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Gee-whiz, I’m Busy

I’ve caught myself saying the word busy a bit too much lately, especially when others ask how I’m going. When I really think about it, I’ve probably always said it.

And I don’t think it’s helpful.

Is it true that I’m busy? Probably. But no more or less than anyone else. We’re all in the same boat. Think about your school; when did a teacher last walk around looking for something to do? To fill their day? Never.

What I’ve realised is that when people ask how I’m going, they actually don’t care if I’m busy or not because that’s not what they’re asking. They are asking how I am going. They are asking how I am feeling.

I’ve realised that amongst the increasing busyness of our world, and especially within our schools, we’ve come to believe that the word busy means a good thing. I feel it’s a bit of a badge of honour or status symbol. Think about how often you’ve asked a colleague how they are going, and they’ve responded with “Busy” or “Flat out”. And then think about how you may have judged that response…Have you ever thought to yourself that they can’t possibly be as busy as you? I certainly have. Again, not helpful.

This phenomenon of being busy isn’t just what I’m feeling. The research is in, and it backs this theory that we feel busier than ever before. According to one study, self-identified time-poor people have risen from 70% of employees to over 80% in the last ten years. Social scientists have termed this ‘time poverty’ and were all victims of it.

Changing how we live our lives will be difficult, but I feel we have some influence here. Disclaimer; I also acknowledge that it’s hard in schools when there is so much we’re expected to do. But it’s definitely worth a shot.

To change the narrative of my busy life, I’ve made a few commitments to myself:

  1. When people ask how I’m going, I will avoid using the word busy (default response) and answer the question they asked me. It might be happy, overwhelmed, or frustrated. Why is this important? Firstly, how you feel is important, and when we talk about that, we develop a deeper emotional awareness and higher levels of self-control. We also become more empathic, so others benefit from knowing how we feel.
  2. When people ask how work is going, I won’t answer “busy” (again, default response). I will share a little nugget of gold or even a funny story that happened during work time that is unrelated to any work. I will share something that tells a story about who I am.
  3. I will get super busy in one area – connecting with the people around me. When I’m under pressure, I naturally retreat and get stuff done…with the odd whinge. Getting stuff done is still important, but for the next month, I will make sure it’s not at the expense of the people around me who need me – that’s my family, friends and colleagues.
  4. I’m going to challenge the accepted culture of busyness and the stories I tell myself about busy equating to importance and justifying my relevance.
  5. I’m going to try and get comfortable with the uncomfortable. I’m no longer going to be busy or not busy. I will just live life to the fullest…and enjoy every moment!

If I’m not too busy in a month or so from now, I’ll follow up to let you know how I get on. Who knows, these little things might just stick!