celebrating busy. #banbusy http://t.co/O5jQZDCosA via @vividandbrave