Continually reinforcing how busy you are is not only annoying, it diminishes your personal brand.
So many people's version of good small talk is sharing tales of their extreme busyness, as if, somehow being busy is a good thing or unique. I interpret it as meaning you can't control your life and don't make good choices about how you invest your time.
I highly doubt the most successful people, Sir Richard Branson or Tony Robbins for example, would go around and constantly express how busy they are. Their results speak for themselves, they don’t need to explain it.
Society's pressure has created a busy-is-best culture, and I'm not buying it. Stopping to smell the roses of life is not a bad thing, it's a wise choice. Even so, my goal is not to get you to stop being busy - busy can be awesome. My goal is to have you stop SAYING you're busy - because telling people you're busy - well, that's not so awesome.
Despite having lots to do, busy is not an attribute I want associated with my personal brand, so I stopped telling people I’m busy. Now, people have taken to saying it on my behalf. “Hi Allison, I know you’re so busy.” HUH? (That's not a compliment, BTW)
When I stopped saying I was busy, the benefits were less about what people thought of me, rather more how it impacted my day-to-day life. I started to feel more in control of my schedule, more relaxed about my never-ending to-do circle and it made it easier to focus on the person in front of me.
Here are some reasons I hope you’ll remove the word busy from your vocabulary too.
You may legitimately be one of those people who thrives on being busy. You work best under pressure and the more responsibility you have, the better you perform. Entrepreneurs, lawyers and accountants at tax time are good examples of people who embrace a busy environment.
Like me, you have no desire to leave your work at the office and are more than happy to toil until the wee-hours of the morning on a project you love.
Here’s the problem: You’re an anomaly.
Many people in your life don’t get it. Therefore, they’ll say annoying things like,
"You need to take time for yourself."
“You need to relax.”
"You work too hard.”
“Just step away from the phone.”
None of which is helpful advice. To avoid the unnecessary frustration of having to defend your desire to be busy, stop expressing your busyness and instead, rephrase it. Consider positioning your busy in creative ways that won’t force you to be defensive.
“Excited to almost be through a massive project. Can’t wait to share it with you when we launch.”
"I live for tax time, doing this work is why I became an accountant.”
“I feel so fortunate to have so many clients counting on me.”
How are the naysayers going to respond to that? They’d be hard-pressed to preach to you by telling you to relax and stop working.
There are many contributing factors when it comes to your personal brand, which is best defined as the gut reaction people have about you. Can we not find something more value to be tied to your personal brand than your ability to stay busy?
Being busy does not differentiate you. Everyone is busy – that’s how business works. Hanging your hat on the busy shingle has more negative connotations than positive ones. On the bright side, it can feel empowering because people depend on you, it’s a great phrase to claim your self-importance. There’s no doubt, you have purpose because you have things to do.
On the other side, to others looking in, it can seem like you don’t know how to make healthy choices to manage your schedule. It can signal that you don’t have enough confidence or backbone to say “No” when you’re at capacity. Even if you are saying you’re busy proudly, it can be misconstrued as complaining, which hurts your brand too.
People always tell me they hate small talk. No wonder. Most conversations start with the question, “How are you?” followed by the uninspiring answer, “Busy.” When I talk to audiences about having conversations that lead to business opportunities, I encourage them to take responsibility for deepening their interactions.
It takes some effort to wander off the default answer path. Give it a try by saying something that acts as a spring board for the small talk to turn into big talk.
"How are you?”…
“Excited, just finished a project I’ve worked on for months.”
“Great, I’ve really been taking time to ski this winter.”
“Dazed, confused, and living on the edge.”
… ANYTHING is better than busy.
The phrase, “OMG, I’m so busy” is usually uttered by people who are overwhelmed by their to-do list. The problem with a list is we expect that eventually it will end. It never does. That’s why I call it a to do circle. There is always something to be done and the sooner you can accept the circle keeps spinning, the more control over your life you will have.
The sure-fire way to not overcome your overwhelm is to constantly reinforce your busy-ness. Most coaching clients at some point enter into the world of overwhelm – in business, there is no escaping too much to be done, in too little time with too few resources.
Dramatizing this reality just makes it worse. I’ll encourage clients to take a step back, remove the emotion and look at the required tasks objectively. This always helps them gain control and confidence to get the most important stuff done.
Busy-itis can negatively impact your relationships, especially with clients.
A friend hired a real estate agent who continually makes everyone aware of how incredibly busy he is. She felt uncomfortable contacting him for even the simplest question because he made her feel like she was another inconvenience in his overloaded life. She never felt like he was fully present when they were working on her house deal.
I notice it too. I’ve had conversations with colleagues who are so happy to go on and on about how busy they are, so I’ll rush the call to let them get back to it. If you’re that out-of-control, I don’t want to keep you from getting a handle on your life.
Look, we all know you're busy, which is why I encourage you to find something more interesting to say when you’re taking time out of your busy schedule to communicate with others. At least others would realize that you have enough control of your choices to slow down and smell the roses - if that's what you want to do.