Thursday, July 12, 2007

I'm busy being busy.

I remember a time when the expected response to the question, "How are you?" would be something along the lines of:
  • Very well, thank you.
  • Fine, thanks, and you?
  • Not bad, mate.

or even,

  • Good. (accompanied by determined nodding of the head)

I've noticed a creeping tendency for all of the above to be replaced by:

  • I'm so BUSY.
  • Keeping busy.
  • You know, busy as always.

In fact, "How are you?" is also in danger of being made obsolete by the query, "So. Are you busy?"

Busy has become a state of being.

How many e-mails start with the line, "Sorry I've taken so long to get back to you, I've been busy with [insert appropriate activity here]"?

Busy is worn as badge of honour. There is a degree of smugness accompanying the use of the busy descriptor. The implication is, "I have had important activity to do, and what you requested of me was frivolous."

Let's face it. We're all busy. We all have the same number of hours to fill in a day, and we all fill them. If some people choose to spend most of those hours watching tv and sleeping, then they are still busy - with their own priorities.

Telling someone you are too busy to do what they request of you is an attempt to illicit agreement from the requester that your own activity is of greater importance, or denigrate the value of the activity you have been requested to complete.

A more honest response would be, "I know that X is important to you, but I have higher priorities at the moment."

Try replacing the word busy with the synonymous term "out of control".

Now, being busy doesn't look like such a desirable state of being, does it? It means you haven't planned and prioritised your day.

Next time you are asked, "Are you busy?" watch the tailspin the questioner goes into when you respond, "No, not at all. I've got stuff on, but it's all under control." You're just not expected not to be BUSY!

And then, just for fun, watch your interrogator bluster uncontrollably when you counter with the totally unexpected, "So, how are you? Are you happy?"


Ms Ellipsis said...

I've been having a fabulous time telling people this week that I'm having a lovely relaxing school holidays and am not at all busy. Real conversation stopper that one...

I think perhaps it just makes me appear smug. Perhaps we are not ALLOWED to be not busy these days :-)

Ms Ellipsis said...

Being the fine researcher that I am I can reveal that via The Australian Index today there are 3226 references to "busy" compared to 16 references to "not busy" in Australian blog posts.

Team SAK said...

I would have commented earlier but "I've been busy"

Anonymous said...

Congratulations on bringing attention to the "busy" infection ladies.

Yep, we're all busy but there's always time for a cup of tea and a Tim Tam (double choc, of course!).

Ms Ellipsis said...

Ms Asterisk, I think we need to put together a list of alternative answers to the "How are You/Are you Busy?" scenario. Perhaps a range of answers for a range of social situations...