I've come to dislike the term "busy" for two distinct reasons. First, I've noticed that it started to feel like a competition whenever someone told me they were busy. I will confess, the first thing that jumps into my head when someone says that is, "well surely they can't be as busy as me!" I'm not sure why we (or maybe it's just me?) feel like we need to always be busier than our neighbor. What's good about being busy? Why do I want to feel more stressed, more frazzled, more crunched for time? That doesn't sound very appealing to me, yet I find myself still wanting it to be true. Perhaps it gives me a sense of accomplishment. If I'm busy, I'm being a productive member of society. So the busier I am, the more productive I'm being right? Well, if you're like me, you've discovered that that is not always the case.
Second, I too frequently hear it used as an excuse or an easy out. Now I was definitely a chief offender of this before I started making a concentrated effort to avoid the term. How often have you heard someone say they were "too busy" to do something? How often have you used the excuse yourself? Isn't it frustrating to be on the other side? "It's been forever since I heard from you!" "Sorry, I've just been really busy." Ugh. They might as well just tell you that you are not a priority to them. Which brings me to my main point: busy is simply a matter of how we prioritize.
Time is a limited resource for all of us, but we all get the same amount of it. Nobody has any less or any more than 24 hours in a day. As adult humans, we have the ability and the privilege to decide how to spend this time. As I've gotten older, I have started to take notice of how differently each individual does this.
For example, sleep is a top priority for some, and for others, it's something that happens when they are done with everything else. I happen to be a person who needs to prioritize sleep for my productivity and, frankly, to be a nice human being. Yet I often found myself feeling guilty for getting a good night's sleep. Or worse, panicked that I somehow missed doing something I was supposed to be doing.
My theory is that we feel "busy" when our priorities do not match up with our schedule. For me, this might be the case when I am only getting six hours of sleep at night, instead of my normal seven to eight. For someone else who prioritizes cooking a homemade meal every night, it might happen when they find themselves having to stop at a drive thru several nights a week. The point is that the "busy" breaking point is different for all of us, depending on our priorities. So what can we do about it?
We can stop comparing and competing. We can stop making others feel guilty. And we can stop making excuses. When something is important to us, we will make it happen. I've always believed that. If you are nearing your "busy" breaking point, evaluate what you are spending time on versus what you want to spend time on. These won't always match because that's life, but most of the time we can adjust. Don't let the idea of being busy get in the way of what's important to you. Make time for the things, and more importantly, the people who matter to you. On the other hand, next time someone says they're too busy, give them the benefit of the doubt. They are probably struggling with how to prioritize things that are important to them and that's something we can all relate to.