There are three types of people in this world: people who are busy, people who are not, and people who have the time to brag about how busy they are. No matter which camp you belong to, keep reading.
- Busier Than Ever?
The projects at work are mounting to Himalayan proportions. The list of personal errands is swelling by the minute. New family responsibilities keep popping up. If you observe the stereotypical TV sitcom family, they’re constantly in motion, going from one scheduled activity to another, from exhausting weekdays to jam-packed weekends, with nary a moment to stop and smell the roses. Everyone’s running around like headless chickens, right? Well, that’s the thing – it’s not everyone. There are people who live the slower life. It’s just that the busy bees are often ambitious type-A personalities who are very vocal about their lack of time. Or they’re type-B folks who voice their stress during moments of genuine time-crunch, and when their schedule calms down we assume that their plate is still full; we have no reason to assume otherwise. Then again, have you ever heard any of your colleagues bragging to their boss about how much free time they have? It doesn’t happen often.
- This Is Not a Competition
Time management is not a team competition. It’s a useful individual skill which few have truly mastered, but it’s not a game. If you try to play it, you may ultimately lose. If you spread yourself too thin by taking on too many projects in an effort to impress your boss or colleagues, you’ll end up with little time to reflect, to wonder, to nourish relationships, to develop projects, and to cultivate creativity. You may accomplish all of your tasks by working long hours and weekends, but this is not a healthy long-term strategy. By bragging about how busy you are, you are helping to perpetuate the view that this state of affairs is not only common but acceptable. The challenge is to transcend this plague of the modern workplace by either (a) managing your time effectively or (b) not complaining, even when you are swamped.
- Consider Your Health
In the workplace, physical and emotional health is often relegated to lower importance than work. In some offices, project deadlines are of the utmost priority and must be met at all costs, especially when executive visibility is involved. If you are extremely busy, your reputation as a hard worker (or workaholic) may grow, but in the long run your ability to deliver on all your commitments will shrivel. Retention of critical information will suffer. Organic learning will be stunted. Relationships, both personal and professional, will fall to the wayside. Self-awareness will go down the drain. If you’re overworked, your health may be compromised, which can affect your productivity, happiness, and long-term prospect at the job. In other words, by working too hard, you may be shooting yourself in the foot.
- Would You Rather Be a Liar, or Incompetent?
If you spend too much time bragging or even complaining about how busy you are, you are either (a) exaggerating or (b) genuinely too busy for your own good. If it’s the former, and colleagues see that you’re spending too much time on irrelevant or personal tasks (e.g. checking your phone or social media accounts), you’re putting your professional and personal reputation on the line. There’s also the possibility that you have terrible time management skills. Another employee might be able to complete tasks in half the time with higher quality. Perhaps they are aware of shortcuts, or simply able to prioritize and focus better than you. Either way, admitting that you’re swamped doesn’t look impressive to a boss. Either boost your time management skills, or . . .
- Learn To Ask for Help, And To Say No
Instead of spending a huge chunk of your day complaining about the never-ending pile of projects, focus on what you can accomplish. Additionally, make a commitment to say no – firmly, but politely — to additional responsibilities. If a new task is critical (everything is NOT a fire, contrary to some beliefs), be realistic and explain to your boss and/or client that something else will have to give. If you don’t communicate this, you’ll be expected to deliver everything on time, which may not be realistic. Instead of taking everything onto your own plate, hone the skill of asking for help. If you’ve been helping colleagues all along, they should be willing to lend a hand when you need it most. Don’t see this as a sign of weakness. By inviting others to help, you give people the chance to feel useful and you can strengthen relationships that way as well. You will achieve greater professional success by recognizing the contributions of others than by complaining about your incredibly, ridiculously, insanely busy workload.