Why saying you are busy is limiting you

by Liz Benson

It doesn’t matter who you ask, if you ask someone how they are, they will more often than not respond that they are busy. It’s so common now that it’s almost considered a default answer.

But how does saying ‘busy’ impact you?

Today, many people see wearing a cloak of busyness like a status symbol. Rush, rush, see how important I am.

The reality is that for people listening and watching your busyness that’s simply not how it comes across.

Being busy is not a status symbol, it’s a time management issue.

From a career perspective

People I have worked with over the years who constantly say they are busy are not given opportunities to get ahead and they don’t realise this is why.

If you are already telling people that you are busy then what you are really telling them is that you are not able to accept new opportunities and that you don’t have the capacity to learn or change.

It damages your reputation as you don’t look like you have got it together. Unfortunately running around being ‘busy’ often makes you look and sound scattered.

What does being constantly busy (as opposed to occasionally busy when something huge is happening) say about your time management and delegation skills?

From a relationship perspective

Constantly saying you are busy implies you think you are more important than other people, that what you are so ‘busy’ doing puts you a cut above. It closes people off from sharing with you, including you in their challenges or inviting you to join them in activities.

How do your kids or partner feel about sharing or asking for time with you if they know how busy you are?

How can you change this?

Working parents are usually genuinely busy, don’t get me wrong. I totally get that, I’m writing this at 7am on Sunday morning in my PJs while my family is asleep, I know busy and I know overwhelming! I just don’t identify as busy.

A few years ago I consciously decided that when people asked how I was I would never say busy. It’s shockingly easy to say you are well rather than busy. And even if prompted, people often actually say ‘are you busy?’, or ‘you must be busy’ that I now aim to respond with things like, “I’m having fun” or “there’s lot of great opportunities at the moment”. Responding this way is more positively framed.

The reality is we all have the same 24 hours in a day, and the same number of days in a week. Time is our most precious commodity. We can’t save it, make more of it or manipulate it in any way, so we have to make decisions about how we spend time.

We also have to consciously decide how we feel about it, and how we communicate with others about it.

There’s absolutely nothing wrong with being hard working, ambitious and having a lot on your plate. That’s not a negative thing, it’s a positive.

Tips for eliminating ‘busy’

  1. When asked how you are, think of a positive response. Sometimes that alone can also help boost your attitude.
  2. Slow your speaking pace. This can help you to sound more in control and calm.
  3. Delegate and outsource where possible so you genuinely feel less busy.
  4. Lists! Create order so you don’t feel like you are carrying the mental load.

As Maya Angelou once said,

“If you don’t like something, change it. If you can’t change it, change your attitude.”

Read our book review of Rushing Women’s Syndrome by Dr Libby Weaver here.