Not pointing fingers – what works for you, works for you. I had a moment when I was running from one invite to the next where I realized I was not having fun trying to be everywhere I was invited at once. Recently I asked a friend I haven’t seen in months if she wanted to get together and catch up. I envisioned us gabbing over cocktails at a restaurant in the city like old times.
Her reply: “Sure. Why don’t you stop by for 45 minutes to an hour on Monday night around 8:30.” Gee, thanks. But are you sure you can spare the time? Thanks for the time scraps, I feel honored you are squeezing me in – nevermind.
Yes, we’re legitimately busy. We work more than ever even without being in the office. We’re involved parents to active children. Technology soaks up much of the rest of our time. Research even shows we have an aversion to idleness and people who are busy are happier than people who are idle.
Here’s the problem: Most of us aren’t too busy to make time for our loved ones—to return a text or phone call or free up time for satisfying chat. And yet that is the impression we’re giving. When we tell someone we’re too busy to give them more than a few moments of our attention—too busy for a call, meal or a visit—what they hear is this: “I am too busy for you. You don’t matter enough to me.”
The statement “I’m busy” has long been a code—for “I’m feeling overwhelmed” or “life is chaotic.” Our culture discourages people, especially men, from unloading their mood or troubles on others, so we claim to be busy to avoid a discussion.
If you’re overwhelmed, say so. Explain if you’re not comfortable talking about what’s going on in your life. This will help the other person understand that the issue isn’t that he or she isn’t important but rather that you are overwhelmed & struggling to hang on right now. Who knows, they may be able to help.
But now we’re busy bragging about being busy—in conversations, texts and emails, Twitter handles, such as “Busy Mom,” and Facebook posts, such as “After being super busy all day this beautiful sunset slowed me down.” Busy as also an excuse when we drop the ball or simply don’t want to be bothered.
Why are we so proud of being busy? Some think people will think that we’re successful, important and interesting. Well we’re right: Studies by researchers from Columbia Business School, Georgetown University and Harvard Business School, featured in the Harvard Business Review in December, 2016, found busier people are perceived as having a high status.
So what do we do? Banish the word!!
“Never use ‘busy’ as a positive,” says William J. Doherty, a marriage and family therapist and professor of family social science at the University of Minnesota. It has taken on a connotation of virtue, and that is false and misleading, he says.
Schedule less, knowing something will always pop up. “It’s the events and tasks on our schedule that squeeze out time for our family and friends,” says Dr. Doherty. He suggests pruning commitments to make time for friends and family.
Drop the shame. Don’t believe the myth that busy is the opposite of lazy, which we see as bad. “At the end of your life, do you want your tombstone to say: “He was busy”? Doherty asks. Always take time for yourself, think about your schedule and don’t get so busy making a living that you forget to make a life Under Your Brim.