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Let’s quit boasting about being busy

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My favourite word to describe being busy is one a friend made up – “stressplode”.

It’s supposed to convey the image of you stressing out while simultaneously exploding from the pressure, i.e:

“How are you going today?”

Stressploding! Got so much to do! Will chat later when I’m free!”

There’s nothing more annoying than being told by someone that they’re too busy to deal with you, yet it happens all the time. Hell, I know I’ve done it plenty of times, and I’m sure I will do it plenty more.

And it’s true, we are busy people – no one is denying that you have a lot of work on, a number of responsibilities and multiple people relying on you to pull through. But why is our wider culture so set on being seen as so busy all the time? When did we all decide this was a good thing, to be too busy for friends, family and other colleagues?

Personally, I thrive on pressure. I enjoy the feeling of being busy because then a) I’m not bored, and b) I tend to work far more efficiently when deadlines are looming and the pressure is on. But I will still complain about it, and I’m not even really sure why.

Why do we feel the need to brag about the fact that all we do is rush, rush, and then rush some more? We tell stories about how we woke up at 3am to get work finished, or took part in a conference call during a friend’s birthday party because we’re juggling so many things.

In fact, I’ll bet that most of you reading this often answer the question, “How are you?” with something like, “I’m good, but just so busy at the moment. What’s new, though? Ha ha.”

After doing a bit of reading, I’ve drawn the same conclusion as many out there who say that being busy is somewhat of a social status. Having a lot to do, and the need to be in multiple places and seeing multiple people throughout the day, makes us feel important and worth something, and that we are needed.

It certainly fits with the mindset of the world in which we live, which is that we’re always in competition with one another – for the best jobs, for the most eligible man/woman, for the biggest house, the nicest car, the biggest salary, smartest children, etc. Why wouldn’t we compete for the right to be the busiest person around as well?

What we’re really trying to say with all this busy talk is that we’re busier, more in-demand, more successful than others.

But if I take a moment to think, I probably do have more time at my disposal than I allow myself to believe. Sure, I’ve got plenty to keep me busy, but I do actually have time to relax on weekends, and I do still find the time to do things like go to gym four times a week. So it can’t be that bad, really.

Plus, using our busyness as a one-upping technique is dangerous, because we’re making the problem worse instead of helping each other cope with our heavy workloads (and I do believe they are heavy, don’t get me wrong). But when everyone is “totally stressploding” it’s easy to make others feel guilty that they’re not feeling the same way, and thus less important. So, then they go on to talk about how busy they are the following week, and the whole crazy, busy cycle continues.

An article from Slate put this “art of busyness” so well, that I’m just going to copy and paste it to end this rant:

“The art of busyness is to convey genuine alarm at the pace of your life and a helpless resignation, as if someone else is setting the clock, and yet simultaneously make it clear that you are completely on top of your game. These are not exactly humble brags.”

I could not agree more.

Now, excuse me, I had better go. I’ve got a lot to do today.

Image: Shutterstock 



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Rebecca Lewis
Editor
Human Resources Magazine Singapore

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