The One Word To Never Ever Say Again at Work

glorification-of-busyBoy was this an attention grabbing headline in the Huffpo, especially for one who suffers from regular verbal diarrhea. What on earth could it be?



F-k Off?


(as you can tell, I do tend to think in swear words more than I’d like to admit)

Clicking through I was actually pleasantly surprised (its ‘busy’ in case you’re still hovering on the edge of your seats), but then sort of confused.

I for one will never be raising my hand and saying ‘I’m not busy at all‘. (I’m naive, not stupid)

No-one is going to ask me’ How’s your day going?’ and hear me say ‘Not busy! How bout you?’

And if someone ever mentions the volume of work I plough through every week, I’m sure as hell not telling them ‘its all a smokescreen. I’m not busy at.all.

I mean, I swear a lot but I’m not retarded. I like my job and I’d like to stay employed thank you.

I know the value in keeping yourself busy. In putting in your 8 or 9 or 10 every day, even when you know your absence would have few ill effects. I mean, no-one is dying if I only worked 6 hours on Monday.. But hey, I didn’t. Because I’m busy. Except… I’m not meant to actually tell people I’m busy.

Because mentioning that fact – the extent of your busyness- well it just ticks people off. The most positive outcome is that your humblebrag makes you seem conceited and self important; ‘I’m sooooooo busy’ becomes ‘because I’m soooooo important’. At its worst, you look incompetent.

One lady I once worked with always mentioned the extent of her busyness in the first 3 seconds of any conversation with anyone, anyone at all, throughout the entire 2 years of her tenure (believe me thats a LOT of calls). Could be the CEO on the end of the line, could be me. But she was sure as shit going to tell whoever she’s talking too, how damn busy she was. In fact, she was always out of breath as she outlined the extent of her busyness – almost as though she’d had to run 6 miles while editing that powerpoint slide.  Every call from her started with a 5 minute diatribe on how damn busy and crazy, hectic and chaotic it all was.

And while she might be completed unaware of this tick in her personality, the rest of the company wasn’t. It became a running joke how darn busy her life was and how chaotic things are were her department. A department that she ran. Nothing like negative marketing.

As a result I questioned her effectiveness, her ability to deliver and also what she considered ‘busy’. Was she really that busy? Or just lazy. In consulting, people regularly take 2, 3 or even 4 flights in a week.  I mean that’s busy.  But if I asked most  of my coworkers how they’re doing, they’d say ‘good’  ‘ok’ or maybe ‘tired’ .. but they’d never make a huge deal about how busy they are. After all, everyone is.

As Mindy Kaling said, “Going on and on in detail about how stressed out I am isn’t conversation. No one is going to say, ‘Wow, Mindy, you really have it especially bad. I have heard some stories of stress, but this just takes the cake.”

Which is totally true.. trying to garner sympathy for being stressed or busy? Worlds smallest violin from pretty much everyone.

But it’s more than just saying the word ‘busy’ – actually being overly busy is a threat to your credibility, your ability to do you job and your relationships.

Being overly busy means you’re probably not doing whatever you’re meant to be doing very well. After all I don’t think Proust wrote  his madeline-fueled epic while constantly updating his Facebook page and reading about Miley Cyrus or juggling a phone call while take tea with the vicar.

Now I’m as guilty of anyone at this one, having sent more than one email with an incorrect header, to the wrong group of people, at the wrong time. (I saw my annual bonus disappear as soon as I hit ‘Send’). Not only does quality suffer when you’re trying to do too much, but excessive busyness probably means you’re not actually being very productive anyway. I know that LaineyGossip sees a lot more of me when my to-do list reaches the second page.

As we get busier, we do tend to become more efficient at achieving rote tasks.

However if your busyness increases beyond your brain’s capacity to process, say hello to sitting around writing endless ‘to do’ lists in the hope that it will seem smaller if you write it out neater (and add some little 3D boxes to check off).  Or is that just me?

Plus your verbal skills head down the toilet when you’re busy. I once made the mistake of asking someone to get to the point as they were telling me all about their kids soccer game and I’m still ‘that bitch in communications’ as a result. Telling people that you’re too busy to talk, sends the message that ‘you’re important’ and ‘they’re unimportant’. Cue some major bitching and sniping about you in the bathroom (and you wondered why that happened).

Plus when you get so super ridiculous busy that your calendar is stacked up like SFO airport on a Sunday night, you lose the opportunity to do the normal things that normal people do. You know. Like pee. And eat. And get a cup of coffee. See a friend. Go outside. Without this ‘unscheduled time’ you never have a chance to breath, to ‘not think’ furthering the likelihood that you’ll multitask, make mistakes or get snippy when you open your mouth. You might have eleventy million things to do, but without a break, you’re a basket case by 3pm, so you choose.  I made the wrong choice at a conference and wound up in the ER at 1am with a UTI. So glad I skipped those bathroom breaks.

Being busy is the norm for most everyone these days, but being too busy is a buzz kill for  your long term health and everyone around you. You might think you’re superman or woman, but if you find yourself saying ‘I’m sooooo busy’ the next time someone asks, it might be time for a check up from the neck up. And yes, you always time for a bathroom break and a cup of tea.

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