The Busy Brigade

‘We’re busy doin’ nothin’               

Workin’ the whole day through

Tryin’ to find lots of things not to do

We’re busy goin’ nowhere

Isn’t it just a crime

We’d like to be unhappy, but

We never do have the time’     

It’s a busy old world on social media platforms. So little time, so many things to do. Barely a day goes past without a succession of business people tweeting or updating their Facebook pages to say how busy they are.

Some late afternoons we get #notenoughhoursintheday

Most Friday’s we get #notenoughdaysintheweek

We’re all familiar with status updates that go something like :

‘5pm already…how did that happen?’

‘Today’s Friday?…where did the week go?’

‘December…what happened to this year?’

My favourite was the solo recruiter who broadcast ‘I’m so busy these days. Seriously, if there were more hours in the day I still wouldn’t get everything done’

I always wonder what they are trying to tell us. I guess it’s that they’re very busy so have taken a bit of time out of their busy day to let everyone know how busy they really are. But then what’s the point?

You see, a lot of the people telling us that they are so busy are also out there looking for new business, and this is where I don’t get it, because if you have to publicly state how busy you are then in my book:

  • You are understaffed, or
  • Badly organised, and probably
  • Have too much work on, so
  • You are unlikely to give new business your best attention, as
  • You would be spreading yourself too thinly, which means
  • New clients may receive a poor service, in which case
  • Why not go to the guy who isn’t crazy busy and may be able to make you feel like the most special client in the world…like they cherish the opportunity to work on your business

It all seems a bit macho, like a corporate game of chicken…first one to blink say that they’ve got a bit of spare capacity is the loser.

What I find strange is that outside of work the really busy people are the ones we tend not to hear from….as in

‘Sorry I’ve been quiet recently, it’s just been so busy/there’s been so much going on/been so hectic I haven’t had any time’

Recently I saw a career coach tweet out ‘First client has cancelled. Really pleased, I can catch up on some admin’. I’m not sure if she thought about the signal that she was sending out but without clients she wouldn’t have a business so maybe her time would be better spent not broadcasting to other clients that she is pleased when they cancel.

It’s all about the message really, so next time you feel the need to use social media to broadcast that you’re really very, very busy remember that many different people will be reading and interpreting.

And don’t forget…

There’s a big difference between being busy and doing business…just because you achieve the first part doesn’t necessarily mean that the second part follows

Take it away Bing…

13 thoughts on “The Busy Brigade

  1. This did make me laugh, Mervyn. I do say I’m busy a lot online. I often mean it in the sense that my time is happily full. But your post gives me food for thought.

    I rarely talk in detail, moment by moment, about my work. I don’t feel it necessary, and besides, much of my work is with senior people and needs to be highly discreet.

    On a related note, I cringe at the coaches who come onto Twitter and say “Fabulous session with a client who is really making progress” or some such bollocks. How much and what kind of work are they really doing, I wonder, if they have to put this kind of thing out?

  2. Love the blog Mervyn as one of my hobby horses is managing your time and priorities effectively so when people do go on about being too busy, like you, I interpret it as inefficient in the way they schedule their time. Perhaps it could be a discussion stream at CHRU in May as social media can absorb a lot of time?

  3. We are a “busy culture” here. Excellent point you are making Mervyn. I hate using word busy, yet I still use it as everybody else uses it around me. I also don’t like to hear the word “busy” as it clearly puts you down on someone’s list of priorities. Of course first things first….
    We are all busy trying to survive, to start with, although we could also call it, “making most of our life”. ?!?!?
    Well, although I am trying to use different words when “busy” asks for it, I still mean the same. Sarah, you are spot on if it comes to time management and being busy. As people around us have their expectations, we have to give them realistic picture about how long this or that might take, and while you are happy to care, they might want to reconsider their expectations if you can’t promise faster action. Sadly we are also making wrong choices on regular basis, but we also learn from them.
    I know people who learned these secretes of being always perceived as “there is nothing I can’t do” “bring it on”. I am sincerely worried about them though as it seams to be very unnatural for us not to have “busyness threshold”.
    So if it comes to business etiquette, you don’t want to say or hear word “busy”. Nevertheless don’t be surprised when you burn out and your best intentions will become your nails in coffin.
    My final point goes like this:
    UK performance management practices + UK longest working hours culture = increase in stress related illness, or “KILLING ME SOFTLY” or “Busy Culture”
    btw did you know that something around 56% of employers don’t recognise stress as reason for calling sick.

  4. Mervyn, nice post.

    We’re all as busy as we make ourselves. I used to say that if you are too busy there is either something wrong with you or something wrong with the job you are doing. Busy is boring. I work part time on purpose, so I can be busy when I need to be and not when I don’t have to be. That’s how I balance life now. Before it was always about the busy. When you fall over, the view is different coming back up!

  5. What we mean is, if I was supposed to do something for you, I haven’t been twiddling my thumbs, honest…

    Ha, only joking. You should do a study of those who claim they are busy and those moaning they are bored and have nothing to do and see which one is more frequent!


  6. Thanks everyone for taking the time to comment. I was commenting on the need that so many seem to have to let us know how busy they are, and the message that this may inadvertently give.

    Thanks for your support, it looks like I struck a chord.

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