Dictionary.com defines the word busy as “not at leisure; otherwise engaged” or “actively and attentively engaged in work…” As a leadership and marketing coach and consultant, I hear people use the word busy as a reason, or an excuse, to put off pursuing new and important opportunities, outreaching to existing clients more frequently, meeting with their important team members to career plan, exercising to manage stress and on and on. William J.H. Boetcker, an American clergyman, said, “If your business keeps you so busy that you have no time for anything else, there must be something wrong, either with you or with your business.” (http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/quotes/w/williamjh394476.html)
In the past month, I’ve been confronted from all sides with the word busy. I heard a sermon at church on the subject that echoed the sentiments of Mr. Boetcker. I had someone tell me in a class I was teaching on business development that they were taught that it is a mistake to respond to the question, “How’s business?” or “How are you?” with the answer, “Busy!” – because the person inquiring will perceive you as too busy for them (and their referrals). I’ve had a partner group commit to a number of critical initiatives to shore up employee satisfaction and stem turnover, only to be “too busy” to implement them. I’ve found myself sharing how busy I’ve been – only to now catch myself and wonder – why do I feel like I have to share my “busy-ness” with others?
Do we tell people how busy we are because it’s a “red badge of courage” of some sort – a game of busy person’s one-upmanship? Do we really believe it excuses missed commitments, reduces disappointment or ensures forgiveness for a lack of attention and focus on others? I don’t think so, and, as a result, I’ve developed a new set of “rules” to manage my busy habit (and they may help with yours, too):
• Stop using the word! Catch yourself using this new four-letter word and consider substituting something more positive like “productive” or “blessed.” Usually, finding a substitute word that is longer and more intentional will cure you of a language habit.
• Don’t use your workload to excuse a lack of performance. Instead, reset expectations with those who you are likely to disappoint due to over-committing and begin to actively say no or push out due dates to more realistic time frames. If you blow off commitments and use your “busy-ness” as the reason, your people, your partners, your children and everyone else will, too!
• Re-read Steven R. Covey’s The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: Powerful Lessons in Personal Change and reconnect with Quadrant II activities – those that are important but not urgent. Read to your child tonight. Meet with an important staff person for lunch this week. Call a client you haven’t spoken to in a while. Schedule a “busy season” (uh oh, what will we call it now – “blessed season”?) planning meeting and begin addressing Rick Telberg’s suggested 5 Must Do’s to ensure a smoother first four months of 2009 (http://www.cpa2biz.com/Content/media/PRODUCER_CONTENT/Newsletters/Articles_2008/CPA/Oct/MustDos.jsp).
• Change your answer to clients. My client and good friend David Cieslak (http://www.linkedin.com/in/davidmcieslak) suggests, “If a client asks how business is, if you are ‘busy,’ consider answering something like, “Business is good and we’re always open for more.”
Take a look at your relationship with busy and consider breaking it off for good. And, feel free to test me on my resolve to part from the word, too. I can definitely use the practice!
How have you used busy-ness in your work and life? Is it an excuse, an apology, an honor or statement of success? After reading this blog, what can you commit to change? Tell us your thoughts on the subject of “busy”!