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Busy is the New Fine

You may have noticed that you haven’t heard from us in awhile. We’ve been busy. I’ve been busy. I am always busy. Recently, I read the book More or Less by Jeff Shinabarger and was challenged by his chapter on our use of time, along with the rest of the book. He says it so much more eloquently than I can, so I want to share an excerpt with you:

“Recently I started to recognize a pattern emerging in my daily
polite interactions:

Me: “Hey, Joe! Good to see you. How are you?”
Joe: “Busy. Been a crazy month. How are you?”
Me: “Busy. A lot is happening right now.”

Barista: “Good morning! How are you today?”
Me: “ Busy. How are you?”
Barista: “It’s been a busy morning.”

Notice a pattern here? There was a time, not so long ago, when the polite answer to the question “How are you?” was, “Fine.” It seems that busy is the new fine. We look at one another with that shake of the head, sideways smirk, and glossy eyes, proclaiming our busyness. This shared response succinctly identifies a recent cultural shift: we now determine the significance of a person by how busy they are. Somehow, busy has become better than fine… busy shows that we still have a job and things to do, which is a positive answer amidst the endlessly looping, negative news cycle.

The problem is this: busy is not better than fine. Just because I’m busy doesn’t mean I’m fine. And when it comes right down to it, often busy means I’m not fine at all. What we’re really saying with one simple word is, “I can’t keep up with everything in my life. I actually can’t keep up with any of the things in my life. But that makes me important, doesn’t it?”… Even a professional juggler can’t keep up with all the juggling in our lives. There are too many balls in the air.”

All too often, we find ourselves compelled to try to do everything for everyone. We find our days consumed by reacting to the urgent rather than investing in the important. Maybe we’re trying to prove our value to our boss, or maybe we’re fighting for security by diversifying our activities, or maybe we just don’t want to disappoint others. Whatever the reason, what ends up happening is that no one area of our lives gets the attention it deserves. As Shinabarger explains, “We rob Peter of time to try to pay off Paul.”

We only have a limited amount of time, and none of us get a greater measure of hours in the day than anyone else. You’re never going to have more time. So the question is, are you using your time well? Who or what are you robbing of your time and attention? Is there something you can say no to in order to free up some time for what’s most important?

Maybe the first step is to think of a different response to the question, “How are you?”