Thursday, March 28, 2019

Are You Too Busy to Be Productive?

It used to be that when you saw a friend and asked, "How are you doing?" the reply would be "Fine."  Maybe "Great." Things are different now.  A more common response to "How are you doing?" these days is:  "Busy."

I'm interested in this because one of the most common {memory-keeping myths} I find myself having to bust is: "I don't have time for my pictures and my memories.  I'm too busy."  I have seen a big culture shift in the 14 years I've been a Heritage Makers storybooking and memory-keeping consultant.  Most people I meet seem to be busy and overwhelmed, and--oddly--they seem to hold onto it for dear life, as if being in high demand (or busy) makes them important.  Sadly, over the past 14 years, I have seen an increase in general busyness, a change in priorities and attitudes, and a decrease in connections with loved ones and actually being in touch with our own hearts.

As I started looking into busyness, time management, productivity (and whatever other catch phrase you know of that fits) as a way to help my clients and potential clients out of the "I don't have time" hole, I came across a lot of insightful and helpful articles and ideas.  I began collecting them, so to speak--and you can find them at the {"don't have time?" tab} at the top of this blog.

One of the first articles I came across was on LinkedIn, and it's called {"Busy is the New Stupid"}.  I was taken aback by the title, so of course I had to read it.  The author, Ed Baldwin, says that as a society we have come to glorify busyness, as if that makes us more valuable or important.  He proposes that most of us waste a lot of time, aren't engaged in anything fully because we try to multi-task, and have become more short-sighted.  Baldwin states that busyness increases careless mistakes and results in more missed opportunities.  He says we treat busy as if it's cool, but busy is actually stupid.  Then he shares a quote that hits most of us close to home:

"Regret for the things we did can be tempered by time; it is regret for the things we did not do that is inconsolable."  -Sydney J. Harris

Baldwin recommends that instead of saying, "I'm too busy for ________," we change our verbiage to, "________ is not a priority for me."  That can apply to everything from "My pictures and memories are not a priority for me," to "I meant to call you, but it wasn't a priority for me."  Anything we're "too busy" for is really not a priority.  When it comes down to it, we make time for things that are important to us.  "Busy" parents at Christmastime find time to go shopping; they make it happen. It's not REALLY about being busy--it's about what is or isn't a priority to us.

One of the more recent fabulous articles I read about busyness is from Bree Weber where she actually conducted an experiment about busyness!  I'll tell you about it, but I also recommend the whole article to you: {The Badge of Busyness}.  She talks about how acceptable "busy" is and how easy it is to use it as an excuse to not even exchange pleasantries in passing or to avoid going to an event you don't want to go to.  Saying we're busy is easier than saying, "I'd rather not go."

We draw more and more inward when we can present as our face to the world a badge of busyness.  As an {introvert}, I'm totally cool with drawing inward, to be honest, but I also know it's not always good for us.  From not sharing our gifts with the world to spending too much time with Netflix or Facebook (which has been shown to {increase depression}), looking outward and making good use of our lives is vital to our well-being.

Bree's busyness experiment was two-fold.  The first part was to try different responses when asked "How are you doing?" by both colleagues and strangers during business and professional phone calls.  She would respond with either:
  • "My week has been so great!  I went hiking with a friend on Saturday and had lunch with my mom yesterday.  I'm going out of town next weekend, and I'm really looking forward to it."
  • "Oh, my week has been so crazy.  I have deadlines approaching and have been working nights.  I am so busy, and I have so much to get done."
Interestingly, both responses yielded almost the same result.  The first response yielded silence or else a quick return to a business topic that would lead to comments on being so busy.  The second response, Bree found, always yielded the same thing:  a one-upping statement about who was busier.

I was amazed at how little patience there was for any personal communication, how little time was allowed to actually listen to another person.

