When I lead team discussions, one of the first things we do is a check-in. The intention behind this is to have each individual check-in with their thoughts and feelings. Most teams can do so fairly quickly once they’re learned how to locate the sensations in their body and how to distinguish between feelings and thoughts.
However, every once in a while, the team will drift into an interesting pattern, and the check-ins begin to sound like this:
“I’m really busy. We have a lot going on.”
“Yeah, we’ve all been busy. There’s a lot to do.”
“This past week has been really busy and I feel it. ”
If you’re annoyed just reading this, imagine how it feels to listen to it repeatedly.
What this phrase, “I’m really busy” is cloaking is complaining. It sounds better to say “I’m busy,” than it does to outright complain like a victim. It’s sounds better to be the hero of the mini-drama of trying to get things done. And it definitely sounds better than admitting that you’ve actually been getting everything done — with ease, too!
I mean, what sort of lunatic would go through the day completing their tasks with a relaxed disposition and a sense of whimsy? Yes, definitely better to sound very very busy.
I don’t think people use this magic phrase to make themselves seem important, though, I think there’s something else under it.
After hearing the “I’m busy” line more than twice, I ask teams to pause and reflect on what is really happening for them in their experience. What is it that they really want to express that is living under this magical cape of “I’m busy”?
Here are some of the responses:
“I guess I want to be appreciated for the work I’m getting done.”
“I want a vacation and I’m too afraid to take one.”
“I want to feel valuable and like I’m needed.”
“I want to ask for help but don’t know who to ask…because we’re all too busy!”
These comments are vulnerable and open and real. It isn’t actually about being busy at all. And most people aren’t saying it because they have something to prove. “I’m so busy” is pointing to unmet needs (as all complaints are).
In the midst of our “busyness” and the experience of it, it’s easy to lose touch with our deepest truth: I am the one who is responsible for my experience and for staying present to what I really want.
Being busy is a great way to check out of our most vulnerable selves and to lose sight of our needs. So the next time you find yourself or the people around you saying, “I’m really busy,” maybe do a check-in and ask, “What is it that you really want to express underneath all of that busyness?”