Vail Daily column: Defeating the ‘busy trap’

“How are you doing?”

“Busy. You?”


And thus begins the conversation that many of us have on a daily basis with friends, business associates and others that we cross paths with in our personal and professional lives.

Look how much I can fit into the day! Oh my, I’m so very important, look how busy I am! It’s as if being busy is designed to somehow impress others and make others like you. Or maybe being busy is an excuse for not prioritizing or effectively managing your time. Or an easy out for feeling overwhelmed with the many aspects that life can throw at us.

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I’ve caught myself in the “busy trap” recently and have made a conscious decision to no longer be busy. In my own way and in my own world, I hope to stop the glorification of being “busy.” For what does being busy really accomplish? Does it mean we run from meeting to meeting, trying to keep our heads above water as we swim against the tide?

The fact is, being busy doesn’t make you special. Everyone is busy. It’s those folk who make time that add the most value to their organization. So I’m not going to be busy anymore. I’ll still do the same things — work, family, volunteer, play, etc. But I won’t be busy.

I’m the first to admit that I feel guilty and lazy if I’m not doing something productive. I’m going to try to quit telling people that I’m busy when they ask how I’m doing, because being busy is not the same as being productive; being busy simply means that you can’t manage your time effectively or efficiently.

Taking it one step further, I believe that saying you are busy is actually a way of complaining and is a negative response to a standard (and rather innocent) greeting among friends or associates. From a business perspective, how many people are hurting their professional growth and their business because of their negative, polluted and repetitive self-defeating mindset related to the need to be busy?

How about being effective? Being efficient? Being productive? Isn’t that better than being busy?

As a leader of a team, I much prefer people who are effective, efficient and productive (i.e., those that make things happen) over those who constantly have their hair on fire trying to show that they always have something going on and justifying their existence simply by being busy.

Worse yet, we all know those people who whine about being busy, yet don’t produce any tangible results. As managers, we often reinforce being busy instead of being productive.

To be clear, no one wants that employee who, George Costanza style, takes naps underneath his desk at work. At the same time, there is something to be said for those people who recognize the importance of scheduling time on their calendars to brainstorm, to not have meetings, to quietly reflect on how to grow their business or add value to their organization.

Frankly, I don’t believe that being busy has any positive connection to success — instead, maybe being busy is negative and self-defeating. The fact is, we’re all busy: Work, school, family, volunteering, shuttling kids around, taking care of aging parents.

Each and every one of us has things that take up our time, energy and attention. We’re all busy. I don’t think that I know anyone who isn’t busy.

Blah. Busy is overrated. The fact of the matter is that everyone gets the same amount of time in the day. When you say at work or in your personal life that “I’m too busy to do that,” what you’re really saying is that your request doesn’t match my priorities. “I’m too busy” often equals “I don’t value what you are asking me to participate in.”

Don’t get me wrong; I have plenty going on, as we all do. You might even say that I’m busy. But I’m not special and don’t feel so self-important that I need to tell the world how busy I am — so I’m going to stop this “busy” mentality. I’m focused on being efficient, effective and productive.

So next time you see me around town and ask “How are you?” and I answer, “Busy,” you have my permission to slap me.

Chris Romer is the president and CEO of the Vail Valley Partnership.

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