One of the most common reasons people use as an excuse not to call, respond to emails, or even conduct meaningful work, is the excuse of being busy. I have grown to dislike this word through the years. Even when I am very busy, I vowed not to use this word as an excuse. I found that being busy is really an announcement that I am incapable of organizing my time to meet what is important. Every time I fail to follow up, I usually prefer to apologize and immediately follow up ASAP which is much better than saying I am busy.
Amazingly, the people who use this term all the time are the people who will talk to you for hours if you happen to see them at lunch or in a grocery store or somewhere. Puzzled by this phenomenon, I found that being busy is some kind of cover for being work-shy or unable to be organized. Talk to the people who are super achievers, and they all have the time to do what they plan.
Recently, I sent an email request to a high-power researcher who has twenty people in his lab, asking him for an interview about his productivity and work routine. I even wrote in the email that if he is busy, he does not need to answer me back. After two weeks, I received a nice polite email, telling me that he is really booked until the end of the year. He does not imagine to have 30 minute for my interview. I really was amazed that he took the time to answer me although his response was negative. What was interesting is that he did not use the word busy. He explained that he was booked until the end of the year. As I am writing this post, I will be sending him another email asking him again after the end of the year.
The illusion of being busy should not be pursued. You should work very hard to spend the time to prioritize your important tasks or goals and follow through. If you can not follow up, you need to go back to the drawing board and do self-auditing of your time as Cal Newport and Scott Young advocate in their writing. You have to evaluate why you could not follow up by recalibrating your way of working to achieve what is important to you. We all are busy, but some of us are able to not be busy.
I always laugh at the scene of Seinfeld when George Costanza always pretends to be busy when his boss visits him in the office. I really feel that a lot of us play that role — pretending to be busy and not following up on our obligations like George, hiding our failure to manage our time better.
If we sharpen our ability to prioritize what is important to us in our work and social life, I am sure we will have more job satisfaction and a happier social life.
Thank you for reading my post. I would love to hear from you (firstname.lastname@example.org). This post is usually written on Saturdays.