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The entire Navigate the Chaos collection of all 365 blog posts is now available in a paperback entitled Navigate the Chaos (795 pages for $24.99). A smaller collection of thoughts from the Navigate the Chaos collection is available in paperback entitled Wonder (94 pages for $4.99)

How often do you say ‘I am too busy?'

Today is July 7 and the Navigate the Chaos question to consider is “how often do you say ‘I am too busy?’” As soon as you have the urge to say: “I am too busy,” “I am so busy,” or “You have no idea how busy I am,” just stop. STOP! Just stop it. Everyone is busy. Get over yourself. Would you like a prize? Perhaps a toy, a cookie, or a star for how busy you are? Here is a little-known secret, no one cares. Hurtful? Maybe. Honest? Definitely.

The phrase “no one cares, work harder” is one of the more popular memes these days. The phrase now appears on everything from mugs, to shirts, to inspirational posters. So, when you are just about to tell yourself, or someone else, recall this phrase “no one cares, work harder.”

All too often people obsess over how busy they are without any sense of accomplishment. Some people stay busy to keep themselves happy. Still others stay busy to brag about how busy they are to impress others. Some people are busy just for the sake of being busy. These people are not grinding it out nor are they working towards a specific goal or translating theory into action. They are merely justifying how busy they are.

Successful people who navigate the chaos often remind themselves to avoid the busyness trap. Researchers have recently examined “idleness aversion and the need for justifiable busyness.” One such researcher, Christopher K. Hsee, of the University of Chicago, believes that "People are running around, working hard, way beyond the basic level because they have excessive energy and want to avoid idleness."

Writing in Fast Company, Jory MacKay described the paradox when it comes to busyness. “Anyone with professional ambition strives to do great work and be recognized for their talent and therefore is in high demand (i.e. busy). However, the more in demand you are (i.e. busy), the harder it is to provide the same quality of work or creative thinking that got you there in the first place. If being in demand is proof you’re doing a good job, it’s easy to mistake busyness for validation. But the opposite of busyness isn’t laziness or emptiness or unmoored drifting through life. Its purpose. Choice. Prioritization. Being busy is letting others control your time. Being purposeful is being in the driver’s seat.”

As Tim Kreider wrote in a New York Times editorial "people who have self-imposed a label of ‘always busy’ on themselves do so out of their addiction to busyness itself and dread what they might have to face in its absence.” Inventor Thomas A. Edison noted “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.”

Gary Burnison, CEO of Korn Ferry made an interesting commentary on being busy when he wrote “When someone asks you to take part in something, they want to know whether you consider them as a worthy investment of your time. And sometimes, the best thing to do is to say yes. Being typecast as the person who is self-important and always unavailable will only hurt, not help, your career.”

This concept of saying yes to work when you are already busy refers to the oft quote phrase “if you want something done give it to a busy person.” The interesting fact about this quote is that it seems to have originated from an 1856 report delivered by Reverend W. J. Kennedy who was the Inspector of Schools for Lancashire and the Isle of Man in Britain: “Just as it is almost proverbial that, if you want any business done for you, you should ask a busy man to do it, and not a man of leisure, so it is the laborious scholar, who is working hard at languages, who picks up, nay, actually reads and studies more of other subjects than the rest of his fellows at school or college.”

The ironic thing about that quote is that it was delivered over 160 years ago when the world moved at a snail’s pace compared to today! In a June 25, 2018 Forbes article Jennifer Cohen suggested people focus on four things to help increase their productivity. First, focus on one thing that will generate the greatest results and make sure that is complete before moving on. Second, master the day and your calendar and do not let either dictate your life. Third, eliminate distractions. Finally, think smaller and set daily goals that are attainable.

  • How often do you say, ‘I am too busy?’

  • Why do you feel the need to say, “I am so busy?”

  • How does it make you feel when you hear yourself tell someone out loud that “you are so busy?”

  • Do you wear being busy like a badge of honor upon your chest?

  • Does being busier (whatever that means) than someone else make you feel superior?

  • Do you find yourself doing things just to make yourself busy?

  • How much of your identity is caught up in telling yourself how busy you are?

  • Do you believe the adage “if you want something done, give it to a busy person?”

  • Has anyone ever told you they are too busy to help you? If so, how did that make you feel?

  • Have you stopped yourself from doing something because you have convinced yourself you are too busy?

  • How would your life change today if you stopped saying you were too busy?


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