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Are you busy, or are you caught up in busyness culture?

Jun 22, 2023

Are you genuinely busy, or are you just caught up in the culture of busyness? It’s a question worth considering, and one that has been on the minds of employers across various industries in recent years. A study conducted on 10,000 adults in 28 countries revealed that 42% of respondents admitted to habitually exaggerating their busyness, while 60% believed that their peers also inflated their levels of busyness. These numbers may even be higher considering the self-reported nature of the survey.


Why do people tend to exaggerate their busyness? While some may see it as a way to dodge additional work if their bosses perceive them as overloaded, the primary reason stems from competitive pressures. Being busy has become somewhat of a status symbol, with individuals believing that projecting busyness portrays them as more hardworking and indispensable compared to their peers.


So, how can you accurately determine how busy you truly are? Consider the following strategies:


Utilize a time-tracking tool

Start by gaining a relative understanding of your workload by using a time-tracking tool. Sometimes, the allure of busyness can lead us to believe we have more responsibilities than we actually do. Use apps like Toggl or RescueTime to track your activities throughout the day. Additionally, engage in conversations with your colleagues to gain insights into their working hours, projects, and expectations.


Assess your past and present responsibilities

Imagine you are drafting a job description for yourself. Make a comprehensive list of your current responsibilities and estimate the time each one consumes. Familiarize yourself with how your role has evolved over time and the overall tasks and obligations you regularly handle. To gain perspective, compare this list with the job description when you initially joined the company, a peer’s job description, or the responsibilities you had when you started your own business.


Evaluate your email activity

Email serves as a strong indicator of busyness for several reasons. Firstly, it consumes a significant portion of your day, so the more emails you send and receive, the busier you tend to be. Secondly, email has become a central communication tool in modern workplaces, tying your activities to various projects and team interactions. Moreover, email records are immutable, making it difficult to claim you sent or received a large number of emails without evidence. Consider using Gmail extensions to measure and enhance your email productivity.


Track time spent in meetings and scheduled events

Maintain a detailed record of your work schedule, including formal events and meetings that occupy a considerable portion of your time. Often, meetings consume more time than you or your boss realize. According to a ReadyTalk infographic, employees spend approximately one-third of their total work time in meetings. This information can help you understand the number of hours you invest in the office and where those hours are allocated.


Measure your accomplishments

Finally, evaluate your level of busyness based on the results you achieve. Actual achievements are the ultimate measure of productivity. This varies across industries and positions but can include metrics like sales figures, leads generated, increased website traffic, bugs resolved, or articles written. Even if you cannot prove you spend more time working than the average employee, you can demonstrate that your contributions exceed expectations. Utilize productivity-tracking tools available in the market to measure your results.


While having evidence to support your level of busyness is essential, it is equally important to present that evidence effectively to your boss. Use these tips to identify key takeaways and goals in advance, and frame your conversation around actionable items and suggestions.


For example, if you find that a significant portion of your time is consumed by meetings, suggest the possibility of shortening or canceling certain meetings. Alternatively, if you are proud of your level of busyness, position it as an opportunity to delegate additional responsibilities, request a raise, or seek a new job title that reflects the significance of your expanded workload. Embrace this chance to make meaningful changes and advancements in your career.

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