What’s the meaning of “I’m too busy” ?

Do you often hear words like “I’m too busy” or “I’ve been busy” or, simply “busy” as a response when greeted with ‘how are you’?

When someone greets me with “how are you?” — too often, I respond with words indicating that I’ve been busy.

The response says little yet it is socially acceptable. “I’ve been busy” is an easy answer yet It feels evasive.

I don’t like hearing it from others. Because I don’t like myself when I use it, I’ve been thinking about what it means.

‘Too busy’ as an excuse

Telling someone you are ‘too busy’ is a handy excuse.  I can tell my husband that I was ‘too busy’ to finish errands, ‘too busy’ to prepare dinner or to ’too busy’ to complete household chores.

’Too busy’ is a handy excuse when I’m under-productive.

‘Too busy’ is also a form of laziness. I tell myself that I’m ‘too busy’ to finish writing a blog post or to exercise.

I can tell a friend that I’ve been ‘too busy’ to call her.  I can explain that I forgot someone’s birthday because I’ve been ‘too busy’.

‘Too busy’ as avoidance

Being ‘too busy’ is a good response when I want to avoid doing something — especially something that will take a lot of time.

Anyone who has chaired a board or a committee knows that when it comes to grunt work, people avoid taking responsibility because they are ‘too busy’.  Does too busy really mean ‘let someone else do it’?

Professors and teachers know this tactic well. Students are often ‘too busy’ to complete assignments. But are they really ‘too busy’ to improve their knowledge?

The truth is that being busy is a way of avoiding something uncomfortable or difficult.

‘Too busy’ builds importance

‘Too busy’ is a response that indicates priorities that supersede. It’s a status badge  — being super busy means that you are in demand — it’s cool to be busy. It’s a form of self-glorification.

Sometimes ‘too busy’ is used as a sign of success of a flourishing career or a full life. Perhaps ‘too busy’makes you seem better to someone else.   In some circles it’s regarded as a virtue.

People fall into the belief trap that if you aren’t busy, you aren’t good.

What are the consequences of ‘too busy’?

What’s behind the ‘too busy’ excuse? Is the ‘too busy’ response a form of irresponsibility?

I have a good friend who is always distracted and anxious. She flits from one task to another.  She is always late.  She often forgets important commitments. She misplaces her keys, her cellphone, her handbag.

She knows she is overwhelmed but rejects helpful suggestions from her husband or her friends all the while complaining that nobody understands the pressures of her life.

What is she busy with?  She is busy reading blog posts, newsletters, tweeting, and talking on the telephone, All of these are time wasters that keep her from the important things she is trying to do.

In my career days I was often overwhelmed with projects, meetings, and other work commitments.  It left me too busy to have much of a personal life.

Just like my friend who is addicted to online media, I was addicted to the emotional highs of work.

I was also tired and miserable and anxious as I managed too many balls in the air.  In truth, I was fooling myself. I worked longer hours, travelled more and compromised on sleep. My enthusiasm and motivation for work that I loved began to wane. The macho attitude of ‘busy’ robbed me of enjoying the last years of my career.

Regaining focus

After retirement, I regained focus. In recent months, however, I’ve fallen back into old habits. Too often I have used “I’m too busy” as an excuse or an avoidance tactic.

I’ve resolved to change this habit to increase retirement happiness. I am working on managing my life priorities to make time for what matters without compromising  or feeling stressed by over-commitments.

I’ve begun dealing with over-commitment as described in post last week.http://postworksavvy.com/many-commitments/

If I don’t want to do something, I find a polite way to refuse and not say that I’m ‘too busy’.  I won’t be available for things that don’t interest me.

I also decided to be more efficient with how I use my time.  I give myself time limits for certain tasks.  If I see something that will take 2 to 5 minutes to finish, I do it right away.

I set priorities for every day and limit my priorities to three high value items. Setting priorities also helps me to plan what I can reasonably do in one day.

Re-evaluating how to spend precious retirement time means identifying self-imposed expectations, saying NO more often, and keeping life priorities in crisp focus.

When someone greets me with ‘how are you?’ I make a conscious effort to give a positive response.  I talk about something in my life that is enjoyable or rewarding.  Today, I answered the question by saying simply, “i’m happy”.

Time is a gift. Retirement is a gift.  Lets make sure we use time constructively to build meaning in our lives and in the lives of those around us.

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