Are you busy or just fibbing?
The best bit about this pandemic is the veil it places between reality and perceptions. I can field a zoom call wearing a shirt and tie tucked into my pyjamas, and nobody is any the wiser. Business on the top, party on the bottom.
To the world, I am a hirstute renaissance type grafter — while in reality, I have hopped out of bed, panicked, and reached for the business attire starter kit.
Fur lined slippers and trainers are the order of the day, and my rather unforgiving pair of Barkers have been consigned to the wardrobe. I can happily play Fifa Online during a Zoom, or practice my putting if I so choose. This opaque layer between personal and private life is great, but it is also encouraging a rather worrying trend — the glorification of “busy”.
Being busy has become a euphemism for high achievement. This is a fallacy.
Any, and I mean any, person that I talk to is busy. Not just busy, but snowed under. Hectic. Flat out. Up to their eyes.
It is no longer acceptable to field a “How are you?” with “not bad” or “good, thanks”. You HAVE to be busy.
Perhaps it is the circles that I do business with, but all of my contacts must surely be on the brink of working themselves into an early grave. Walking skeletons teetering on the brink of succumbing to fatigue.
Phone calls tend to follow this prescribed format these days:
Person 1: “Hey, how’s it going?”
Person 2: “Not bad. Flat out but I can’t complain”
Person 1: “Same here. Haven’t had a minute all weel”
Persons 1 & 2: *Joint congratulatory guffaw*
This optimal efficiency that I am hearing on the ground from workforces, does not tally at all with productivity levels at a macroeconomic level.
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How exhausting. Please, can we stop this charade?
Yes, it is good to be busy.
Yes, it is good to have a focus.
This continual virtue signalling of business, perhaps fuelled by inane ramblings from famous yeomen such as Gary Vee, is a race to the bottom.
It’s OK not to be busy, sometimes. It’s OK to admit it, too.
Let’s look at why:
Our time is finite. We will all die. Every single one of us. Being in a continual state of manic achievement rather means one is quite likely to miss the simple joys in life. It’s OK to use your time on earth for things you enjoy.
The bigger picture. I think that a perpetual state of “busy” is self-defeating. If you are bricklayer, then busy is good. If you are a creative entrepreneur, then busy is only half the battle. You have to let your mind wander. You have to read and contemplate. A continual focus on the next task at hand leads to myopia; you are likely to miss that emerging market trend, or the growth opportunity just around the corner.
Who wins? It’s a battle, isn’t it? An implied contest. If I concede the fact that I am not busy, to my worked-off-his-feet business contact, then I lose. The busier guy always seems to win. The term “rat race” was coined to refer to commuters jostling every day for a seat on the underground, before going to their 9–5 office jobs — somehow it has always felt apt turn of phrase — but who wins the race?
An admission of sub-optimal efficiency, or enjoying leisure, seems to be viewed with some contempt as admitting you are a Neo-Nazi.
I am setting my readers a challenge. A simple one:
Tell the truth
No one is fooled by this business agenda. We all know the workday ebbs and flows in its normal cadence and that there are peaks and troughs. We also know that if we are busy to capacity each day, then business cannot be going well or there would be more staff to share the burden with.
If you are having an idle Thursday, watching the world go by, that’s fine. If you have taken a half-day to walk on a beach, that’s acceptable. And if you are stirring a pot noodle with a Twix, Loose Women on in the background…that ain’t great, probably best to bend the truth on that one a little.
You will be surprised at how liberating it feels. I was nervous before admitting it on a call yesterday — I felt like pleading guilty to paedophilia or something similarily heinous. I expected the line to go dead, heralding the immediate cessation of that business relationship.
I didn’t even say anything that outrageous, merely “yeah, not bad, quiet week so far’ — but it felt momentous. And you know what? Having initially concurred, they chuckled, changed their tune and said: “Me too, mate”.