Why “busy” should be a dirty word in the workplace

Remove the word busy from your vocabulary

I’ve read and shared some great posts this year about productivity – specifically being “busy”. The context essentially being that while we’re all keeping ourselves busy, we’re not always good enough at distinguishing between meaningful work worthy of justifying our energy and the tasks that take up our time without adding much value. Stepping back and taking stock because the bigger picture is at stake. Plenty of valid points, indeed.

However, not only do I think there’s merit in being more proactive with our own schedules; we should stop saying we’re busy.

In our professional lives we’re subjected to that claim all the time. It’s used like a shield.

It’s an interesting word. But what does it actually mean? If we didn’t have 40 hours worth of work to kept occupied with we’d be out of a job. By that token we’re all “busy”, aren’t we?

Whilst I accept that some people are occasionally tied up with genuinely intense project work, balancing a couple of roles, or have young children – the majority of working professionals, most of the time, should know better.

Here’s my main problem with the word: when somebody tells me they’re busy, do they give the impression they are in control and managing their time properly? Not really. Can they cope with pressure? Probably not.

More often than not what we’re hearing is an excuse, not a reason.

Consider the people with the most on their plate – Prime Ministers, Presidents, CEOs and the like. They have enormous responsibilities but they don’t make excuses about not having enough time. Because ultimately they’re accountable; the buck stops with them.

But unfortunately for the “busy” brigade it can often come down to ego.

Deep down we all like to feel wanted; to have dozens of emails flying in every hour, to be sounded out for opinions. And this sense of being ‘needed’ only serves to feed that ego; it allows individuals to believe that they’re somehow more important than the rest of the organisation. It gives a sense of validation. A badge of honour.

Agencies aren’t excluded from this either. It doesn’t interest me to know how much work they’ve got on with other accounts. I begin to wonder how in control and capable they really are.

Real leaders, though, won’t fall into this trap – the best leaders possess what I believe is the most important trait of all: humility. These are the type of people who won’t tell you they’re too busy to hear you out. People with humility coupled with the ability to inspire makes people naturally want to work for them.

Motivation is a temporary state that can be eroded instantly. This is why the best leaders don’t make themselves appear important; they make you feel important.

So the next time a colleague asks how you’re getting on: stop for a moment, smile, remember who’s in control of your world – and choose your next word carefully.

One thought on “Why “busy” should be a dirty word in the workplace

  1. myodforum

    Great post George, totally agree that the best leaders don’t make themselves appear important; they make you feel important.

    Thanks for the tip: stop, smile, remember who’s in control of your world.


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