Have our minds become so numbed by the distractions, tasks and challenges of our over stimulated and overwhelmed culture that the only way we can describe the work we are doing, our actions, our lives is busy?
In one of my Busy? What are you busy doing? workshops last week I asked the team what came to mind when people tell you how busy they are? There were responses of ‘it’s annoying, I wonder what they are busy doing, we’re all busy and it’s a response I expect.’ These are quite common responses together with the pressure that is felt to tell people how busy you are when asked the question of how are you? It seems we have to use this busy language to prove that we are successful, to prove our value and our worth. We have created the ‘busy culture’ and there is enormous pressure to fit in or run the risk of being seen as unsuccessful.
Do you know what busy actually means? It may mean something significant in your mind but here are some definitions:
Adjective – having a great deal to do
Verb – keep oneself occupied
So what we are saying when we respond with busy is effectively “Hello, I have a great deal to do” or “Hello, I am occupied”. Does that make any sense to you and are you any wiser as to what that actually means?
During a discussion in the workshop, a participant, who is French, stated he fell into the ‘Australian culture of busy’ and was telling his friends and family back home that he was busy when asked how he was or how work was going. They questioned him as to what that means. He realized he had no way of translating this, as it has no meaning in the French language. If you translate busy into French, Italian or Spanish as examples it all means ‘Occupied’.
This is what we are saying to people when we’re asked how we are or how work/business is going. You’re occupied. You spend your days being occupied? A toilet cubicle can be occupied. This means nothing other than you’re doing something…
Very simply, busy is lazy language. We’ve fallen into this trap of using this word to explain everything we’re doing. We’re busy at work, we’re busy at home, we’re busy on the phone, we’re busy with the kids, we’re busy in our minds…we’re too busy to exercise, we’re too busy to catch up with family and friends, we’re too busy to sleep, we’re too busy to return calls or emails…….we’re just so busy. But as you can see it means nothing. It is bland, beige and has become really bloody boring.
But what else do you say? What will people think if you say something other than busy? I get asked this question all the time. My response to this is what are you actually doing? Are you doing great work with awesome clients? Are you working on a really exciting project that’s coming together? Are you working through a few challenges? Are you building an empowered team to take your business to the next level? Are you spending quality time with your loved ones? Are you being a strong role model to your children by teaching them or reading with them? Are you working on a strategy to future proof your business? Are you being productive, efficient, effective, a great leader…what are you actually doing?
We have been given these incredible minds that we are not using. You have a real opportunity to stand out and make an impact simply by spending some time explaining what you are doing, rather than fitting in and saying your busy. Watch people eyes widen in surprise if you say you’re not busy but rather you’re working on building your business and attracting great clients to you. Why would you want to hide behind the busy word? Don’t you want to be known for something more than being busy?
The danger of this lazy thinking and language is we can often believe we are busy but not understand what we are busy doing and before long, the status quo has taken hold. Relevant and influential leaders cannot and do not use this word. Its certainly not a word that has influence, it’s not positive nor does it inspire others to be better. It simply encourages others to be lazy too and hide behind the busy word. And before long, you have a problem.
So I challenge you to stop saying this word, stop hiding behind it and stop using it as an excuse. Stand out and be different and break this busy culture, which is effectively empty and means nothing much at all. You’re better than that.