A blog by Luke Thomas, Director of Spring

A reply I’ve been noticing more and more often in daily conversation includes the word ‘busy.’  The common exchange goes something like this:

Question: “Hello.  How are you?”

Reply: “Well, you know, REALLY busy!” (Often partnered with rolling eyes & a sigh – with an inflection of voice that suggests they’d rather not be SO busy.)

This is quickly followed up with a list of everything that the recipient has got going on right now.  Another common reply used to be: “Very well thank you… and yourself?”  But I’m not noticing this so much anymore.

Back to busy though.  At first I wondered if it was just my time of life with a young family and so many commitments with work, home, community and so on.  I asked myself, “is this just selective attention?”  My mindset filtering for busy-ness?  Is this a sociological trend that has some deeper meaning as to the way society is functioning?  Is it to do with the expectations people are placing on each other?  Is it a cue for blaming the popular media?

So I started paying more attention to people’s responses when I asked them how they were, but also noticing when others asked the same.  A true piece of unscientific and anecdotal research if ever there was one!  I kept my eyes and ears open in shops, at school drop-off, in the pub, during coaching and leadership programmes with my client organisations, with retired friends and family, at train stations.  Nowhere was exempt from my odd little ritual of gathering this cultural evidence.

My conclusion?  I want to open up the conversation about this more in my work.  It’s happening so much I thought I’d write a blog about it.  I wanted to know more about why being busy is such a prominent talking point, that it’s now up there with us Brits and our love of discussing the weather.  I believe that it’s not altogether healthy to be feeling, or perceiving oneself, as quite this busy.

I’ve started a list of ideas that might be behind some of the busyness.  Some of these have come directly from coaching work and people telling me their personal reasons – others are merely a guess on my part.

Circle, delete, insert new or challenge as required.  What’s missing?  I’d love to hear what you think in the comments below:

  • Cry for help
  • Dopamine fuelled by device addiction
  • Badge of honour
  • Secondary gain such as self-esteem or confidence
  • Delusion
  • Socio-economic changes in the labour market, family and cost of living
  • Brexit (Ha!  Had to be included because it’s brought up a lot)
  • Aspiration
  • Excitedness
  • Way of venting
  • Feelings of failure
  • Keeping up with the Jones’s

Thanks very much, Luke