Julie Thorson

Early morning walks with Moon  are proving to be a great way to get my head right. Today’s walk was no different. As I was preparing mentally for my day, I was beating myself up because I waited to prepare this blog until the last minute. 

I justified it by telling myself, “Well, I have been busy.” If I could have slapped myself, I would have.

There are certain words that have become red-flag words for me, certain words I would like to ban. Busy is topping the list these days. How many times in one day do we hear someone say things like, “I’m sorry. I was busy,” or, “I’m so busy.” You get the drift. 

I declare busy a lazy word. Who isn’t “busy”? Some people wear busy on their chest like a badge of honor. Good for you, you are busy. Who isn’t? Really, who isn’t? If someone working today can say I’m not really all that busy, chances are there is more to the story. Everyone is busy. 

In our field there is ALWAYS more work to be done. We could have spent more time with that resident or their family. We could have shown more appreciation for our team members. We could have sent another thank-you note. We could have studied the changes in regulations more. We could have researched more. The list goes on and on. We are all busy. At the end of the day there is certainly more work to be done. 

What really chaps me is when people find time to complain about how busy they are. You found time for that? We prioritize how we spend our time throughout the workday and at home. Many times busy is an excuse to not do the things you know you need to do. 

My favorite with this nasty word is when we use it as a competition. I’m so much busier than she is. I don’t see her doing anything all day. Really? Now you’ve made yourself the busy police? This is about people genuinely working to their capacity and others judging them because they seemingly don’t get as much done in a day as you do. Why the need to compare?

Alternatives to the ‘b’ word

I’m not suggesting we don’t share how we feel about our workload and responsibilities. There are much better ways to do this than to run around claiming you are sooooo busy, 

How about, “I need help.” “I’m struggling.” “I’m overwhelmed.” “I’m busy” is just an apathetic excuse. Yet we hear it constantly. It’s even become a normal answer to, “How are you?” “Oh, things are so busy.” That tells me nothing about you specifically. That tells me you are the same as everyone working today.

The next time you want to share how busy you are, ask yourself why you feel the need to use that word specifically. Are you implying the person you are speaking to isn’t? Or are you suggesting you are the only one who is busy? Or maybe you want the person you are talking to so agree and wallow in your busyness with you. 

Do better. Consider what you are really feeling and share it. Busy means your life is full and you have conflicting priorities throughout your day. However, you control your day. If you don’t control your day, that is a discussion for another time.

A leader’s role

As leaders we have a responsibility to offer support, encouragement, and inspiration. It’s hard to have a meaningful conversation when we get, “I’m busy,” as a response to “How are you?” What does that mean? It’s too much? It’s a good busy? It’s a bad busy? It’s a throw-away word.  

I know over the years I have said I’m busy. It’s human nature. I think, though, if we really work to find the words to describe how we are feeling and not just fall back on that blasted “b” word, we can and will have more meaningful conversations about our lives. 

The next time you are tempted to share how busy you are, don’t. You aren’t that special. There is no competition for who is the busiest. Instead consider your capacity, consider your priorities, and put one step in front of the other.

Bottom line, when we compare notes of how busy we are, it does something to us. It creates a frantic environment, one that’s hard to find our way out of.  There is an impact, and it isn’t good. Life is hectic. Life is also amazing. How we navigate it is up to us, no one else. 

Let’s ban busy. Let’s choose words that really describe our situations and talk through them. 

Julie Thorson was the 2018 recipient of the LeadingAge Dr. Herbert Shore Outstanding Mentor of the Year award. She currently co-facilitates Leading Age Iowa’s Leadership Academy. She is a Leading Age Academy fellow and former coach. The Head Coach (president and CEO) of Friendship Haven, a life plan community in Fort Dodge, IA, Thorson is a coach’s daughter at heart. A former part-time nursing home social worker, she is a licensed nursing home administrator and completed Leading Age’s Leadership Educator Program in 2019.