I’m Not Busy!

August 13, 2021 by Rose Cook

I was watching basketball at the Olympics and thinking about how many of these young men have had amazing coaches as guides and mentors in helping to get them to this moment. I also am recalling a book entitled “Attitude” by Jay Wright, the Villanova University basketball coach who’s been a leader and inspiration to countless college players. Coach Wright is just one of many great coaches and I know is a favorite of both of my sons, who attended Villanova and have had the privilege of regularly seeing him in action.

“If you love life, don’t waste time. For time is what life is made of.”

Bruce Lee

One of my all-time inspirational coaches is NCAA College Basketball legend John Wooden. Those who know me know how much I like finding (and reciting) memorable quotes. Coach Wooden has some very insightful words of wisdom on leadership and life in general. One of my favorite quotes of his is, “Never mistake activity for achievement.”

Of course, Coach Wooden wanted his players to show up to work at practice each day. But, he also directed them to work on the RIGHT things to accomplish their goals. This makes so much sense to me. Do you ever feel like a tire stuck in the mud – working really hard but getting nowhere? I think it happens to all of us from time to time, but if you’ve noticed that it seems to be occurring more often than usual, it could be time to make some changes. Don’t work harder, work smarter!

“Beware the barrenness of a busy life.”


As we moved toward the end of the summer, it’s a good time to assess where we’ve been and where we’re going for the remainder of the year. Am I spinning my wheels? Do I need to change course? What am I spending my precious time doing, or not doing? Am I working on the right things that will get me to where I want to go?

“Life seems but a quick succession of busy nothings.”

Jane Austen

Our minds go a mile a minute trying to keep up with all the demands in our day. Here’s a thought; stop for just a minute. STOP. Think about the choices you have made today alone. Are you choosing wisely? Are you choosing due to some sense of obligation? Are the choices you’ve made today really the best ones for you, your family or your career? Here are a few thoughts regarding changing your mindset in the way you make decisions:

  • Prioritize. For example, if you find yourself in meetings all day long, is there one you can reschedule, send someone else to handle or cancel.
  • Clear the clutter. Which emails can you “unsubscribe” to that are clogging your mailbox and adding no value? Sort out what can be answered with a quick response and those that require more involvement.
  • Manage your time. Is your time being monopolized by co-workers? Take control and politely exit the conversation. Don’t get trapped. Put headphones on at your desk, excuse yourself to go to the restroom, or simply tell them you’ve got to get to work. Period.
  • Analyze. Is your activity focused on the results you want to achieve? Or are you really JUST busy with activity?

“Those who are wise won’t be busy, and those who are too busy can’t be wise.”

Lin Yutang

I’ve noticed a trend lately when I greet someone. It goes something like this, “Hi, how are you?”. Answer, “Busy”. Busy has become the new “fine”. No one is “fine” anymore, they’re “busy”.

As project managers and subject matter experts, our team members look to us to lead and motivate. Our everyday presence has more impact than we even realize and we need to be mindful of how we are choosing to spend our time.

Watch this 5 minute video by Anese Cavanaugh, CEO of Dare to Engage. She challenges us to “Ban Busy!” from our vocabulary. One real eye-opener was when she pointed out how saying that you’re “busy” all the time can diminish your leadership presence. It’s really an excellent observation. If your boss runs around talking about how busy he or she is, does that leave you feeling energized and motivated? Not likely. See why by checking out the video. It’s an oldie, but a goodie.

“Everyone is busy, yet we all have access to the same amount of time.”

Chris Guillebeau

When you imagine your ideal role model, I’d bet it isn’t someone who is frazzled and overscheduled running like a hamster on a wheel, yet getting nowhere. More than likely, it’s the person who harmoniously integrates work and life, is fully present in whatever is happening at that moment, and enjoys all of it in the process.

For the rest of 2021, I’m going to try banning the word “busy” from my vocabulary and instead will try to model success in a more balanced way. As an end-of-summer challenge, before the upcoming months of “busy”, I invite you to try it with me – let’s see how much more productive we can be when we’re not so busy!

What does your picture look like today, and where would you like to be tomorrow? As always, I would love to hear your thoughts…

“Life is what happens when you’re busy making other plans.”

John Lennon

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