One of the most common themes in holiday letters I received recently was “We’ve had a very busy year.”
I get it. There’s a lot to do – and never enough time to do it all.
But I believe it’s too easy to get sucked into the trap where we are constantly busy and where we wear busyness like a badge of honor.
A respected leader once told me someone confronted him when he continually responded to the question, “How are you?” by saying, “I’ve been really busy.”
As he thought about why he responded to people this way, he realized two things: (1) he wanted others to think that because he was extremely busy he was important, and (2) he was sending an unintended message that he didn’t have time for that person.
Consider this quote from author and professor Eugene Peterson. Though writing primarily to spiritual leaders, Peterson offers cutting insight to all who want to lead ourselves and lead others:
“Slothfulness [laziness] is most often evidenced in busyness … in frantic running around, trying to be everything to everyone, and then not having time to listen or pray, no time to become the person who is doing these things.”
Ouch. Whether we aspire to be praying people or not, most of us aspire to focus on doing what’s important and on connecting with people. Yet, as Peterson says, we tend to be “too busy” because of vanity and because it’s easier to let others decide what we should do than it is to decide for ourselves.
The real question is not whether we’re too busy but whether we’re taking responsibility to focus our lives and work on what’s most important.
What will you say the next time someone asks, “How are you?”
Joe Baker is a Partner with PeopleResults. As a leadership consultant and executive coach, he helps executives and their teams focus on meaningful results and effective relationships. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @JoeBakerJr.
Photo: Brooch Motel