Saturday, June 19, 2010

How Busy Are You?

“Hi! How are you? Seems so long since we last talked.
Yes, it’s been ages. I’m good. Busy though.
Me too. I can’t believe how fast time is flying by. We’ve got to get together to catch up.
Absolutely. Let’s connect via email.”

And so the conversation goes. Have you ever had one like that? Did you actually email each other and make plans to meet for coffee or lunch? And not cancel the day before?

Life is busy. We’re all busy. Sometimes too busy to see family, connect with friends, walk the dog, or pick up the phone.

A while ago I read a clip in a magazine about busy people. It said that when we tell others how busy we are, it’s really a type of social bragging. Of course we’re busy. Who isn’t? But when we say it, we feel important. Like we have so much to do and so little to say, except that we’re busy.

People like to compare notes. We like to say how much we crammed into our day. Some busy folks will start with their morning routine: “I took the kids to school, walked the dog, had a bite, grabbed the paper, drove two miles, forgot my cell phone, drove back home to get it,” and then follow with the rest of their day:

“I got to work, had meetings, did some damage control, ripped my nylons on the metal part of the boardroom chair, had to run to the store to get a new pair, made sales calls in the afternoon, found out my daughter had her school music recital that evening, had to be home by six to make supper and drop her off by 6:30, whipped home, drove my son to soccer, returned to the recital and circled around for twenty minutes looking for a parking space, was late for the concert as was my husband, who was supposed to meet me there, got home at 8:30, cleaned the kitchen, threw some laundry in the machine, reviewed my notes for my presentation the next day, and out of sheer desperation for mindless diversion, watched The Bachelorette until 10:00, at which time I fell asleep without brushing my teeth.”

This is not exactly my life, but an example of a working person’s typical day. If you asked this fictional character how she was doing, she’d probably say, “Busy.” And she wouldn’t be exaggerating.

Tuesday’s Globe and Mail reported that Canadians are so busy these days that they barely have time to eat with their kids. “The hours that Canadians spend refreshing their minds and their bodies through leisure and cultural activities – and moments shared with family – are being condensed and it’s affecting their well-being,” the article states. Furthermore, “Canada has become a society operating 24 hours a day and, as a result, more people are working odd hours...That has cut into the time they would normally spend with their spouses and their children and doing the things they really like to do. And that can lead to burnout.”

My very good friend Karen McKnight is a Life Coach and an Executive Coach at Transitions’ Edge in Toronto. She helps people achieve better balance in their lives. She herself is one of the busiest people I know. I don’t know how she does it. Her schedule is not dissimilar to the one outlined above, multiplied by two...or three. I’ve often said that she is like two people packed into one.

Karen says, “People need to be clear about what they want from the particular stage of life they are at – and also have a clear vision of how they want to ‘be’ – how they ‘show up’ in terms of all the roles they play in life. It is also vital for people to know what ‘centred’ feels like – and this is a very individual thing. The more awareness someone has about their particular version of balance, the quicker they are to notice if they have been knocked off and thus the quicker they are to ‘right’ themselves...and then just when you figure out what balance means, chances are a variable will change in your life that means a redefinition of priorities, which then impacts how you allocate your time.”

For Karen to feel like she is functioning optimally, she prefers for all her energy quadrants (physical, mental, emotional and intellectual) to be in full gear and to know and feel that she is contributing in a variety of different ways in the world around her. When she gets depleted, which feels like a ‘crash’ to her, she knows it’s time to pull back, regroup, and recharge. Then, when she re-enters, she can approach things with full energy again. “The key,” she says, “is for people to take the time to learn about their preferences and their relationship to ‘busy’ and what makes for a fulfilled life (at this time).”

Most of us like to be busy, and we like making a contribution. Busyness can be of our own making or imposed upon us. Particularly upon those who are working hard, raising children and caring for elderly parents all at the same time. And not everyone has a partner to share the burdens with.

When I look at my life schedule, it’s relatively packed. I’m constantly trying to re-jig my priorities so I don’t feel so tired all the time, and it’s a challenge. Is my life any busier than yours? I doubt it. In fact, it’s probably a day in the park compared to some of your schedules.

My point is this: we are all busy. We all have responsibilities and we are all doing our best to live balanced lives. Let’s take that B word out of our conversations and instead of answering the question, “How are you?” with the proverbial response, “BUSY,” how about taking a deep breath and sharing a smidgeon more about our lives. And the next time we say, “We’ve got to get together sometime,” let’s pull out our BlackBerries or calendars and make an actual date…that we keep.

And if you catch me saying the B word, please call me on it!


  1. A great post, Carla, and food for thought. When I find myself complaining about being too busy, I think about single parents, and people holding down two or more jobs, and I realize how lucky I am.

  2. Busyness seems to be the norm. Personally, I HATE being busy. I try to plan my life so there aren't too many commitments all at the same time. But unfortunately that doesn't always work out! And it's not always a matter of choice for everyone. I do believe it's important to consider though, as rushing through our lives robs us of really enjoying them. Thanks for the reminder.