Busy.  I’m frankly getting sick of people telling me that they are busy. Most of the time, when people say they are busy, they are really something else.

Before I throw this slab of serious criticism on the table, let’s set a criteria for busy.

I would define busy as having a heck of a lot to do, plenty of stress to go with it, little time to get things done and—here’s the punchline—getting everything done relatively error free.

Let’s clear this up.

If you do everything the same way when you have 50 things on your “to do” list as when you have 10, you’re not busy, you’re disorganized.

No, that’s not unfair. Responding to an accelerating work pace is part of being organized. As work flows in and deadlines approach, the organized person will make adjustments to how they do certain tasks.

Look, even a caveman was smart enough to make tools when needed. Yet I rarely see anyone stop everything and think about how a particular task can be streamlined when things get intense. “I’m too busy to figure out how to put that in Excel”  “I’m too busy to set up a database for that” “I’m too busy to figure out the reminder feature in Outlook”  

Here’s another one I really love hearing. “I have appointments all day and a million things to do—I can’t get anything done!”  If you cannot reschedule “appointments” to address “priorities” are you really busy or are you disorganized? Do you you really need to meet with the copier rep today? Is it really impossible for you to set aside an entire afternoon without “appointments” to catch up with important work?

I spend a lot of my on-site time looking at where time goes. Generally, most time is wasted. It might not feel like it when you’re under a lot of stress, but when measured a lot of waste is discovered.  Sometimes, just for the sake of getting things moving, I’ll spend a few days at a business acting as a tool maker. It’s often easier to just have me develop some tools than to try to get some frantic employee to stop everything and figure out Excel.

Think about it. Next time you say you are busy, ask yourself if all of the important things are getting done. Remember to include what other people need of you as well. Too often people will isolate ‘tasks’ that they see as their job and ignore the needs of others—your co-workers can wait because you have a big important phone call to make. You might be bottlenecking the entire company.

Busy or disorganized?

Most will still argue for “busy” so let’s objectify this another way. Is your business operating at a level far above normal capacity? And if so, you expect business to fall off considerably in the near term? If not, you are just disorganized.

Chris Reich