There was a time when the question, “How are you doing?” was given the non-answer: “Fine”. Lately though, I hear myself giving the answer: “Busy” or perhaps to cover my bases: “Fine… Busy!”. Do I really think I’m more busy than everyone else? And what does that even mean?
We have become a culture dominated by the cult of busy. The state that for some reason we all want to be in. The excuse we use to justify any social faux pas due to lack of action or commitments we may have neglected. Not only does it give us a sort of social get-out-of-jail-free card, but is even more insidious because it also implies a degree of superiority. It expresses, “I am in so much demand that I can’t respond in a more human way!”.
This absurd worship of busy reminds me of people competing to see who could attend the most meetings as though more meetings somehow justifies our existence and makes us important. Meetings – the practical alternative to work, was written on a mug that one of my bosses brought to every meeting, his silent protest.
Maybe instead of saying busy we should give the real answer: Distracted. As in, I’ve got so many things going on that I no longer know what way is up. Now we’re getting closer to the actual answer without the pompous pretense of sounding important.
This is why I’m trying to ban this answer from my repertoire. I may feel like I’ve got a lot going on, but so does everyone else. My neglect of commitments or relationships is not something that I can excuse just by the sheer number of distractions that I face every day. I want to live with intent and without excuse.
Focus Management vs. Time Management
Too Many Things To-Do
I can relate to your latest entry, Matt. You are right – we are a culture of busyness – and we miss so much by being busy all the time. We miss relationships and people important to us. I also think we end up missing ourselves. Connection with one’s self is just as important as connection with others. It would be good if we all try to just do nothing for a few minutes every day; of course this is easier said than done! But it is something we can aim for. I admire your ability to be able to set aside the societal “norms” and call it how it is.
What I hate more is when I answer, “Busy,” and the response is, “Good!”
This is a great guest post at Zen Habits on this very topic:
“Meetings – the practical alternative to work” – very funny. Our company has never done meetings, …and we are really busy.
On a side note, due to the recession, I find myself responding to people when asked how I am doing, with the repsonse “busy”, but in a more thankful tone. As if to say, “I am busy, and I am thankful to have a job, so I am not complaining, and I am sensitive to others who may not be busy.” It has put a different spin on the state of busy.