Many people wear their “busyness” as a badge of honor. To be busy is to be important, in-demand, needed, relevant. But here’s the truth: no one is ever “too busy.” We just have a lot of choices to make about how and with whom we want to spend our time.
Consider this. After simply ignoring someone, the next worst thing you can say to someone in business is that you’re “too busy”—too busy to meet with them, too busy to jump on a call, or too busy to simply construct a thoughtful response to an email.
If you put in a 10-hour workday, working from 7 am to 5 pm, you’re left with about 4 hours to spend doing whatever you want before it’s time to call it a day. In those 4 hours, do you not have time to return a call or email? Time to meet someone for drinks or even dinner? Of course, you have the time to do all of those things. Maybe you want to spend that time with your family, friends, or other things in your personal life, and that’s perfectly fine. But what’s not ok is to tell your business partner, colleagues, or customers that you just don’t have the time, that you’re too busy. When that business partner, colleague, or customer hears that you’re “too busy” for them, here’s what they actually hear:
- You’re inefficient. Perhaps they view you as someone who can’t handle your business and time efficiently. This is especially problematic when you’re dealing with business partners and customers who are trusting you to come through for them when they need you the most. Other times, that person will hear…
- That they are not a priority. We all have priorities. Having priorities means that other things are less important. That’s the nature of prioritization! When you tell your partners, colleagues, or customers that you’re “too busy,” what they hear is that they are not important to you. They are not a priority.
How many times have you turned down an offer for a quick meeting over coffee? How about the times you push a simple 30 minute conference call weeks out on the calendar just because you wanted some extra time back in your day? I can almost guarantee that you rarely, if ever, decide not to go to work because you wanted to stay home and relax. Why? Because your work is a priority. It pays your bills. When someone asks you for your time and you decline or postpone a meeting with them, you’re telling them that they’re not a priority.
It’s ok to have priorities, and to choose where and with whom you spend your time. However, it’s not ok to say that you don’t have the time, because everyone knows that time isn’t the issue. Everyone has time for everything; it’s just a matter of priority. So choose your words carefully, and always think about the message you’re sending to others when responding to requests for your time.