The Perception of Busyness

One of the things I hear often at work is “I’m too busy” or “I have so much to do.” This ironically is usually said by the same person repeatedly and at great lengths usually while you are trying to actually get something done. It is my firm belief that the more someone talks about being busy the less busy they are and that people have developed a misconception that the perception of busyness is important in how people view them at work.

In corporate America (and I have to assume in other environments as well) there are times that work ebbs and flows, times when you are slammed and times when you have some room to breath, and that’s ok. How we handle those times and how important we view our “busyness” in my opinion  has a big impact on how we deliver and, if you are like me, how I perceive other people.

First let’s look at busyness as a concept and how it impacts our lives. There is a string of quotes that paraphrased read

Busyness is the enemy of deep thinking.

To me filling my day with busy work or tasks means that there is no room for improvements or delving deep into a problem. For example, if I spend five hours a day doing an audit and not figuring out why I need to do the audit that’s not a good use of time. On the flip side of that it leads to my other point the perception of busyness, which I am covered in.

Some people seem terrified of anyone thinking they are doing nothing, even if it means spending all of one’s time espousing how much they are doing something. In my career, the thing that has worked for me the best is if I am slow simply ask for something to work on. This may seem like the most basic response but to me it’s astonishing how many people seem afraid to ask this simple question of their bosses. I have actually had a boss tell me they have never had someone ask for more work and how it increased their perception of me that I would show the initiative to have something more to work on. This was a mind blowing experience to me that something so simple could net such great result.

In Conclusion…

Remember to stay busy, but not too busy. Take time to work on a problem if you are looking for something to do. Don’t be afraid to reach out for more work, it shows initiative and increases your transparency with your boss. Most of all remember that if you just constantly respond with “I’m too busy” at best people will stop coming to you and at worst you will annoy everyone around you.



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