The B-Word: What Busy Really Means

Today’s content is a repost of one of my favorite blogs of all time. It continues to challenge me and I trust it will do the same for you!

How often do you say the word ‘busy’ each day? Over the past year, I have been pondering what we really mean when we say that we are busy. The word has crept into our vernacular and is so common that we likely do not realize how many times we say or hear it each week. The problem with this simple word is that it is used as a euphemism. Underneath this four letter B-word, masquerades a definition.

Here are six things that I believe the B-word really means.

1. I cannot prioritize. Therefore, I feel compelled to do everything and that makes me feel busy.

2. I need to feel important. Our culture places a high value on busyness. Therefore, if I tell people that I am busy, it must mean that I am important. Can you feel good about yourself if you are not busy?

3. I cannot say “no”. Of the many demands on my life, I feel compelled to do them all, or at the least, as many as possible.

4. I’m too busy for you. By stating that I am busy, I am really saying that I don’t want to spend time with you.

5. I don’t know how to be still. Keeping busy can be a way of suppressing things that we do not want to deal with (if I’m busy, I don’t have time to think about it). Alternately, sometimes we haven’t learned how to embrace a non-busy environment (our media rich-culture makes it difficult to be undistributed).

The last reason is really a positive use of the B-word, but it still requires you to rethink how you use of it:

6. I really love my life…and my schedule is full of things I love to do. If this is the case, you are in a good place! However, you may want to consider the different ways people interpret your use of the word. Is there a more effective way to express a full life without it being misinterpreted?

As leaders, we need to assess how often we use the word busy. If we use it often, then we need to assess why. When we have schedules full of things that we love to do, we’re not busy. Instead, I believe that we are fulfilled.


 

Head Shot

Jeff Suderman is a futurist, consultant and professor who works in the field of organizational development. He partners with clients to improve culture, leadership, teamwork, organizational alignment, strategy and organizational future-readiness. He resides in Palm Desert, California. Twitter: @jlsuderman Email: jeff@jeffsuderman.com

The Problem with ‘Important’

A colleague and I have had a difficult time meeting lately. As I have reflected on why this has occurred, I have discovered that the word ‘important‘ is used a lot. As in, “I’m sorry but I have to cancel because something important came up”. This simple situation has caused me to reflect on the word important. What are we really saying when we use this word?

I have come to the conclusion that we use the word ‘important’ a lot. In fact, some of us may suffer from an important addiction. And over time, it has become such a normal part of our vocabulary that we have become numb to what important really means. To test the idea, take this simple test. Have you said any of these phrases in the last few weeks?

  • I can’t make the meeting because something important just came up.
  • Give me a few minutes, I’m finishing an important call.
  • We need to reschedule because I have an important meeting at that time.
  • Son, I can’t play with you right now because I have something important to do.

Important can be legitimate! It can also be an excuse with unexamined consequences. For example, here are a few things we may be communicating when we indiscriminately use the word important.

  • We tell others that they (or their tasks) are unimportant.
  • We reflect our ability (or more accurately, our inability) to prioritize.
  • We communicate that we are too busy to make time for someone else.
  • We legitimately have too many things to do.
  • We are not effective at prioritization.
  • We are using the word to make ourselves feel important. Because busy people are important people!

A few months ago, I spoke about a similar theme when I discussed the word ‘Busy’ (Our New Four Letter Word). Like the word busy, important can be legitimate. But when it is overused, it reveals that there is an underlying issue (such as those listed above).

So should we stop using the word ‘important’? Definitely not!! There are important things that need to shape our priorities. However, we need to stop giving it out like cheap candy at Halloween. We must use it strategically. We need to use it when something is really important and someone else needs to know it.

