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What You Say When You Say You’re Too Busy

By Sandra Clark

Get the kids to gymnastics, sign up for soccer, preschool co-op volunteer obligation, optimize your investments, update your will, register for summer camp, plant some annuals so your yard isn’t as barren this year as it was last, crank out the hours on the part-time hustle, take cookies to the fireside, teach your kids to adult by goading them to wash their smelly feet and laundry, plan your CTR 5 lesson, take the dog to the vet for worms, remember to plan a date with your spouse, go on the date with your spouse, send photos to the grandparents, make plans to visit the grandparents, pest control services from pest control chantilly va who always comes on time and also available 24/7 (do also check and consider various options like pest control mississauga), at least 6 minutes of ab toning if you didn’t go running this morning, replace the swimsuit you bought six summers ago that is getting all floppy-stretched out in the seat, get frustrated that there is not a single easy to find swimsuit you want to wear in the magic matrix of your size and desired price point, paint your toenails so you can hide that wonky looking one with polish and wear sandals without feeling sheepish, return that overdue library book you found under the sofa that is accruing fines at $.25 a day, pray, read for growth and pleasure, breathe, but maybe practice that ujjayi breath to refine your yoga, kegel, and oh yeah, another fifteen dozen things that must! be! done! that will come to you in the few minutes when you remember that friend that’s been righteously pestering you to get together.

The list is long. You’re busy. What’s new?

Was there a time in the last two decades you didn’t feel busy? I’m struggling to think of a time my mind wasn’t hot with have to dos. This is the busy season. We tell each other so all the time, and then we sigh and tell each other again. I’ve been guilty. But yet, when I hear it from other people, especially the friends that I really want and need to spend time with, I smart a little bit at the standard response.

You say you’re too busy, but we often hear one of three things instead:

  1. You don’t really care. You are letting someone know that thing just doesn’t matter enough to you to do. That might be okay, though, but be honest already.
  2. You don’t manage time well. If it was something that mattered to you and you used your time efficiently, you would make it happen, but when you say no all the time, what other fillers are you saying yes instead?  Actively and passively?
  3. Your time is more valuable than theirs. Your life and list are more important than theirs. What they are willing to give up to be with you is not as important as what you are choosing to do instead.

Michael Hoss writes, “You’re Probably Not as Busy as You Say You Are.” And I think he’s right on. If you want something, if you really want it, you find, borrow or invent time for it. You say no to other things so you can have it. Everyone is busy, I get that. Maybe it’s something else.  

Maybe it’s like that feeling I have sometimes when I’m writing out my weekly to-do list- that I’m afraid I will miss the most important things. So, I pencil arrows and boxes around them for emphasis, for priority. Some things need to be moved up the list. Time needs to be ordered to make them happen. Because if I don’t something suffers. Those flea drops I procrastinated putting on the cats mean playing roulette with fleas. I lost big time and while I was on the 33rd load of laundry and vacuuming I longed to tell my past self, you can make the time to go get that done. A date with my spouse beyond a movie and folding laundry or the time we spend listening and looking good for other may continue to unfold. Time to exercise and pump those endorphins or I forget how good taking care of myself feels when compared to extra time wrapped in a duvet. The decline from procrastination is real and ought to be addressed. I need the arrows, boxes, and highlighting to prevent the decline that will hurt the most.

Even though it’s so easy, so crazy easy to say I’m busy and blow off a friend, blow off your spouse, blow off taking care of yourself, don’t.

I’ve done that. And even though I’m again at a swell of good things that are filling my plate and making it so easy to say, I’m busy, I can’t. I won’t. If you hear me say this, you’ll know I’m working on it:

I’d love to say yes, but this time won’t work, but I can do ________.

Can we do odd hours? I’ll wake up early and meet you for a morning walk.

Let’s make it a double dip- can we chat over speakerphone while I cook dinner tomorrow?

Don’t say you’re too busy. Just rank your priorities and kindly call it that. Let what doesn’t have to happen right now slide. Rank the outcome of neglect. Rank what happens when let that thing go another day, week or month more. But don’t let the people you love fall off the list. We’re all busy too.

Leave a comment below. How do you manage your busyness and being there for those you love?

About Sandra Clark

Sandra Clark Jergensen's writing (most often about food) has been published in Gastronomica, Apartment Therapy, The Exponent, and at Segullah, where she was once the Editor-in-Chief, and now as Features Editor. Sandra geeked out on food and writing as a master's student food studies at University of Texas, Arlington. She makes her home in California where she runs without shoes, foster parents, teaches cooking, develops recipes, and struggles to take pictures with her eyes open, and sometimes all at the same time. She is the owner and creator of thekitchennatural.com.

3 thoughts on “What You Say When You Say You’re Too Busy”

  1. I'm trying to get better at prioritizing how I use my time. I am trying to stop wasting precious moments on things that don't matter (e.g., social media; reading one more depressing news story about the state of our country, etc.). I have regrets for all the times I was too busy to call my mom and have an hour chat with her. What I wouldn't give to have that today.

  2. When my children were still at home, I had a friend who proclaimed undying affection for me, but could never find the time to do anything with me. I chalked it up to "mommy-guilt", where every spare minute had to be spent with family or on church callings. She would call me only when she needed a place to unload her troubles and get validation, which I gladly supplied. Occasionally the validating favor was returned. The years have passed, our children are grown, and still, she has no time for me, yet she checks in from time to time to make sure that I will always "be there" for her.
    I finally got the message. She wants a large quantity of friends (everyone loves her), but not quality of friendship. She wants my time only when it serves her. I am mourning what I thought was a friendship. It wasn't, and I'm moving on. I realize that if I am feeling used, it's my own fault because I expected her to be a friend in the same way that I am a friend.
    Maybe we say we don't have time because we don't want to hurt someone's feelings by telling them the truth? Or maybe we're not as in-tune with our own motivations as we think we are?
    You are right..if we want something, we will make the time and space for it.


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