Busy is a four letter word. I’m tired of being asked if I’m busy. And I’m even more frustrated with how often I use it as a throw-away response.
I have been wanting to write a blog on the topic of “busy” for many months now. In fact, I dedicated my New Year’s resolution to the practice of “Essentialism,” but I’ve been so busy, I just haven’t had a chance to….
Here come the excuses. The badge of busy. A compulsion to fill one’s calendar as it gives an illusion of importance. The thrill of exhaustion at the end of the day when you can list the incredible number of things you got done. The perfect reason why we can’t follow up as promised, we are just so darned busy! And then the resentment that we don’t have any time to ourselves. Or the guilt that we don’t spend enough time with the people that we love. Or the frustration that there just isn’t enough time in the day. Or the regret and self-disappointment that our dreams and goals remain untouched.
This is the price we pay for being super busy.
I finally found a thought-leader on the topic…
I’m delighted to feature my new friend, David Lindsay Adams, as our guest contributor this week. David is the son of my “favorite client” Richard (“Dick”) Adams, who passed away this summer from cancer. I got to know his son David through the memorial service for Dick. We recently had lunch together in Minneapolis, with his sister Beth and his mother Pat.
As David spoke about this work and his passion for productivity, efficiency and entrepreneurship, I knew he would be a very cool person to write an article challenging “busy-ness.” David has a great writing style and shares two very practical ideas to help us move beyond the limitations of busy. Enjoy his article.
Going Out of Busy-ness
by David Lindsay Adams
A tap on his shoulder….He heard a bubbly voice. “So good to see you! How are you these days? What are you up to?”
Thoughts raced through his mind. Should I really share how I am? Should I tell her I really just want to get home and see my wife and kids after a long day in the office? Should I tell her I’m here because I just want to check it off my list of things to do?
He manages: “Hey. Ah, ummm. I’m good. Just living the dream. Yeah. Busy. Crazy-zzzy busy doing all the things that I’m doing….”
She replies, “That’s great. It’s good to be busy, right? That’s what it’s all about, right? Good for you.”
Not so much. How many of you have had that conversation at one point in your career at a networking event or barbecue? Or worse, how many of you find yourself dragged into that “busy” conversation before you can say, “Stop the madness!” I used to. But not anymore.
“Being busy does not always mean real work. The object of all work is production or accomplishment and to either of these ends there must be forethought, system, planning, intelligence, and honest purpose, as well as perspiration. Seeming to do is not doing.”
I’d like to disrupt the conversation that so many of us have around “busy-ness.” Somewhere along the line, I think it happens to all of us in our careers and life. Somehow, we began equating being busy with being important, or with being successful. Somehow being busy became being up to things that are a big deal. It’s natural when you think about it – we somehow turned the word “business” itself into busy-ness.
What would it be like if we really took on being productive, or effective, or even fulfilled in our lives? I assert that altering this simple context from being “busy” – and everything we’ve made it mean – will shift how everything occurs in our lives. Shifting to being effective and productive can actually alter how we look at “work” itself. Work could actually become a place where we practice effectiveness and accomplishment versus just getting on to the next thing in our hectic day.
Addicted to busyness
Many of us have become so addicted to busy-ness that we don’t realize the impact on how we survive our schedule day to day. We don’t see how busy we are until are kids are grown and out of the house, or worse, when a loved one leaves our life….by choice or unexpectedly. Therefore, shifting the context of busy-ness in my life has become the number one priority to living a life of more freedom, ease and self-expression. I’ll share two practices with you. What can you add?
Two best practices
“I felt busy, but learned that there’s a difference between productivity – checking things off a To-Do list – and progress. Progress would have moved me closer to my dream… I had lots of check marks next to my To-Do items, but no checks.”
– Mark LeBlanc, excerpt from his book, Never Be The Same (Chapter 4, page 63)
1. Eliminate BUSY from your vocabulary. If you say you are busy, then you become that. Not only do you become that, but everyone around you becomes that as well. Try a Busy Elimination Diet (BED) to circumvent the temptation to fall into the busy trap, practice using another word to describe what you’re up to. Replace the word “busy” with words and phrases like productive, effective, fulfilled, up to big things. Be mindful of what happens to not only you, but also to everyone around you:
A few years ago, a team at GE conducted an experiment. “We decided that, for an entire year, we would never use the word BUSY as an answer and to see if there were any changes in attitude and/or behaviour. Ours or Theirs. We noticed all right. Instantly. We were forced to describe our own situations with more clarity, and, without our best friend ‘busy’ to blame, we engaged with people more authentically. As we did, we noticed the general depth of conversations increased as we, and those we were sharing with, were invited to communicate differently about our actual states of being.”
2. Give things up. I find that there is a direct correlation between how busy we are and how much we want to force a particular outcome. If we want a project or meeting to go exactly the way we want it, we work harder in the background to advance our agenda. The alternative path is to give up “how” results arise, and then actually let those results just show up.
Lao Tuz said it best: “Practice not doing, and everything will fall into place.”
Imagine this conversation
Question: “So good to see you! How are you? Are you keeping busy?”
Response: “I’m good. These days I’m less focused on being busy and more intent on making progress. And it’s made all the difference. Instead of focusing on how many things I’m doing, I’m concentrating on how many things I’m actually moving ahead. What’s new and exciting in your work and life – and how are you being effective?”
About the guest contributor:
David Lindsay Adams has 20+ years of strategy and business development experience in both Fortune 100 and entrepreneurial ventures. He co-founded The Velo Project to help executives and teams develop productivity habits to accomplish more with freedom and ease. He is also a business development consultant with a passion for international travel that makes a difference. David earned a BA from Northwestern University and an MBA from Thunderbird. He lives in Minneapolis, MN with his wife and 2 children. Learn more about David Lindsay Adams on LinkedIn