Being busy is an excuse

One of the phrases that bothers me the most at work is this:

“I’m so busy.”

There are a few reasons this bothers me:

  1. Being busy is an excuse. It is an excuse for people to not do their work (I can’t, I’m too busy”). It is an excuse to procrastinate (“I’m too busy to get anything done today, so I’ll put it off”). This is pure laziness! Being busy is an excuse for people not to prioritize their time.
  2. Being busy does not give you permission to not focus on your work. Because you are busy and tell others you are busy (that is an important distinction), do you all of a sudden have a hall pass forgiving you from not doing your work? Just because you tell others you are “busy” does not give you the right to not do your job. There has been many-a-time I’ve seen someone who claims to be “busy” not actually doing their job. Instead, they are sitting on social media, not contributing.
  3. Everyone has a lot going on. It is not just you that is “busy.” Everyone has a full calendar, you are not special, so stop trying to get attention because you are seemingly “busy.”
  4. Being busy has no correlation with being productive. Who says that because you are “busy” you are focusing on the right work? Or that you are even producing at all? Just because you have stuff going on does not mean you are contributing to the task at hand. It simply means you are “doing things.”

I have decided to cut the word “busy” out of my vocabulary. Instead, I prefer to say, “I have a lot going on” or “I have a full calendar.” Both of those statements are factual (assuming my calendar is truly full). I believe being “busy” is a mindset. People that have cluttered minds and cannot think clearly are “busy.” People that are proactive and intentional with their time and their actions do not have “busy” minds. They are controlled and calculated. Being busy is the opposite – it is lacking control and erratic.

In the workplace, I feel there are a ton of people who are “busy.” They simply do work just to do it. The critical thing, which is brought up as the fourth reason above, is that busy work is simply there to take up your time and does not correlate to driving value. Seeking to eliminate busy work should be the most important task of anyone who feels they are “busy.” Rather than continuing to do that work, question the work that is being done and see if there is a different or better way to accomplish it so you can move on to more important tasks. By doing this (eliminating these busy tasks), you open your calendar up and have more time and energy to focus on items that impact the bottom line.

This is a challenge at work because there is often an expectation to be in the office from 9 AM to 5 PM. What do you do when you do not have meetings scheduled? You can sit around and do nothing (which includes looking at Instagram), do busy work, or focus on more important tasks that drive value. Keep in mind, you do not have to keep doing things just to appear “busy.” The best leaders in organizations understand the difference between productivity and business. They will prefer, 100% of the time, their employees to be productive rather than busy, even if that means they spend less time at their desk.

I challenge you to think about how many times you tell someone you are “busy” or hear someone else saying they are “busy.” What does that truly mean for you and them? What is one action you can take today to eliminate busyness in favor of productivity?

When you think for a moment about being busy, you realize it is simply a mindset. No one is ever too busy to accomplish something. If there is a task that needs to be done, you find a way to prioritize it and make time to execute upon it. Please stop using “busy” as an excuse to not get anything done.