“Hey Brad! How have you been?”
“Oh man, good, just busy as all hell. Trying to come up for air.”
“Oh, I know just what you mean! I’m so busy, I was out of town 4 of the last 5 days, selling my house, onboarding new clients. I need an assistant.”
“Tell me about it! I need to clone myself to make like 5 slaves.”
“Oh no kidding! I would need to clone myself like 4,300 times just to keep up!”
… and so on and so forth. This is the beginning of almost every conversation amongst entrepreneurs and non-profiteers that I find myself in. I’ve since worked it out of my conversations, as long as I remind myself about it. But I’ve been as guilty as the next person for worshipping the great goddess of busy. It’s a linguistic epidemic, and it needs to stop for the sake of humanity.
The whole conversation of busy one-upmanship has a dynamic awfully reminiscent of “my dad can beat up your dad”. We spend the first 5 minutes of our conversations verbally masturbating to our busy-ness. This part of the conversation is incredibly unproductive. Think about it. What was the last productive thing that happened when you told someone how busy you were? When did you ever tell someone “I can’t believe how busy I am” and they responded with “Really? I am not busy at all, can I help you get some more business?”
We feel like claiming an incredibly busy schedule validates how disorganized and chaotic we are as a professional virtue. If someone starts the conversation discussing how busy they are, we feel compelled to match or best their level of busyness, either to make them feel ok or to make us feel better. We may not even be busy at all. It’s an interesting dynamic. But it’s not what is being said that is important to focus on, it’s what is being implied.
When we put on this show, what we’re really saying is “I’m too disorganized to handle my workload efficiently, and deal poorly with stress”. Essentially, there are only so many hours in a day, but we know exactly how many we’re working with. The truly busy professional won’t have this conversation with you; it’s too unproductive and wastes time. If you were truly busy, you wouldn’t have such liberty for small talk, unless you manage your time poorly. Follow me here? The truly busy professional will get right to business in the conversation, showing a preference for priority that the small talk will not.
Next time you find yourself in this type of conversation, you can avoid engaging in the reciprocation of busy. Or, try this instead “I’m doing great! We’ve brought on some new clients and are very excited about working with them.” Now you’ll be communicating that you have your professional shit together, while remaining positive about your busy-ness without having to lie. Get to working on prioritizing your life better and then you can say “I’m great! Just knocked out a bunch of work and I’m just working on fun stuff for the rest of the week!” How much better does that sound?
Now I have got to get back to work, I’m so freakin’ busy.