Escaping the Cult of “Busy”

A few months ago, we had a presentation at one of our “early years” staff meetings from our representative for Healthy Schools.  She gave us pamphlets and options for modules and lessons that we could use to teach our kids about being healthy, both emotionally and physically. However, she also said to the staff that the best way to destroy a relationship, or fail to create a relationship with anyone (a student or colleague) was to respond with something along the lines of  “I’m busy right now, can we talk later” when they try to talk to you about something. As I sat with my colleagues at the table in the library we talked about the number of times we have said that. Unfortunately, I have to admit that I have used some sort of saying such as “One second, I’m busy” numerous times both in my personal and my work life. After this presentation, I promised myself that I would make a more conscious effort to remove that from my vocabulary as it truly makes sense that it would destroy a relationship. When I think to how I feel if someone says that to me, the way it comes across is that the person is not interested in hearing what I have to say and I absolutely do not want my students to think that I am not interested in what they have to say.

So when I came across the article “How to Escape the Cult of Busy” ( I couldn’t think of a better article to tweet and reflect on. The part of this article that really stood out for me is the section where the author talks about how saying “I’m busy”, often means something different, essentially you are “engaging in doublespeak”. For me, the other meanings for being busy that would seem to make the most sense when engaging with adults in my personal or work life, not students, are “I’m giving an excuse” because I don’t want to do something, or “I’m afraid” because I am afraid of where the conversation could lead or I am afraid of missing out on other things. My challenge to myself after that staff meeting where I began to make a change was to no longer use the language “I’m busy” if I were doing a million things and a student or someone else wanted to tell me something. I have always had the ability to develop relationships with my students, but this has helped to deepen the relationship. I find myself listening more to my students’ stories and engaging in more meaningful conversation with them about their stories. It is heart warming to see how excited they get when they talk about their dad going to China, or taking their dog for a walk, or even the ice chunk they found outside on their way in from the bus.  Although I always engage in conversations with my students, actually taking the time in the day to step back from my “work” and just take in what they’re saying helps form a whole new relationship.

I can’t remember the last time I used the term, or some form of, “I’m busy”. I encourage everyone else to try to do the same and see the difference it makes when talking to someone and letting go of your “work” or what you think is important at that moment.

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