By Mark E. Smith
Let’s be honest, there’s no such thing as busy. I mean, it’s a cop-out word that really means insensitive, unorganized, self-absorbed and, sometimes, lazy. It’s the epitome of an overwhelmed, often self-centered person that says nothing about productivity.
See, I’m a very productive person, but I never consider myself busy, especially when it comes to people. Melissa sits outside my office in her cubicle, and I suppose that if you asked her if I’m busy, she’d tell you yes because I’m usually a flurry of activity, with my keyboard keys clanking, phone chattering, door opening and closing. Yet, I’m never busy. Rather, I’m productive To me, busy is an end-all, a shut-down. It’s when you walk into someone’s office and he or she says, I can’t talk now, I’m busy. Or, it’s when your romantic partner says, I don’t have time for this discussion, I’m busy. It’s a complete dismissal of who you are and your importance – and it hurts and erodes trust. And, I avoid such insensitive behavior like the plague because I want to be productive, emotionally available and successful – and busy doesn’t allow any of that.
Now, this isn’t to say we shouldn’t set healthy boundaries. None of us can do all tasks and meet all needs at once. However, prioritizing instead of shutting down is the key. If I’m given a task at work and I already have a full plate, I simply state, Thank you, I’ll get to it once I’m finished with X, Y, and Z. I never turn down work based on being busy – again, self-absorbed, lazy people do that. Similarly, I prioritize people, where I try to offer immediate availability, but if I can’t, I’ll acknowledge their sincere importance by saying such a validating reply as, Can I call you back in an hour, as I’m in the middle of this urgent task, and I really want to focus on you when we talk. And, I strive to keep others abreast to my day’s schedule, so they know why I may be unavailable at certain times.
Of course also in the area of boundaries, we don’t want to become dumping stations for others’ work or have emotionally unhealthy, needy people consume our time. However, even then, busy is a cop-out. Rather, address the root causes and define boundaries instead of simply proclaiming, I’m busy.
In this way, if you want to be productive, successful and emotionally available, being busy doesn’t work. Ultimately, I have all the time in the world for work and those I care about. But, I have no time for people who tell me they’re busy.