Stop smoking “Busy”

Have you used the phrase: “I’m busy” lately?

Have you used  “I’m just so busy,” as an excuse to not be involved with something or for not having visited someone?  Have you described your workday as “busy”; your home life as “busy?”

Then, I have a New Year’s resolution idea for you.

Yes, I know it’s already January 5th, so I’m guessing that your other resolutions are already several days undone.

About ten years ago, I resolved to stop using the word “busy.”  I did it because I realized how much I didn’t like when I heard someone tell me that they hadn’t worked on my request to them because they were busy. I didn’t like it because I realized that really meant they were working on other peoples’ requests, just not mine. Why not just tell me that I was the bottom of their priority?  I also didn’t like when someone told me they didn’t visit or call because they were busy; again my mind thinking that they probably called and visited others.

So I resolved to be more honest; to myself and to others: That, when I didn’t do something, when I was late on doing something, I would tell folks the deeper reason. Telling them “I was busy” just didn’t cut it anymore. I would tell them what I had chosen to do instead. I would tell them what I had chosen to prioritize when schedules got tight.  Yes, it might mean telling people that their work was not my top priority, but I felt more honest than pretending to let them think it was my top priority when really I put other activities, other tasks in front of theirs.  Similarly, when someone asks me how the day or week went, I didn’t say “it was so busy”, I tell them what I chose to do or some highlights or what occurred that I wasn’t expecting. Again…more honest yet also more human and even more fun.

Over the years, this resolution has become ingrained as a habit. Yes, I still need to stop and check my brain when I want to blurt out, “I was busy”, but I find it’s worth the effort.

Here’s a real example.  I really like watching football.  But I rarely do.  Actually, I choose to do other things rather than watch football.  So, I don’t tell folks on Monday that I was too busy to see the game; I tell them “I would have loved to see the game, but I chose to do some other things instead.”  Notice that the tone changes from me being a victim of busy to one of being in charge of how I spend my day. It’s also more honest.

This resolution now even dribbles down to how I rephrase what others say to me.  My parents and my neighbors, who see me spending lots of hours on weekends taking care of my small farm property, often say “you’re so busy!” to which I say, “I choose to do this or that”  and then add something like “and it saves me from needing a gym membership.”

The really cool benefit of this resolution is that it is a continual reminder that I am not a victim of my circumstances. I get to create my own life, my own priorities, my own decisions. Yes, there are pressing situations that I decide to do an undesirable task, even when my selfish or lazy side would have selected some other option, but it’s still my decision. I find that when I use my more honest language and tell people what I chose to do, they respond with a knowing glance that yes, we are in control of our lives, that we are not prisoners of hectic schedules but rather that we have chosen these hectic schedules.  We choose to have our children in lots of activities, we choose to please the boss and stay late, we choose to satisfy a customer and work long hours on a project, we choose to take care of elderly parents and do their shopping.  We choose how to spend our days.

Warning: This resolution came with a strange downside.

I’ve never smoked, so I find it fascinating how many ex-smokers are so intolerant of smokers.

In a funny coincidence, I am now like an ex-smoker, as I’m an ex-‘busy’-excuse-maker.  As a result, I am hyper-sensitive to anytime someone gives me that “I’m busy” excuse.  I find that I have to spend a little extra energy keeping some less than polite, snippy, remark from flying off my tongue. Not a bad price to pay.

Try it out. See if you can make 2018 the year you stop saying “I was busy” and started saying “I chose…” Go ahead and stop being a hostage of busy and see yourself as the owner of the decisions that drive your day.

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