Full, Hustling, Running but Not Busy
I had a former colleague that when asked how things were going would without variation reply “busy, very busy.” Different days, different weeks, different years -- same words, same phrase, same intonation.
I always found the lack of variation sad, if not suspect, and vaguely irritating because the response was a total and complete non-answer. The extent to which the words were uncoupled from the dynamic nature of reality struck me as strange.
Much has been written of busy-ness as a status symbol, but beyond our collective frenetic activity, I think it’s also important to explore our language. How exactly do we use the word busy? What does the word actually mean to us? What nature of reality does it reflect?
For the past couple of years, I’ve made every effort to eliminate the word busy from my vocabulary except when describing the frantic running to and fro of toddlers. My preferred alternatives to busy are:
Today is full. Full describes the nature of the day and what I’ve allowed into it.
I am hustling. Hustling means I’m getting after it and I’m moving fast. To me, this implies the speed is of my choosing and doing.
Life is a little nuts right now. Factors within and/or beyond my control are in play. Busy is often a near synonym here, but by using the word “nuts” I’m implying that this is not a great spot to be and it’s not sane or sustainable.
The point of this exercise has been to move from a default mindset of busy being something that happens to me, to a more proactive approach of looking at what’s playing out on my life’s stage.
Beyond being reduced to a nonanswer by way of overuse, my concern is that busy uncouples us from responsibility. It unhooks us from the things we don’t want or need to do, the things that matter less or can be pushed until a later date. It also gives us space to kick the can on the things that matter that we’re scared to execute on. Busy allows us to wriggle out of culpability.
For the next 24 hours, if the word busy comes out of your mouth, I encourage you to examine why. Is it because you’d rather not answer? Is it because the day has run away from you? Is it because of a lack of prior planning, procrastination, or a truly unforeseen circumstance? What exactly does the word mean for you? And, may I offer you an alternative?
*Thinking crystallized after reading this.