As I sit here, hunched over my keyboard, my coffee cup is on its third refill and it’s not even noon yet. The aroma of caffeine is my constant companion as I juggle a conference call, an ever-growing inbox, and a project deadline that’s fast approaching. My phone buzzes relentlessly with notifications – messages from colleagues, reminders for meetings, and, oh yes, those social media updates that keep me in the loop.
I weave through the labyrinth of tasks and feel a strange sense of accomplishment. I’m riding the wave of busyness, my calendar bursting at the seams with commitments. It’s like running a marathon, with each ticked-off task propelling me closer to the finish line. This is what success looks like, right?
“Did I tell you about the new project I took on?” I casually mention at the water cooler, my tone dripping with a mix of exhaustion and pride. The nods of admiration fuel me, affirming my status as the office’s ‘busy bee.’ And when I finally crawl into bed at night, the satisfaction of another bustling day keeps me company. Because in this world where time is gold, busy is the new rich. But let me ask you this: Amidst the hustle and bustle, are we truly productive or just caught in the whirlwind of busy bragging?
The Phenomenon of Busy Bragging
Busy bragging is simply the tendency we have to continuously boast about how busy we are. Do you ever catch yourself juggling deadlines, meetings, and personal commitments, and think, “Wow, I’m really nailing this busy thing?” Have you found yourself at a social gathering, subtly boasting about your packed schedule? If you’ve been nodding along, you might just be a ‘busy bragger.’ Welcome to the club! It’s a fast-paced, exhilarating, and sometimes exhausting world where being busy isn’t just a state of affairs—it’s a status symbol. It happens when we proclaim busy as if it were in and of itself an accomplishment.
But let’s pause for a moment (yes, even you, multi-tasker). Is all this ‘busy bragging’ truly a testament to our productivity, or could it be a cry for a better work-life balance? We all do it… we don’t even think about it. I am confident you are, in fact, quite busy, so I appreciate the time you have taken to read about this crazy phenomenon called busy bragging.
Is Busy a Badge of Honor?
The answer is complex. Perhaps it’s a representation of how important we are. Sometimes, busy bragging manifests as an exaggeration, sometimes as an excuse, and sometimes, you are legitimately as busy as you claim. It can all be busy bragging, though, regardless of the truth behind the busy brag. Have you encountered this? Think for a moment – you run into an old acquaintance, friend, colleague, etc., and you are exchanging pleasantries, including asking how they have been. What percentage of the time do you think the word “busy” is mentioned? Does it often end there, or do you find yourself sucked into conversations about demanding schedules and the hectic grind? If you check your social media feeds right now, how many posts will you see about being on the road again to the next conference or another late night or Saturday in the office?
Why do we feel this incessant need to busy brag? To some degree, it’s because, as a society, we have normalized it. For one, we never unplug. We have our phones and laptops with us at all times, so we have not only allowed ourselves to actually stay busy, but we have all set the expectation (by busy bragging) that we should stay busy. But since that expectation has been set, we feel the need to be recognized. We need the validation. Deep down inside, we want praise and admiration for how busy and important we are. We will send that 3:00 am email, and we also REALLY want you to see that it was sent at 3:00 am. If we are busy, then aren’t we hardworking and dedicated? Not necessarily, but I’ll get to that in a minute.
If you find yourself making that excuse of being busy frequently, consider that it’s entirely possible that you might not have needed to make excuses if you were less busy, busy bragging! What a tongue twister, huh? How much time are you spending making those social media posts to let everyone know how busy you are? Is busy bragging, making you… dare I say it… busier??
Another reason we busy brag is that it’s a convenient excuse. This might be a tad uncomfortable, but take heart: I am calling myself out here as well. We use “busy” as an excuse. We don’t want to do something, or we dropped the ball on something, or we haven’t kept up personal communication as well as we should… we excuse it by saying how busy we have been. The reality (I did say this would be uncomfortable, remember?) is that we simply did not prioritize the task for which we are making excuses. Consider it in reverse. When are you being given “busy” as an excuse? What you really hear is, “I didn’t prioritize you or it,” right? We are all busy, but the skill of effective navigation lies in prioritization.
The Hazards of Busy Bragging
Busy bragging may seem like a harmless attempt to showcase our productivity. However, it carries several potential hazards that can have detrimental impacts on our well-being and productivity.
The biggest hazard I want to discuss is that we, as a society, have placed the most value on the wrong thing here. We have placed all this value on being busy. Just busy — not successful, fulfilled, content, or happy. Have we glamorized burnout and stress in our culture? Absolutely. The culture of busy bragging promotes a toxic cycle where success is measured by hours worked rather than the quality of work produced. We’ve managed to develop a deep misunderstanding of productivity. A piece by Forbes emphasizes that being busy doesn’t necessarily equate to being productive.
Bragging about busyness often masks a poor understanding of what truly matters in life. Outcomes, not occupied time, should be the focus. When exchanging those pleasantries I mentioned earlier, wouldn’t you rather hear about how your friend’s business has grown or the exciting trip they took with their kids? It’s worth saying again — being busy isn’t a skill, but effective delegation and time management are. Just being busy doesn’t mean your firm is running successfully and efficiently. Being busy with the right things is key. I said earlier I would get back to “hardworking and dedicated”… unfortunately anyone can stay busy. It doesn’t equate to skill, success, or work ethic. Look at those outputs vs. inputs! While it may seem tempting to join the busy-bragging bandwagon, the hazards associated with this behavior suggest a need for a shift in perspective. It’s time to value productivity over busyness and prioritize balanced living over constant hustling.
Finding New Focus in Our Professional and Personal Lives
I would love for us to collectively place a bigger emphasis on well-being, life balance, and personal and professional fulfillment than we do on simply being busy. I know this will take time, but in the meantime, we can start by focusing more on our actual achievements. When greeting that old friend or making that social media post, stop and consider your message. At Vista, we love to say that words mean things, and they do. Is your message focused on achievement, or is it busy bragging? Can you think of a better message than busy? I know you all have achievements worth mentioning. Heading off to another conference? Why? Because of the grind? Or because you have built a successful business, or even better, because you have built a successful business with a positive learning culture that you are out there embracing for your team and your clients? Do you truly want to be recognized for how busy you are? Or for your outputs? Your meaningful successes? Embrace those achievements, folks! Then work backward. Did we have to be so busy to get these results? Are we prioritizing our time well? Are we delegating effectively? What is the admiration and validation you REALLY want from your friends, family, and colleagues? We can get past busy and get to the good stuff.