If working in a global professional services firm has taught me anything, it’s that everybody is busy and nobody cares if you are.
There’s this unspoken rule that dictates your productivity; if you don’t at least say you’re busy, everyone assumes that you’re not and you absolutely, categorically cannot let on that you might not be rushed off your feet, and so begins every conversation;
'Hey! How are you'
'Oh, you know, sooooo busy. What about you?'
'Err yeah, busy too.’
For months I couldn’t work out whether I was particularly efficient at my job or whether I was forgetting to do things and actually useless. After a while I realised that it wasn’t me who wasn’t busy, it was just the general response my colleagues gave to the question ‘How are you?’. There’s obviously a theory somewhere that ‘busy’ constitutes ‘productive’, but based on my own experience i’d suggest I have evidence to the contrary.
In truth, I didn’t know the meaning of ‘busy’ until I joined the company I currently work for and during the many week’s that I spend going from meeting to meeting, the one’s where I don’t have time to actually do my job, I find there is such a thing as too busy. Those are the week’s I tend to panic that i’ve made mistakes or failed to do anything efficiently and yet, on the week’s that are slightly more manageable I still find myself maintaining the ‘rushed off my feet’ chic that everyone else is claiming. after all, if your colleagues are manically busy and you’re not, what does that say about you?
Social media, blogs, newspapers, any public forum really, has a habit of telling you how you should live your life and with the increasing popularity of Instagram Influencers and their unsolicited advice, things can get a little confusing; You need to be using every free hour of your day to be productive, to hustle, to chase that paper and be the boss babe you truly are so that you can achieve the ultimate success that you and everyone else ought to be chasing but you’ve also got to take care of your mental well being, take time out for yourself, light candles, read books, moisturise your face. Sure, maybe you should try to do both but sometimes I struggle to roll out of bed and have a shower so what happens on those days when you’re not buzzing with energy and productive thoughts?
I read Mark Manson’s The Subtle Art of Not Giving a Fuck in 2019 and found I agreed with many of the arguments he made about this generation’s need to constantly chase positivity and success, he explains that by it’s very definition ’success’ is impossible for everyone to achieve at the same level and it’s demeaning to the large population of social media followers to not only assume, but demand we self-improve in order to strive for equal measures of success. I think this relates well to my bug-bear about everyone’s need to appear busy.
If we use the company I work for as an example; a Global professional services firm with hundreds of thousands of employees and the simple fact that literally everyone actually is ‘busy’, eventually we’re not only negating the very meaning of the word but we’re moving the gate posts of what we define as ‘busy’. In any case, I’m already confident that the act of being busy doesn’t mean you’re doing ‘more’ than anyone else, as I said, I find i’m significantly more productive on the days when I don’t have meetings strewn across my diary and can actually take some time to tackle my ‘to-do’ list.
So why do our colleagues and friends insist on humble bragging about how snowed-under they are, when they must be aware that everyone is working just as hard? I’d suggest it’s down to one of two reasons; a) They’re not busy at all but they’re under the impression you have an opinion on their levels of capacity or b) They’re looking for praise. Either way, neither of these are reason enough to waste your breath. Do your job and let the quality speak for it’s self, take time for yourself but also work to the appropriate level that suits your capacity and your ambition, if the feedback from your superiors is positive then it doesn’t really matter how busy Helen from HR is, does it? She’s probably just shit at organising her time.