The Glamour of Being Busy

“I’m too busy.” It’s often heard with a tone of conflicted catharsis, even if it’s the umpteenth time the same person’s said it that day. The statement seems no longer used just as a way to excuse oneself, but simultaneously to induce guilt in the party it’s proclaimed to. It nearly says, “I’m so busy…busier than you.” And could even go as far as to suggest that one’s time is more valuable than another’s, by sheer virtue of declaration. Overused and often unsubstantiated, proclamations of busyness have come to impose themselves as a badge of social glory. Put simply, it’s glamorous to be busy – or at least to think oneself busy.

Where once we would have rivaled a claim at busyness with a suggestion of mismanagement of time, it’s now heralded as a trait of the truly dedicated.

It’s a blanket statement – in regards that it is very general, requiring no proof to be substantiated. And it oftentimes puts the recipient of such statement in a position not to question it’s validity. In a typical and contemporary business setting, and especially heard from a manager, we can do nothing more than proclaim sympathy, even if the sympathy is not genuine. The structure of our culture allows for these sort of communication loopholes. But where’s the glamour in being busy? The phrase is already somewhat compelling, easy to declare, and usable under a wide variety of situations.

photo by Cesar Loper Rivadeneira

Part of the glamour of busyness lies in its duality: at once the sayer is claiming an importance of his time by virtue of it being limited, and he is also moving blame off of himself for his limitations.

Scarcity or limited supply is often equated with the value of an object or concept. For example, physical items in limited supply tend to be more expensive. In this discourse, time has a definitive limitation, though the parameters of its limitations are unclear within yield of the maximum approximation. That is to say, we know the general lifespan of a human being, but cannot account for “premature”  death and other events that would terminate a lifespan before, or even after, the estimated lifespan. So within the parameters of limitation, to have one’s time mostly filled may be equitable with free time being more precious.

However, we often see outliers to this logical sequence. Either the time spent is not properly used during the available time for such activity (for example eight hours per work day), the time is mismanaged overall (when scheduling traverses multiple facets of an individual’s life, such as work and non-work times), or the individual is not being truthful about his level of busyness. Taking the three outliers, and noting that there could be more unaccounted for here, we see that in sequence, claiming a lack of time may offer the opportunity to offload or outright shirk responsibility.

photo by Jonatan Pie

Especially in workplaces, shrugging off the dusty layer of convoluted linguistic loopholes leaves room for clearer delineation of tasks and for understood lines of responsibility.

If we seek to continuously claim busyness, we do no better than closing our doors to fertile lines of communication. And if the busyness is valid, and we continue to claim it, we must acknowledge the conscious choice we are making in the usage of our time. Consequently, we should be compelled to realign those dependent on our help and results, so that they may fulfill their requests elsewhere or in a self-sufficient manner.

Claiming busyness must be understood as connected to the external. Conceptual and actual busyness, especially in a professional setting, is interwoven with too many other factors to be taken lightly. In some particularly unsettling effect, busyness is a falsehood fabricated for the sake of distracting oneself from guilt resulting from under-accomplishment. The glamour of busyness comes in part with the enticing coverall loophole effect it has. In many cases, it’s easier to claim busyness rather than truly access one’s usage of his limited time, or even more daunting to the unrealized individual, to truly access his self-excusing.

If we call ourselves too busy, we are charged with a potent confrontation. Are we really too busy? Are we allocating our time well or poorly? And what exactly do we gain in calling ourselves busy? Busyness is a construct of our times. It’s a cry of the high ranks, but the reality of it stands that busyness is a false glamour. This meaning, busyness appears glamorous but it comes with a load of implications and doesn’t serve to get to honest communication.