The Battle to Avoid These Two Words

“I’m Busy”

“It’s a common misconception that appearing to be busy — even if you’re not — is a signal that you’re valuable, whether it’s to your boss, your colleagues, your family or your friends.” — BBC.com, This is what you really mean when you say I’m busy

A Status Symbol

In this Ted Talk, Debbie Hayes talks about the dangers of being too busy, as well as the opportunities for pause and reflection.

Fighting the Vortex

  1. Tell the other person what you’ve been doing or what you’re working on. This one may seem obvious, but it’s not necessarily easy. Although it takes a bit more effort on our own parts, when asked “how are you doing,” we can actually say what we’ve been up to specifically. This answer helps those who are asking become better informed about us as individuals, as well as training ourselves how to be specific with our answers and the information that we give.
  2. Proactively ask if there’s anything that they need support with. If someone is talking with us and wants to know how we’re doing, there’s a good chance that they might need help with something. Rather than waiting for them to ask us for help, why not reach out and see if we can give a helping hand from the start? Sure, they want to know how we’re doing, but they’re also looking for a conversation-starter and most likely some point of connection. We can dig deeper and see if we’re able to help them out with any challenges or bottlenecks they might be facing.
  3. Invite them for a coffee or lunch at a later time. Sometimes we just really don’t want to engage in a conversation right there at that moment, or it’s just not the right time. Sometimes we just don’t know what to say. Rather than brush off the conversation, why not put a pause during the moment and invite the other person for a coffee or a lunch at a later time? It might be a genuinely pleasant experience.
  4. Take a chance and just say “yes, and….” For anyone who’s ever done any improv, the rule of “yes, and…” teaches us to accept the offer that is given to us on the stage and add onto it with more information. If someone says they need you for five minutes to look over a looming presentation as a second set of eyes, why not say “Yes, and I’d love to know what other projects you’re working on,” or “Yes, and maybe you could help me with a translation I just finished to let me know if it sounds alright.” Saying “I’m busy” all the time is like building a wall around yourself without any doors. Saying “yes, and….” creates an open door in that wall for both parties to travel through.
  5. Tell them that you’re up to nothing special. Why not do the exact opposite of saying “I’m busy,” and see what the reaction is when we say “nothing special,” or “I have a lot of free time recently, maybe we could have a chat for a few”? This response will surely raise eyebrows and knock a few folks back on their heels as they look for the right response to this unorthodox answer. It may be awkward, but it will certainly be memorable and surprising, and we could find ourselves traveling down some interesting rabbit holes afterwards.
Do we really need to aim for the status of “busy,” or is there a higher status that we want to attain— one that says “I have all the time in the world, welcome to join me here!”

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