And now I must rush off to an important meeting…


 

Head ShotDr. Jeff Suderman is an “important” consultant, professor and pracademic who works in the field of organizational development. He partners with clients to improve culture, leadership, teamwork, organizational alignment, strategy and organizational future-readiness. He resides in Palm Desert, California. Twitter: @jlsuderman

 

The B-Word: What BUSY really means

I encourage you to evaluate how often you say the word ‘busy’ each day. Over the past year, I have been pondering the meanings of the word busy. It has crept into our vernacular and is so common that we likely do not realize how many times we say or hear the word each day. The problem with this simple word is that it is used as a euphemism. Underneath this four letter B-word, masquerades a definition.

Here are six things that I believe the B-word really means.

1. I cannot prioritize. Therefore, I feel compelled to do everything and that makes me feel busy.

2. I need to feel important. Our culture places a high value on busyness. Therefore, if I tell people that I am busy, it must mean that I am important. Can you feel good about yourself if you are not busy?

3. I cannot say “no”. Of the many demands on my life, I feel compelled to do them all, or at the least, as many as possible.

4. I’m too busy for you. By stating that I am busy, I am really saying that I don’t want to spend time with you.

5. I don’t know how to be still. Keeping busy can be a way of suppressing things that we do not want to deal with (if I’m busy, I don’t have time to think about it). Alternately, sometimes we haven’t learned how to embrace a non-busy environment (our media rich-culture makes it difficult to be undistributed).

The last reason is really a positive use of the B-word, but it still requires you to rethink how you use of it:

6. I really love my life…and my schedule is full of things I love to do. If this is the case, you are in a good place! However, you may want to consider the different ways people interpret your use of the word. Is there a more effective way to express a full life without it being misinterpreted (hint: the body language of a person that uses the phrase to mean they love their lives is very different than the previous reasons!).

As leaders, we need to assess how often we use the word busy. If we use it often, then we need to assess why we use it. When we have schedules full of things that we love to do, we’re not busy. Instead, I believe that we are fulfilled.

Making Meetings Matter

“Meetings are usually toxic because they often convey an abysmally small amount of information per minute”.[1]

Have you ever felt this way? Having sat through many frustrating meetings, I resonate with this statement. Often meetings are ineffective because participants are unclear about its purpose and outcomes. When people enter a meeting with unclear expectations they experience frustration which is a catalyst for conflict. A simple way to minimize this is to establish clear guidelines about the meeting purpose.

Generally, there are five reasons for holding a meeting:

1Information Sharing: The purpose of this meeting is to convey information which helps people do their job more effectively. A common example of an information sharing meeting is a conference or a sales presentation. Increasingly, ‘information’ agenda items are sent via a short email instead of at group meetings

2. Problem Solving/Innovation: Attendees focus on specific problems or ideas which need to be debated and discussed by the group. For example, a department sensed a market niche for a new product. However, the exact product specifications were unknown so a problem solving meeting was used to debate ideas and design a product that would best meet customer needs.Meetings

3. Decision Making: Some meetings are for the sole purpose of making a decision. Often these decisions are a result of a problem solving meeting or are done at problem solving meetings. For example, a geographically dispersed sales team had developed individual draft schedules of their annual sales travel. They called a decision making meeting to synthesize plans, solve scheduling conflicts and finalize decisions as a group.

4. Planning: Organizations build short and long-term plans to establish goals, strategies and tactics. Often called strategic planning, the goal of these meetings is to establish corporate, divisional or individual direction and priorities.

5. Commitment Building: When you need to ‘get everyone on the same page’ a commitment building meeting is effective. These often occur when a new product is launched, when the company hires a new CEO or when an organization embarks on a new venture.

Sometimes meetings will combine more than one of these purposes. If this is the case, you can use agenda headers to outline what participants should expect. Meetings can be effective but it doesn’t happen by accident. They require pre-planning and a clear answer to the question on the mind of every participant – “why are we at this meeting?”

And a box of donuts doesn’t hurt either!


[1] Fried, Jason & Hansson, David (2010). Rework. New York: Crown Publishing. P. 108.

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