Everyone is busy nowadays. Especially with so much useful technology to help us be more productive. Writing emails as we walk; talking on speaker-phone while we drive; writing a board report while we participate in a training webinar. Being busy is 'de rigeur', the new 'cool', the new status symbol of the upwardly mobile professional. The busier we are, the more valuable we are to a larger set of stakeholders, the higher our value becomes. Right?
But is this the real reason we're so busy nowadays? And is being busy really a good thing?
The tipping point of being busy is, of course, being too busy. Too busy to make monthly 1-to-1 catch ups with our team members; too busy to take a client for lunch; too busy to be home in time to read our kids a bedtime story, or to attend their 10-minute curriculum meeting at 9am four weeks on Friday. "I'm too busy [for you]" is the modern-day brush off.
And then there is "I'm too busy for me". That's a murkier business. Too busy to reenergise, to grab an extra hour's sleep, to do some exercise, to grab some fresh air, to breathe. Too busy to work on your work/life balance but time to self-combust.
One of the leadership competencies that many busy business leaders work with their coaches on is called self-actualisation. And the very fact that most don't know what that means is very telling - because not many people are achieving it. Self-actualisation is the practice of investing in you, of finding balance, in replenishing the emotional and physical reserves so that you can be busy, resilient and productive, day in day out. Self-actualisation is also about knowing where you are going, and what tools you need to get there. Being focused on some longer-term career and life goals so that you can more contentedly wade through the short-term quagmire of the day-to-day tasks. And being busy - or too busy - to think about your needs - short- and long-term - is an avoidance tactics.
Being busy is a convenient excuse; being busy means we're not left with ourselves, with our own thoughts; being busy means we're avoiding working on the harder, internal challenges (how we feel, what we believe, how we behave - or not, as the case often is) to make our working and personal lives better.
So next time someone asks you: "How are you doing?" Try not to answer with a flippant "I'm so busy!". I am practising not giving this response. It used to be my default response but I never liked the words as they came tumbling out of my mouth. Probably because for a while back there I wasn't being the right kind of busy. I wasn't finding meaning in my work.
Try to analyse what busy means for you, and ask yourself: are you the right kind of busy? If the answer to this question is "probably not", then try to set aside some time for yourself to work out what kind of busy you would really like to be. What do you want to accomplish? Where can you find meaning? No-one would ever be particularly pleased with "He/She Was Busy" in their epitaph.