No One Cares How Busy You Are

Photo by José Martín Ramírez Carrasco on Unsplash

I know, it’s a brutal, somewhat negative title at a time when frankly, we don’t need anymore negativity. Still, it’s nice to get a healthy dose of realism and hey, I may even throw a laugh or two in here.

But it’s true, no one cares. Not your team, your boss, your kids, partner, pet or parents. It’s not that they don’t care for you, it’s that they don’t care for your busy-ness and it’s *sharp intake of breath* partly your fault.

It is!

You throw around the busy word so often that it’s lost all meaning. You’re so desperately busy and yet you miss deadlines. So busy that you can’t return emails, phone calls or even text messages. So busy that you don’t make time for your own development or to help those around you who need a dose of your wisdom or attention. Too busy to build relationships, resilience or teams.

In a work context, busy shows itself thus:

  • Back-to-back meetings
  • Not making time for breaks
  • Unachievable task lists
  • Not being able to say no.

It also shows itself in the conversations you have with each other. How often does this happen:

Person 1: ‘How are you?’
Person 2: ‘I’m really busy. You?’

There’s a difference between busy and being productive. When you’re productive you do the following things:

  • Only focus on high value activity
  • Ensure there is equal time allocated to relationship building, decisions and task completion
  • Only accept new (priority) work, when other work has been completed or existing initiatives are re-prioritised
  • Build in time for rest, food and water
  • Use technology to support the work that you do, not drain your time or energy.

As Dominick Quartuccio said in a blog in 2018, ‘Being busy feels important. Being busy feels useful. Our biggest mistake is our belief that constant action equals productivity, usefulness and/or importance.’ It doesn’t. It’s your way of saying that you’ve surrendered yourself to cultural norms, haven’t figured out how to say no or else haven’t taken the time to plan your time and how to get the most from it.

Here are some tips to help you be productive not busy and everyone can do some, if not all of them:

  • Only have as many things on your active task list as you have time for the following day
  • Reduce the length of your meetings
  • Only say yes to new work when old work is completed or initiatives are re-prioritised
  • Plan in time for breaks and don’t let anyone use that time (note: you don’t have to apologise for this)
  • Don’t have meetings from 4pm onwards to allow you to finish the day with a flourish and to help you plan for the next day
  • Say no to lower value activity when higher priority tasks are due
  • Decline meetings where people have failed to state what the objectives and outcomes are.

No one cares how busy you are, because it’s become a word that people use without thinking. I haven’t met a person yet who isn’t busy, yet I only know a few who are consistently productive.

What are you doing to reduce your busyness and to start getting sh!t done?!

Best-selling Author of Culture Fix | Keynote Speaker | Facilitator | Devoted Dad | Evertonian | Whisky Lover | Likes to laugh, a lot