Merriam Webster defines the word as full of activity or engaged in action. Even if we don’t use it in conversation countless times per week, we certainly think about it multiple times per day. This word has become our “go to” reason for missing deadlines, failing to connect with friends, neglecting time with our families, and even damaging our own personal well-being. If our lives are really feeling out of control, we add the word “crazy” in front of it to make an even bigger statement. And I think it’s time for all of us (myself included) to stop using it so often as an excuse not to make better choices each day. As you have probably figured out by now, the word I am referring to is… BUSY!
Some examples might include:
The ultimate problem for me is that when I use the word busy as a reason for not doing something important, it doesn’t force me to dig deeper to the root cause of a life so (over) full of activity. So I just continue to do… well… “busy work”.
Realistically I know you and I can’t totally ban the word from our lexicon, but I do think we can leverage that moment when “busy” is the word we want to use to challenge ourselves to do better. Some solutions include:
Creating a mental picture in your mind or articulating it in words to someone else gives you a clearer picture of what’s making you so busy.
Using this approach will force you to take a deeper look at your current situation instead of making a universal observation. One I sometimes use is rushed. (Hint: Doing this will also open the opportunity for a much more productive conversation with those who care about your professional or personal success).
Sakichi Toyoda, the founder of Toyota Industries, developed this problem-solving technique in the 1930s. The method is simple: When you encounter a problem, you drill down to its root cause by asking “Why” five times. Here’s how it could work when you find yourself wanting to use the word “busy:”
Having reached the root cause of your problem, you could now take concrete action to improve your situation. You might start adding a time allotment for each task, change the time when you are planning, and/or keep a time log for a few days to see what’s taking up so much of your time.
The goal for me in challenging my overuse of the word “busy” is to stop the rationalization of poor choices, ineffective planning, or an unwillingness to change my attitudes or behaviors. Don’t get me wrong, I want my life to be full of activity. I just want the activities to be ones that enable me to be fully present in each moment, focused on my highest priorities, and knowing that I am having the desired impact on my world each day. I wish the same for you.
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