It’s a phrase which, as you read this post, is being uttered in tens of thousands of offices the world over:

“I’m busy.”

Or, perhaps:

“I’m too busy.”

Or, if we really want to make the point:

“I’m really busy.”

I doubt few, if any of us, are immune to the ‘curse of busy’. After all, isn’t that the nature of work? Aren’t we always ‘too busy’? In all honesty, it seems to have become almost a badge of pride over the years. ‘Busy’ proves that we’re working hard. ‘Busy’ proves that we’re gainfully employed, that we are justifying our place within the workplace.

Our get out of jail free card

The problem is that being ‘busy’ seems to have become our get out of jail free card. Don’t want to do something your colleague has asked you to do? Tell them you’re busy. Hoping to avoid that three hour meeting next week that you’d rather not go to? Claim to be busy. And, perhaps most damaging of all… can’t even be bothered to be civilised in response to the employee who’s come over to your desk to ask you a question? No problem. Just snap back an: “I’m really busy.” Job done.

If we’re not careful, over time the ‘curse of busy’ will start to slowly but persistently erode our company culture. Using busyness as an excuse for our failure to deliver, failure to get involved, and even failure to treat others with courtesy and consideration will all have long lasting and far reaching effects.

Productivity, not busyness

So, here’s a challenge to every single person reading this post: to avoid the ‘curse of busy’. From now on, let’s collectively resolve to stop using it as an excuse within the workplace. It’s fine to feel busy… and it’s fine to feel like you have things under control also. (As an aside, I sometimes think part of the reason the phrase ‘I’m busy’ has gained such prevalence within our office environments is that people start to feel scared to not claim they’re busy… in case that means others start to doubt the value they’re delivering. Madness!) It’s not fine to go around spouting it as a badge of pride, or using it as a reason to go against your organisation’s culture and values.

We can all find things to busy ourselves with throughout the day. That doesn’t mean they’re the right things when it comes to maximising the value derived from them. Instead of focusing on ‘busy’, let’s start focusing instead on ‘productivity’, ‘delivery’, and ‘output’… and banish the ‘curse of busy’ from our workplaces, once and for all.