The Tyranny of Busy

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Simon Bird

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I’m going to keep this short because I know you’re busy.

I spend most of my working time with very clever people. People who have achieved really great things in their careers and (sometimes), their personal lives. A look over the year shows that I’ve spent my time with doctors, local authority leaders, nurses, academics, engineers and senior civil servants amongst others. Their achievements are impressive – and they’re quite often engaging and interesting people to boot.

But they’re also ‘full’. They are working flat out. They want to do more – and people want more from them. Eventually – almost inevitably, a variation on, “I know that’s the right thing to do but I’m just too busy…”, will arise in our conversations.

‘Busy’ has become the new ‘fine’.

“How are you?” “Fine….” It doesn’t really tell us anything.

‘Busy’ is shorthand for nothing. It’s an empty word which really means either, “I’ve got lots on, please don’t give me anything else to do”, or “Are you questioning my identity and value? Well, I’ve got loads on thanks very much….” Or something in the middle.

We need to face down the tyranny of ‘busy’.

Because busy isn’t going to go anywhere. Just think. In another 10 years we’ll be connected by things that aren’t even invented yet. People will want more of our time, shops will sell us more stuff, politicians will tell us we’re being lied to even more and the press will be even more efficient at scaring us. It’ll be quicker – it’ll be in your face (literally?) Your daughter will still want a story read to her but there are 9 social media channels open on your handheld – 3 of which are blinking because you’ve been mentioned. Quick – the message disappears if you don’t acknowledge your mention – and then what will your HR department think? Quickly…..

Take a breath. It’s OK.

So what are we left with? Just us. So if we can accept that ‘busy’ will simply continue – the question we are left with is, “So how will I be in the face of this?”

If we can reframe how we are, in response to a whirring and ferocious world, some opportunities for choice can emerge. And when those opportunities appear, sometimes you can almost see that extra breath being taken.

(Orignially Published on LinkedIn –  November 6, 2019)

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