Thursday, August 31, 2006

How busy is too busy?

How busy is “Very Busy”?
In our day to day activities we come across many people who say “I’m busy” and because of their Busy-ness, won’t be in a position to attend your request or give you the attention you expect them to. This post is an attempt to analyze this concept of being busy.

Note: This post is gender neutral and all terms he, him, his etc are to be read he/she, his/her etc.

At a high level, people become busy under following conditions:
1. When they have lot of work to do that’ll take more time that scheduled,
2. When they want to avoid someone or something,
3. When their time management practices are too bad to accommodate anything outside their fixed schedule
4. When they’re over burdened with unexpected eventualities that need immediate attention and result in deviation of their attention
5. When they simply want to project themselves as someone who’s very busy.

In most of the case, being busy is a result of how you see the event that is demanding your attention. Consider these:

Situation 1:
You’re in a meeting and your phone vibrates, indicating a call. If it’s from your subordinate you’re likely to reject it and if it’s from your boss, you’re likely to walk out of the meeting room and receive the call. The relative importance of caller decides how you handle it. To your subordinate you can say I was busy, but to your boss you may not dare to.

Situation 2:
A student, if his mother tries to assign some work, may say “I’m busy, I’ve to study” but if his friend comes and invites for a game, chances that he’ll accept that. So here, being busy depends on how interesting the disturbance is.

Situation 3:
To some people like politicians, projecting themselves as busy is a style statement. In their view, punctuality is for those who have no other work. In this case, faking “busy” ness is an attitude problem.

Situation 4:
There’re people who are busy at work or with something else. It happened with all of us. Once in a while a Friday deadline may be missed and we end up working all weekend. This kind of “Busy” should be temporary in nature specific to an event or situation. But if a particular individual is busy at work all the time and every time, either he’s accepting workload beyond his ability or is not capable of finishing the work allotted to him, in time. Either he’s to learn saying NO to additional work, or he’s to enhance his skills/productivity to do more work in less time.

We often get upset when some one says he’s busy and as a result doesn’t give you the attention you’re expecting. We think other person is doing so intentionally and get upset with him. Sometimes the other person may have genuine reason for his being busy, sometime defect is from our side. Just a thought on what we can and we should do when we’re at the receiving end of someone else’s time crisis.

Give the other person a benefit of doubt.
May be he was in meeting, may be he had no access to mails, may be he was sick or out of office, may be he had some urgent work. In these cases, try reaching the individual couple of times, through different means of communication. Ensure that your message has reached the recipient and give him adequate time to respond.

What is your relative importance w.r.t. the other person?
Some people, because of some special attributes like beauty, money, status, designation will have more people trying to get their attention. They won’t be in a position to entertain all and enjoy a greater privilege of deciding whom they talk to and whom they can ignore. So if your worth in their eyes is poor or your proposition is not interesting enough, you’re likely to be sidelined.
Note: Every individual irrespective of his looks, bank balance or social status, has a freedom to choose whom he talks and whom he doesn’t want to talk to. Unless you have a work related or B2B or B2C relations (where work/business communication has to be executed), you can’t force the other individual to respond.

The relevance of your proposition
Are you approaching right person to get your work done? If you shoot a technical issue to HR person, or a salary matter to a system support guy, you should be lucky if they show some courtesy of asking you to contact relevant department. So if you’re expecting some one to spend their time for you, ensure that you’re not wasting their time (and yours) unnecessarily (like say inviting someone to chat while he may have more important work). Be precise on what you expect them to do and give necessary inputs so that they need not come back to you asking something.

Individual preferences
Some people follow a specific pattern or rules in their life, such as
~ One may not receive personal calls in office time and business calls on personal time,
~ One may choose to attend personal mails only once a week, say on weekend,
~ Some people may not prefer to use certain email ID for certain purposes,
~ Some people allot specific time for specific activities
~ Some people may never use certain mode of communication (say email, orkut, some messengers etc), though they once might have said they use it
~ Some people give high importance to punctuality, time sense and commitments. An unjustified deviation from your side in these aspects may upset them.

If you know that the individual is following a specific pattern, try to cope up and co operate. If you force them to deviate from their plan it may irritate them.

Despite taking care of all above aspects, there’re people who never bother to respond. They may not answer to mails for months, never bother to return a call and don’t give a damn that you do exist.

This can be because of following reasons:
He may be trying to avoid you
When some one is not interested in your friendship but do not wish to say “Get Lost” (or if you still insist after saying so), the easiest thing he can do is ignore you fully. When you’re repeatedly ignored (especially if you can verify that it’s being done intentionally) you should get the message that you’re not welcome.

Cost factor
There’re many people who never call you but say “He he… I was about to call you, before that you only called… he he!” every time you call them. Their busy ness is simply because they don’t want to spend money on communication.

Ego factor
Many people have an attitude “I’m a superior human being than him. Why should I call him? Let him call again if he wants to speak” They don’t bother to show the basic communication courtesy because of ego problem.

Memory factor
Some people have very bad memory. They’ll think of responding later and forget totally about it. Sad thing is they do not make use of any technology to assist them in remembering (like reminder settings).

Bad time management
Some people accept too many commitments without analyzing their ability to meet them. They often fail to fulfill a promise or meet a time line

At this point I’m not in a position to suggest solution to these. Partly because its not possible to give general solutions that work, partly because this post is running too long.

I'm not sure if I've reached a logical conclusion to end this post. But anyway ending this post here.

No comments for most of my previous posts. Probably people are busy or may be I didn't write anything worth commenting. No complaints.

Similar posts:
Why we lie (in Kannada)
Handling Rejection


Raveesh Kumar said...

Nice post.

Nicely explained the "Busyness" of the people. These are the situations we come across daily.

Shrinidhi Hande said...


Manish said...

awesome post ,quite interesting one

Let me add a bit

My personal experience is that people who have busy as their messenger status reply faster than those not busy.

Another Amateur Blogger

Shrinidhi Hande said...

Manish, thanks for the comment.

yes, those who have status "busy" would be getting less pings, hence would respond faster...

Pup said...

Nice Post...

Shrinidhi Hande said...

Thanks Pup

Anitha said...

Interesting observations on busyness...very useful...

Shrinidhi Hande said...

@ Anita

Thanks for dropping by...

Ohmariah said...

Quite some thought and analysis has gone into this! Would be interesting to know if you scurried around for views on this topic... Thanks

Shrinidhi Hande said...


Welcome to my blog. Your first comment...

No-all are my personal views. When I use views/opinions of others I give them due credit.

Thanks again.