Behind the Busy Myth

When you ask someone how they are, you’ll automatically receive one of two default responses (in the Australian context, at least):

“Not bad.”


The problem with these standard responses is that they are engrained in our culture and are both unconscious and inaccurate.

The Story

I recently had a situation with the company secretary for one of the boards I serve as a Chairman. The board has a policy that the minutes are to be published within seven days of the monthly board meeting. Since I’ve chaired these board meetings over these last two years, we have delivered against this expectation.

The company secretary and I are both very organised in our approach and have managed to keep this piece of housekeeping well under control. However, last month, the weeks started slipping by. I had emailed the company secretary and left voicemails on several occasions, but was struggling to get a response.

When we finally crossed paths, the response I received was, “Sorry, I’ve just been really busy?”

In the days following, I had received a draft copy of the minutes and they were then published.

The Diagnosis

In my experience, there are four principal reasons someone is not actioning things that need to be done:

  1. They don’t have a big enough cup

    Sometimes people are under-resourced. They don’t have enough people on their team to support their workload. They may use old PCs more than five years old that are struggling to keep up with their operators. They may not have been trained in high-performance productivity techniques that equip them to competently deal with the high volume of work flowing into their area.

  2. They have the wrong things in their cup

    They may not be the best/right person to be working on the projects and programs in their portfolio.

  3. They are resisting what’s in their cup

    When people neglect one or more areas of responsibility, it can be because they have become disengaged – either from those areas or from their role/s as a whole. Their sense and purpose may be diminished or their focus may be compromised. These are people who are in “pain” mentally and emotionally, without realising it or understanding why.

  4. They are sabotaging themselves or others

    It’s not uncommon to get upset with either yourself or someone you work with. Typically an “upset” falls into one of three categories:

    a. There are things that need to be said that haven’t been said
    b. Good intentions have been thwarted
    c. Expectations have not been fulfilled

    If we don’t acknowledge that we are upset, can’t work out why we are upset, or don’t have the skills to resolve these sources of conflict, we tend to procrastinate rather than confront issues.

The Invitation

It used to be that a man (or a woman, for that matter) was his word. His word was his bond. In those days, people told the truth, they honoured the words that came out of their mouth as sacred; as a reflection of their deeper self, their inner nature.

We think that when we use language to describe the world around us, that is what we see around us… When in fact it’s the world we have created in our minds/thoughts.

John has received a new product that he is to sell, on inspection and after many failed attempts to sell the product his default statement is “I can’t sell this” – when in fact his default statement should be ” I haven’t been able to sell that product YET”

What if we were to create the world, our world, each time we open our mouth, through the choice of words that we use – the way we shape our perceptions of reality – both our own and the people around us?

“How are you?”

“Not bad.” You respond.

“Not good either?” I’ll ask.

The Solution

What if you banned yourself from using the “B” word? What if you forbid yourself, disciplined yourself, not to use the unconscious response (or excuse) of being busy?

What if you forced yourself and others to dig deeper, to find and address what is really going on beneath the business?

Once you’ve succeeded with mastering yourself in this way, what if you outlawed the “B” word in your business?

Ask Me a Question

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