I don’t know about you but I can’t stand it when someone tells me, “I’m too busy”. I call these people ITB (I’m Too Busy) people. Something about those three words strikes a chord in me that lights my bullshit detector UP. I start scanning my memory looking for cracks in their story immediately! Ever noticed that the people who say this most are often the least busy people you know? They wander around chatting about nothing to everyone and talking about how much they have to do when the truth is that if they spent as much time doing the things as they did talking about them, they would have so much more time! But then they’d have nothing to talk about. For these people, being busy makes them feel important. But what they don’t realize is that their inflated self-importance is not only super annoying but also paper thin. People see right through it! In fact, it makes me want to just want to roll my eyes, call them a lazy loser, throw my hands up and walk away. It quite literally shuts me down. Here’s why…
There are so many people out there who are packed to the gills with children, work, spouses, friends, families, and hobbies but manage to chip in when they can and respectfully decline when they can’t. These people never say,” I’m too busy”. Ironically, these are the people who probably are actually too busy but want to serve others and help out when they can. These people have increased their capacity to serve in their lives and are incredible problem solvers. They are agile and flexible. Sure, they sometimes overcommit, but they are dependable.
You see, being too busy is a mindset. I truly believe that people whose first reaction is “no” or “I’m too busy” are not asking the right question when a request first enters their mind. Rather than “can this be done” which results in a yes or no, the question should be “how can this be done?”.
This shift opens the mind to possibilities and ignites a problem-solving approach. It allows you to explore ways to serve others in ways they hadn’t considered. Rather than, “No, I can’t pick up Lacy at 10 am to take to her Cookie Booth”. It becomes, “Maybe. I can if I can take her to church with us first and then bring her with me. I would need to pick her up at 8:45”. Even if the answer is still no in the end, the fact that you worked through the situation shows that you are not shutting them down without considering it. It is validating their need for help and providing an opportunity for you to show up for them, even if you can’t do what they asked.
Here’s the thing, we are all busy and overcommitted but have you ever noticed that when you really want to do something you can make it happen? If the thing, whatever it is, is desirable enough, you figure out a way to fit it in, no matter how big or hard it is. This is because the payoff, intrinsic or otherwise is high enough to make it worth it. So what if you can do it but don’t see the payoff? You should do it anyway. The truth is that you never know when you may need help and will have to ask for support. Wouldn’t it be a bummer if everyone was “too busy” for you?
There is so much dishonesty and selfishness wrapped up in the words “I’m too busy”. What really comes across is that “this is not worth my time” or “I don’t want to”. There is so much fear around how those answers will be received so they reach for the excuse, “I’m too busy”. It always gets them off the hook because everyone can empathize with that. I suppose that is why I get so fired up. I hate excuses.
Any time I react this viscerally to a situation, I know it is time to step back and unpack it. So stepping into the shoes of the “I am too busy” people I know, I tried to figure out the benefits of doing this so understand why it is such a go-to reaction for them.
What I have figured out is that the primary reason for this response is that they are protecting their time and trying to preserve their energy for the things they really want to do. Don’t they always seem to have plenty of time for themselves? The things most of us struggle with daily, self-care, our own hobbies, non-kid time, date nights, etc. My calendar is PACKED with everything from writing to you, to exercise, to softball practice and selling girl scout cookies, coloring a friend’s hair, doing my mom’s nails, working onsite at a conference for three days and nights, planning my daughter’s 6th birthday and my son’s 1st birthday.
As crazy as my schedule is, my answer to people is rarely no. It’s very apparent to me how my schedule gets that way. I want to show up for all these people. It is hard and tiring but when I think of my life and not being present for these people in my life, I think of how disconnected and isolated I would feel. Also, when I need someone to get my kid from school or pick up the baby from daycare because traffic is so crazy, their answers are rarely no. I always get the help I need, because I always give the help I can!
To be honest, I am a bit jealous of the ITB people… I think, ” I don’t want to do this either… I want to be too busy!!!”. But I know that the hard things no one wants to do are the things that teach you the most.
Protecting your time and energy are things that everyone should. It’s so easy to be lost in a sea of other people’s requests on your time. It is OK to say no, but do it in a sincere, honest and respectful way. And when you say yes, as with anything in life, there is a trade-off that occurs. There is always an opportunity cost; something you may miss because you have committed to something else. However, when the default reaction to things that come up is “I am too busy” you will miss out on so much.
One last thing I want to be really clear on before I wrap up; I don’t think everyone should just say yes to everything. That just simply isn’t possible and would result in being thought of as flaky and inconsistent because you couldn’t do it all. I just believe that there is a way to decline when you truly cannot or will not participate in something that is more honest and that shows respect for the person asking.
You learn something from everyone and everything you encounter. It might be a lesson in what not to do but there is always something to take away. In this case, it is to be intentional with “yes” and respectful with “no”. But, never make excuses. Be honest about your position and stand in your decision. People respect you when you do that. Plus, no one likes an ITB person!!!
Comment with your thoughts on this, I know this is a hot topic!