You Are Never Too Busy – Get Over Yourself

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There have been a few blog posts over the last year where people have brought up the subject of being busy.

A couple of posts stood out for me or at least comments in those posts did. One was by The HRD on his blog before he retired (unfortunately he was so prolific I can’t find it) and more recently by Mervyn Dinnen on his blog post The Busy Brigade

It got me thinking of the use of the word and how irritating it is or some people are who use it or abuse it.

Isn’t the use of the word “BUSY” overused and all too often misused?

It seems to me to be so commonly used now that people rarely give a thought to it. Don’t we often ask friends and colleagues how they are only to have “busy” given as a stock response? Usually with an exasperated tone or sigh, as if they want me to feel sorry for them. Yet we didn’t ask them what their workload was like, did we? As if we’re interested!

It seems to have taken on subliminal meanings all of its own now, with people using it to convey that they are over worked, working harder than me or that they are so busy they must be or sadly want to appear important. When I hear it, I hear a moan and an insult now. Many people I speak with seem to think that being busy is a bad thing.

Being busy is a good thing, a very good thing, besides I am paid to be busy. If you run your own business it is what will make it a success.

I’m expected to be busy. It is the minimum expectation and accepted level of being, if employed and have a job to do. I am not paid to sit on my arse and do nothing am I? And I wouldn’t want to be either. I have in the past worked with people who made an art of looking busy by moving stacks of paper from one side of the desk to another.

Let’s face it “busy” is a relative term and a state of mind. It is relative to an ability to manage time and priorities, which if done properly gives a level of satisfaction about the work being done, work completed and the work still to be done.

I’ve always got work/tasks to do and stuff to get done, does that make me busy? Well of course it does, but that’s normal and expected and so natural that it is not worth commenting on. It’s like asking me how I am and I reply “standing” or “sitting”. So time to get over yourselves.

So next time someone asks you how you are remember they are not asking about your workload, they are asking about your wellbeing, so your answer should be “fine thanks” or “good thanks” if you prefer, just not “busy” because I promise you –

You are never too busy


You are never as busy as the person you are about to speak with.


Having come from a sales background these are two phrases I have used to keep perspective and respect the people I am dealing with. Please try it. It does change the attitude to “busy”.

  1. At the risk of sticking my head in the lion’s mouth, I’m going to disagree. 🙂 And then stir things up by making this into a gender thing.

    Firstly, on a personal level I am regularly too busy. And it’s not because I’m big and important. It’s because I’m a control freak, who (a) likes what she does too much (b) struggles to say no to requests and (c) usually thinks things will be better if she does them myself. It’s all in my head – but it means that I regularly have to work long hours to meet the commitments I artificially create for myself.

    Leaving the nutters aside for a moment, there is another group who are genuinely busy: Working Mums.

    These women are astonishing. I genuinely have no idea how they do it. Balancing a full time job (or running their own businesses) with the demands of raising a family, and in most cases (sorry chaps) being the main housekeeper. So many Mums tell me that they have to treat their lives as a military operation in order to stop it spiralling into chaos. These women are definitely busy. And I’m not going to be the one telling them to get over themselves.

    Like anything in life, it’s about choices. You decide your own destiny – or at least how you choose to handle it.

    • Points well made Katie.

      I recognise that people are busy but that is either BAU and expected or if too busy it’s a personal time management issue or for you a personal preference, a preference which I tend to have too! I like it like that and have the same control issues, although am learning to delegate and trust far more.

      As for your second point, I deliberately stayed clear of that because I too recognise that home makers and working parents (it is not just mums) are respected as having the toughest of all jobs. Working single parents toughest of all I suggest. Therefore how do they feel when someone casually says to them “I’m so busy”? That would be an insult surely!

      But my post isn’t focusing on who it applies to; it’s about the casual assumption that people have that they are busier than others if and when asked and the lack of respect it seems to convey, and by saying they are busy it excuses them from things

      Two examples – I used to work with a person who was always ‘too’ busy to chat or to join a meeting and would make plenty of noise about it, yet would be carrying the smallest workload in the teams.
      Recently an MD of a company made an appointment to see me and had to move it once, tried to move it a second time and turned up late. Using the excuse that he as so busy, moving offices, wife had a baby three earlier etc. as if that made any difference to me and my schedule on the day.

    • Pete
    • October 25th, 2011

    Well yes. I tend to see “being busy” these days more as a control phrase – where even socially amongst friends, a pal can be “busy” – I take this to mean you’re not important enough and they need to determine if their spare time is of a value such that they can meet you for a coffee, for example.

    It’s riddled with bad selfish and controlling energy this phrase is these days, whats worse, we’re all so connected these days you get it instantly in your pocket.

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