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Don’t Say You’re Busy

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Ask an acquaintance to lunch and the reply might be, “I’m too busy.” Ask a retiree how it’s going and you might hear, “I’m so busy I don’t know how I ever had time for work.” Chat with a colleague about work, and you might hear tales of laboring from dawn till dusk.

Not long ago, a life of leisure was associated with success. Now people prefer to say they’re busy. Some claim they wish they had more free time, but actually most are bragging about busyness.

Being busy has become synonymous with being healthy, happy and doing well with life. “Busy” means you’re so talented and valuable that your skills are in great demand. It means you’re so popular that your social calendar is packed.

But while that might be the message you’re trying to send when you say, “I’m busy,” the message that’s received can be very different. Tell someone you’re too busy to meet him/her for lunch, and he might think, This person must not consider me very important, or he would find time. Tell a colleague about the long hours you’re working, and he might think, This guy must not be very efficient at his job. Regale someone with the dozens of different things you’re doing in retirement or as a family, and he might think, You don’t understand what’s really important in life. And the danger of “busy” isn’t just in the impressions it might give to other people. Retirees, for example, tend to be happiest when they strike a balance between activities and unscheduled, unhurried time with grandkids, books or strolls.

So resolve to stop using the word “busy” as a positive description. When you must decline an opportunity because your schedule is full, phrase this in a way that says excessive busyness is bad, such as,  “I’ve got too much on my schedule right now, but I’m trying to fix that.”

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Source: William J. Doherty, PhD, professor in the department of family social science at University of Minnesota, St. Paul. He is author of several books including Take Back Your Kids: Confident Parenting in Turbulent Times and Take Back Your Marriage: Sticking Together in a World That Pulls Us Apart. Date: July 17, 2017 Publication: Bottom Line Personal
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