“Busy” doesn’t really mean “productive”; here’s how to switch your focus to what really matters.
BY STEPHANIE VOZZA 3 MINUTE READ
At most moments in the day, we’re busy doing something; however, there’s a big difference between being busy and productive and just being busy. It’s easy to fall into the latter category when days are filled with never-ending tasks. Lately, though, admitting that you’re “busy” has gotten a bad rap.
“The term ‘busy’ became a badge of honor,” says Mike Vardy, founder of the Productivityist website. “Being busy shows you’re important; you’ve got things going on. Having that status symbol is one of the reasons why people held onto it.”
But “busy” doesn’t really mean “productive,” and it can often lead to a feeling of overwhelm. Henry David Thoreau once said, “It is not enough to be busy. So are the ants. The question is: What are we busy about?”
“Once you start to look at that, the term ‘busy’ loses some of its luster,” says Vardy. “Throwing around the word ‘busy,’ is like using the F word; it’s only powerful in specific situations.”
Related: Why You Need to Stop Bragging About How Busy You Are
THE PROBLEM WITH “BUSY”The word “busy” is defined as being “engaged in action.” The bad kind of busy is taking action without being engaged in it and doing so repeatedly, says Vardy.
“It’s spending time getting your email inbox to zero without being engaged with everything that lands there first,” he says. “It’s surfing the web without a clear objective in mind before opening the browser. It’s decluttering your space–physical and/or digital–without putting a plan in place first.
“The right kind of busy depends on intention before attention. The wrong kind of busy attracts attention before intention.”
Busy can also be isolating. Inevitably someone will ask you what you’re doing or how you’ve been, and if your reflex answer is “busy” it can be dismissive and shut down conversations. “The person often responds with, ‘Sorry, didn’t mean to bug you,’ and backs away,” says Vardy.
Saying you’re “crazy busy” is even worse. “Not only am I busy, I’m frantically busy,” says Vardy. “I don’t think it’s meant to be a conversation stopper. It’s meant to say, ‘This is how important I am. I have this stuff.’ We all have stuff. We’re all busy.”
HOW TO MAKE “BUSY” GOOD