Communication, Live / Work

How To Say You’re Busy, Part 1

September 17, 2015

I follow a blogger, pretty well known, who writes life productivity stuff. For weeks he had promised a Big Article. On this week, he still hadn’t written it. He wrote a different article instead but clearly felt bad about not writing the one he had promised. But instead of apologizing, he complained. He complained about how hard writing Big Articles was, how much Life gets in the way, and that it may or may not be coming who knows ahhh I pretty much give up why try.

Now I’m a big fan of this writer. But really?

“Busy” is universal. Everyone knows what it’s like to feel busy. Often it just means there’s a thing we really don’t want to do, so we fill up our time with everything but that activity. Those times I can’t help you with. But the real Busy is about acknowledging your limits, apologizing to anyone you’re about to break a promise to, and asking for help.

But first, the three different states of “busy”:

“Delusional Busy”

(i.e. procrastinating) This happens so often that it deserves to be included here. It’s seriously 80% of “I’m so busy” syndrome. You feel busy because you’re filling up your time with a lot of activity, but are each of those activities necessary? Do they contribute directly to the most important goal in your life at the moment (e.g. lose weight, more time with the family, change jobs)? I guarantee you that twenty minutes on Facebook, does not.

“Unpredictable Busy”

(Uncertain territory, didn’t have the tools/knowledge to properly predict upcoming obstacles) Unpredictable busy happens frequently when you’re embarking on something new. Based on the little information you have, you (formally or informally) create a plan. Then when you go and carry out that plan, so much new information comes at you that you can’t adjust your plan quickly enough. Hence the all-too-familiar feelings of being overwhelmed and underwater.

The best thing you can do under this type of “busy” is to remain calm as you can, and set your own expectations that you will be overwhelmed. Remember that everyone goes through this at the beginning.

“Actual Busy”

(Too much needs to get done in not enough time, and it’s all important) Actual Busy is the toughest, because you can’t reason it away. Sometimes, you’re truly no-working-around-it busy. This is the pull all-nighters, forget to eat, miss birthday parties, haven’t talked to anyone in days kind of busy. This shouldn’t happen more than, say, a few times a year (for your own healthy and sanity, but also for the quality of your work), but it does happen and that’s normal too.

Before you follow the next steps, point a critical eye towards your busy task list, and question whether every item belongs there. What if it’s pushed out just one week? Is there technically someone else who can do it, even if they can’t do it as well or as fast?

Ready to let it out? Click here to read Part 2 of “How to say you’re busy”!


Also published on Medium.

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