Meredith Fineman wrote a brilliant article on HBR blog urging people to stop complaining that they are very busy. Her key point: people are trying to be in the one-upmanship game of trying to show that they are more busy because they are more important.
Fineman has a point and the problem is amplified with social media as people in the above category have found new mouthpieces (Twitter, Facebook etc.) to announce how busy (and hence how important) they are.
Being chronically busy is a problem rather than an asset.
If you think about it, being busy is almost at the opposite end of having autonomy. Remove autonomy and remove power and you are left with “being busy” and having no choice about it.
Here are a few messages (or a combination of them) you might be sending when you announce you are super busy. These are in no particular order.
[Fair warning: This is a tongue-in-cheek list. If you can’t handle subtle humor or you get offended by reading a blog post of any kind, you can skip reading below ]
1. I don’t have time for you but don’t want to directly say it. Let me use the “busy” mask so we don’t make this an awkward conversation
2. I am super smart and hence working on many things ALL at once. But, I don’t know how to manage them well. Hence I am busy.
3. Look Ma.. I am so busy
4. I have no clue on how to automate and outsource. I end up doing everything myself. Hence I am busy
5. People think I can do a lot of things. So they keep piling things on me. I keep taking them on and finally get overwhelmed and hence feel that I am very busy.
6. I am not competent on many areas I am involved with. So it takes me longer to complete the projects and hence i am very busy.
7. I don’t do planning well so generally that ends up keeping me very busy
8. My team is not that competent and they end up reverse-delegating work back to me. I end up doing their work and hence i am super busy
9. I don’t know what I am doing really but not doing anything will scare the hell out of me. I want to escape that feeling so end up doing anything and everything. Hence I am super busy
10. I am not really that busy at all. But every smart person around me seems to be super busy so I am telling everyone that I am super busy too.
11. I have an over-commitment problem leading me to be super busy.
12. I don’t know how to say “No” and end up saying “Yes” to every request even the ones that require me to learn something before executing. Hence I end up being super busy.
13. If my calendar is not full, it freaks me out. I start adding tasks and meetings so that I can avoid real work. Hence I am super busy.
14. Being super busy is super cool I think. Hence I am super busy.
15. I lack estimation skills. I under-estimate the time it takes to complete my projects. Hence I am super busy.
16. I don’t want you to add any more things to my plate. So I am saying I am super busy
17. I want to attend a time management course but I don’t have the time to attend it. Until then, I will be very busy.
18. I am yet to learn how to prioritize what I have signed up for. I procrastinate until it’s too late and hence end up being very busy.
19. Everyone in my company say that they are very busy. That’s what my Manager likes. So I will go with the flow.
20. I don’t know what you will think of me if I say that I am not very busy. Hence I will say I am super busy.
21. I don’t love what I am doing so it looks like a mountain of work. Hence I am busy.
I am sure you can add to this list 🙂