“I’m just so busy!”
It’s a statement you’ve likely heard repeatedly from friends and colleagues over the years — and you’ve probably even said it yourself.
Exclaiming how busy we are has become somewhat of a status symbol — our demanding jobs define our success, and our loaded social calendar defines our popularity as adults. We accept invitations to happy hours and baby showers with a reservation that we are just so busy these days.
As professionals, being busy with coffee meetings, networking events and lunches makes us look like we’re doing our jobs: conducting business, making connections and even sealing that all-important deal.
Of course, these events are beneficial. However, many of us are legitimately busy balancing families, friends, hobbies, and new homes. How much time do you really have for all these professional extracurriculars? How many introductions over coffee is too many?
“I just can’t keep meeting people. I’ve reached max capacity. I can’t keep meeting people for coffee or quote-unquote happy hours,” my friend sighed during one of the quote-unquote happy hours that we find time to schedule once every three months.
My friend is relatively young, single, and an incredibly determined executive. As she doesn’t yet have a home of her own, or her own family, I questioned if she could really be busy enough to afford to say no — especially publicly.
In the last few years, experts have determined that busy is just a myth.
As Tim Kreider wrote in The New York Times in 2012, the claim of being too busy is “almost always (from) people whose lamented busyness is purely self-imposed: work and obligations they’ve taken on voluntarily, classes and activities they’ve ‘encouraged’ their kids to participate in. They’re busy because of their own ambition or drive or anxiety, because they’re addicted to busyness and dread what they might have to face in its absence.”
This description undoubtedly fit my friend — as it does many others on the Eastside and around the country. The irony is — as Kreider hinted at — that my friend is only maxed out on time because she has, likely unintentionally, kept saying yes to everyone and everything, even if these meetings and events didn’t benefit her career. She has a calendar packed to the point where her only option is to start saying no to the people who just might matter the most.
Climbing the corporate ladder means saying both “yes” and ‘“no” more often, but saying the wrong word at the wrong time will make you a busier person surrounded by people who aren’t helping you do anything but fill your calendar. Saying them at the right time — and intentionally saying “no” to the networking events that will not matter to you or your company — could make the difference in both your professional success and your personal sanity.
The same follows for your personal life; consider spending more intentional time with the people who matter most by saying ‘“no” to the people and events who don’t.
The status-seekers may not enjoy it, but those who genuinely never want to say “I’m just so busy!” again may just want to give “no” a chance instead.