I’d like to challenge the way you think about a couple of words: Busy and Bored.
I hear a lot of people use the words “busy” and “bored” as if they are some conditions in which we are forced uncontrollably. “I’m sorry I was just too busy to complete that thing.” “I have been so busy and unable to call.”
“Those who are wise won’t be busy, and those who are too busy can’t be wise.”
― Lin Yutang, The Importance of Living
Have you ever heard someone say something like, “I’m sorry, I was busy this morning and haven’t had a chance to send that email”?
No! What he really meant is that he had other things that he felt were a higher priority and sending that email was not a high enough priority for him to take action.
We all have the same amount of time in the day, nobody is truly busier than another person. In each and every moment you are making a choice of how you are going to spend that moment – which items will be treated as priorities, and which won’t be. You decide the type of busy you are. It is in your control.
This might sound crazy, but why not be open about how we are prioritizing time? Why hide it with such a lazy word like “busy”?
If your boss or client asks you to get something done and you aren’t able to complete it, are you just going to say that you’re busy? Or, are you going to have a meaningful conversation about priorities?
Everyone is busy, trust me. Ask any number of people in your office this question: “Are you busy?”. My guess is that most, if not all, will say something like “Oh man, I am swamped!”.
So when your boss asks if you can work on a project, rather than saying you are busy like everyone else, you could say that you have some interesting things you are working on which you feel are high priority activities, but would like to discuss them to ensure your priorities are aligned with hers. Which do you think would garner sustained results?
Or worse, you could just accept the extra workload and do a half-assed job on it or give your other priorities less attention. Which solution do you think your boss would appreciate the most? How about asking her? “When you ask me to take on a project, which would you like me to do: A) Just say yes and do it; B) Tell you I’m busy (because I’m always busy, I’m probably the busiest person in the world) and won’t be able to get it done; Or, C) Explain what I have going on and that I feel they are high priority items and then discuss which activities are in the best interest of the company?”. Seems pretty obvious when put that way, right?
Socially this may sound like an unfriendly approach, I understand that, but try it. Let’s walk through an example. If Doug asks if you are going to be able to make it to his party this weekend you could take the easy way out and say you are busy. Or… you could say that you have some really important and interesting things going on that you’d like to work on. Doug should understand and appreciate your honesty and probably have an interest in what you are doing, right? What a great way to build a relationship. If you just keep telling Doug you are busy he eventually will stop asking you to his parties. But, if you explain that you have things that are more important and interesting and he gets it, you could be on your way to a very strong relationship. And when you are able to attend a party of his, guess what? He will know it is the highest priority thing you have going on!
Answering a request for your time with a response that you don’t feel it is a high priority for you, rather than saying you are busy may feel a little uncomfortable. That is sort of the point here. If you are uncomfortable about it you may need to rethink how you are prioritizing your activities and time. And, how you are communicating your prioritization of activities.
I challenge you to think about time as not busy or available but in terms of how you prioritize your units of time (ideally in 20-minute blocks).
“Boredom is the conviction that you can’t change … the shriek of unused capacities.”
― Saul Bellow, The Adventures of Augie March
One thing that bothers me more than people using the word busy is people saying they are bored.
How can you possibly be bored? You have nothing to do? How is that possible? You have a supercomputer at your fingertips to learn a language, listen to a podcast, meditate, record your thoughts to write down later, or, now this one is crazy I know…call someone!!!
Kids are notorious for this. I’m booooooooorrrrrrrrreeeeeeed! If your kids are old enough (~10), I would encourage you to have them participate at some level in #Live20. At minimum, they should have their own 20’s that they are experiencing each day. More on this later.
Throughout this book, I will talk to you about time. How you trade it or invest it. And, how and why to trade more of your time for activities that lead you toward your Goals and Vision.
For now, start with changing your attitude toward two simple words: Busy and Bored.
Busy and Bored – Chapter Action Items:
1. Pay attention to how many times people around you say they are busy or were too busy to do something. This could be personal or professional. Write a quick note about what you observed:
2. Stop yourself from saying you’re busy. (This might not be easy) instead, explain that you have/had higher priority tasks/projects to complete. Write a brief note about that exchange: