Replace busy with living: How to take “busy” out of your vocabulary and mindset

“It takes courage to say yes to rest and play in a culture where exhaustion is seen as a status symbol.” – Brene Brown

I had this quote posted in my office at my previous job. After these past few years, it’s time to bring it back. Let me start by saying this is not a novice concept. A quick google search will produce articles old and new about why we should stop saying we’re busy. Yet, I’ve found it creeping back into my vocabulary and in others too. Consider this a refresh.

One of my friends at work jokes with me when I’m doing my “Sandra Bullock Walk” from the movie The Proposal. A book editor exec, she has no time to talk to others as she struts through the halls with her face glued to her cell phone. While he’s joking, it does make me pause for a sec, laugh and continue my day with a more relaxed face and walk. That “walk” sends a signal to others that I’m too busy to stop and chat. It’s not what I mean to give off, but too busy is the signal I’m giving. The same happens when we respond to a question with “Busy!” This response can elicit a feeling in the other person that they too should be busy. OR that their work is not as important.

When I was writing this article I thought back to a conversation with Brian Kayton, Ent Credit Union’s Regional Director of Center Operations. Earlier this year, I had been reflecting about how I want to move forward with time management. The biggest lesson I learned during the pandemic is that I should be intentional with my time: who I spend it with and how I’m able to use it to help others. This comment reminded Brian of a book he’d read: The Last Lecture. The book is about a dying professor who gives his last lecture on living. The title of the lecture was Really Achieving Your Childhood Dreams. A few weeks later I showed up to work to find a copy of the book on my desk from Brian.

I won’t give anything else away, but consider reading the book if you haven’t or watching the lecture. As the insert says, “time is all you have…and you may find one day that you have less than you think.” Our health, family, friends, homes, even tomorrow … none of these are guaranteed. I’ve had this wake up call more than once and I’m sure you have too.

So here are some practices to put in to place when we find ourselves and our teams in a “busy” season:

  1. Remember that your work is NOT that important. Ouch! My first News Director used to say to me, “Annie, we’re not saving lives!” I would get so stressed about stories and deadlines, but this de-escalated my stress. I still cared about my work and I care about it even more now. This was simply a reminder that if I missed a deadline or didn’t get a story just right, it would be okay. (Of course, if you are in the medical or first responder field, this advice does not apply to you 😊. Thank you for keeping us safe and alive!)
  2. Do something for someone else. Wait isn’t this counterintuitive? Won’t that just add one more thing to my to-do list? Yes – but it will also reduce stress and make you feel great. Give someone a hand-written thank you card. Bring a fancy cup of coffee to your team member who just returned from having a baby. Take a few hours and volunteer with your favorite nonprofit. Bring a colleague a book you think they’ll enjoy (thanks again, Brian). You are making someone’s day better and you’ll feel energized for the rest of your work-day.
  3. If someone asks, “How are you?” Or “What’s going on?” Replace “Busy!” with something specific you are working on; even better – something that excites you! Tell them about something your child just did or some hobby you took up. If you must use one word, consider “productive” instead. If you want to use humor, my best friend, a high school principal and mom to a toddler says: “Exhausted and operating at 15% slower than usual!”
  4. Create an environment of Rest and Play for your team. If you are a leader of people, listen up, because my boss is one of the best. Mollie Bell, Ent’s Chief Development Officer (and fellow CUInsight Contributor), hosts a quarterly team meeting with all 70 of us. These are interactive, fun and often off-site. They allow us to connect with the entire team who we don’t get to chat with daily. This last team gathering included games, purposeful activities and NO cell service at a Colorado park. I left with a full cup of energy and gratitude for a day to rest and play!
Annie Snead

Annie Snead

Annie Snead is a storyteller for Ent Credit Union’s Internal Communications Department. A former journalist, she uses her love of storytelling to inform her colleagues at Colorado’s #1 ... Web: Details