I know exactly zero adults who aren’t busy. I’m busy. You’re busy. We’re all busy. Since we’re all busy, do we really need to walk around saying how busy we are?
While busy can legitimately mean we have a lot going on, it’s also a word we use to send other signals — whether intentional or not.
Sending a New Signal
Several years ago I made a concerted effort to avoid using “busy” as my default answer to “how are you?” at work. Almost instantly I witnessed a shift in my mindset that allowed me to take a tiny but meaningful step out of the busy trap which changed the messages I was subconsciously sending to myself.
You see, I was unconsciously devoting substantial mental energy to perpetuating the story of how busy I was. When I stopped saying I was busy, I was able to take a step back and be conscious of my own underlying reasons for using busy as a signaling mechanism. I realized it’s possible to be busy (which we all are) without feeling the extra weight of incorporating busyness into my persona.
Try an Experiment
For one week refrain from using the word busy, especially when answering the question “how are you?” Notice:
So How Are You?
How will you actually answer this question if you omit busy from your vocabulary?
You could answer with how you are literally feeling (e.g., happy, tired, etc) and why.
You could answer with what you are doing with your time that makes you want to say you are busy. For example:
My mind is on how to untangle issue [X].
Today I wish I had a clone so I could simultaneously write my presentation while handling the project planning for the new performance review cycle.
I have three competing priorities this week and I haven’t made peace with them yet.
I won’t pretend that I don’t slip up and use busy as an answer to “how are you?” — but I definitely use it with far less frequency and am happier for it.
Originally published at Thrive Global
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