Busy, Busy, Busy.
Ask anyone how they’re doing and you’re likely to get one answer: they’re sooo busy. Ever since the financial crisis, if that weren't your automatic response, people were liable to begin musing about you as deadweight, fat waiting to be trimmed, a cow on the path to slaughter. If only you could see or hear what lay ahead you might turn back. In our industry, it’s easy to understand some of these feelings, especially at places like XPEDX and Unisource right now. Quick: look like you’re busy.
We talk about being so busy, but are we really?
Americans are so busy that we watch between four and five hours of television per day. If we sleep for seven hours, that means we spend more than a quarter of our waking hours in front of the tube every day. To me, that doesn’t sound like being busy, that sounds like making choices.
And what about the people chatting around the office or walking down the hallways? What are they doing? Are they so busy too? They’re the people who are most eager to adamantly proclaim to you just how busy and overworked they are. Give them your ear and they’ll gnaw away until you feel like Evander Holyfield after a tussle with Mike Tyson. Yeah, it’s painful.
I’ve had the busy excuse projected onto me many times. It’s such an easy excuse that it makes people comfortable. “Dustin hasn’t addressed an issue yet; he must be really busy.” It would make it okay, except that it doesn’t. Sure, I work a full-time job, go to school on the weekends and find time to write this blog. I guess that’s busy, but many people I know are busier. Take, for example, anyone who has kids. The reality is that I, and everyone else, set priorities in my life and business life. Some issues get addressed, and others, well I’m just too busy to handle right now.
I recently ran an Earth Day promotion giving away 100 percent recycled linen paper in $8,000 batches. Yep, free paper, and I’ve found that people are so busy that they’re having a difficult time engaging with me to hash out the details and take advantage of the promotion. And for this, I have to take responsibility for not framing the offer properly.
When I hear someone talking about how they're so busy that they had to neglect a task, I suspect the issue simply isn’t a priority for them. Business (busy-ness) is a false pretense that gives cover to someone who doesn’t feel comfortable telling you the truth. It enables many of us to procrastinate—to put off the tasks we simply don’t like or don’t want to do. The challenge becomes how to change others’ priorities. The answer lies with empathy, interest mapping, and finding out how to let them have your way. That might sound manipulative, but it isn’t.
For if we don’t change the conversation, there will always be another hour of TV or more water cooler banter or someone to listen to how busy they are. And if we let them, some people will procrastinate forever, and boy will they be busy doing it.