The second part of Bree's experiment was even sadder, I thought.  When people would reply with something busyness-related, Bree would respond with something like, "Wow, it sounds like you're so overwhelmed.  I'd love to help you.  I bet there are at least 3 things on your to-do list today that you could drop.  Tell me about what your to-do list is today."  Bree found that every single person she talked to was very protective of their to-do list.  They wanted to keep all their action items (and in some cases became rather defensive of them) to prove how important they are to their work and all the things that make them busy.  Some, she said, used the fact that they were too busy to trim down their action items as proof that they are indeed crazy busy.  And, therefore, important.

Something that both of these articles have in common is that they found that many people are too busy to be productive.  How is that possible?  Doesn't busy mean we are doing things?  Well, not necessarily.  Yes, doing things.  Not always useful, helpful, meaningful things.  Not always things that matter.

I've talked to a handful of people lately about photos and memories who say, "Oh, I really need to get some memory-keeping done--my kids keep asking me for it."  Memories and photos matter a great deal to kids.  It helps them feel loved, and it gives them something happy to remember and look to when life is hard.  Kids need to know they are a priority.  They need to know that their life's experiences count for something.  Kids love looking at pictures of vacations and birthday parties and first days of school.  They enjoy reminiscing.  It helps them know they belong.  It validates them and makes their little hearts happy.

And guess what.  It's not any different for adults.  Looking back at your life's experiences makes you the owner of them.  Reminiscing increases happiness!  It increases a sense of purpose and belonging.  Memory-keeping even reduces stress, so if you're "busy" and need something to relieve stress, look no further than your own camera.  Yes, a massage or an hour of Netflix may cut down on stress, but why not do something that will be as meaningful to you next month and next year and ten years from now as it is today?  Why not do something your kids or siblings or nieces and nephews will appreciate for years to come?  Why not do something stress-relieving that actually lasts?

Many people get tripped up on the idea that memory-keeping (preserving photos and memories in a tactile way) means scrapbooking--sitting down for hours and hours with stickers and scissors and paper and pens and pictures spread across three tables.  For some people, this creative outlet is fun and meaningful, so it's their preferred memory-keeping method.  And it works!  But if that's not you, there are other options!  Don't make memory-keeping harder than it really is.  It doesn't have to be complicated, and it doesn't have to take a lot of time.  

Quality is my number one recommendation, though, so make sure your memory-keeping method isn't something that will fall apart 5 years from now.  I love recommending a variety of options so you can choose whatever method will work best for you!  You can {see my excellent recommendations at this link.}  

Pin and share!


Did these perspectives on "busy" make you think of things a different way?  They did for me.  So I have a two-part challenge for you going forward:
  1. Stop saying "Busy" as a response to "How are you?"  Look for positive things you're doing or looking forward to that you can say in your reply.  Make your responses upbeat instead of beaten down.  I've been doing this for several months, ever since I read Bree's article.  I think it makes me feel more positive and less overwhelmed.
  2. Stop thinking you're too busy for your photos and memories and start making time for them.  You'll find yourself with a little more peace and a little less stress.  And you'll also have something tangible that will be meaningful to you and your family for years and years and years.  I'm a regular memory-keeper, so I actually enjoy all those benefits I listed above about why memory-keeping is good for adults, too.  It's REALLY good for me--I can tell.  If you need some help setting aside time to prioritize your pictures, join me for my online work sessions.  They're free, and you can find information in the "don't have time?" tab in purple at the top of this blog (under the header).
After implementing each of these, come back and let me know how things changed for you!  (by commenting below)  

I know you won't be too busy.


  1. Excellent post! I think there are a number of reasons for this “busyness.” Our culture has been infected with the idea that we need to be collecting wealth in order to be important. For some that truly means chasing the almighty dollar. For others, the economy is exerting so much pressure on the middle class that people are working two jobs to make ends meet. Busy is a code word for exhausted. And for those not economically pressured, they picked up the vibe that they need to seem “busy.”

    As for the introverts like myself, I’ve learned I don’t need to make excuses for my need for downtime. I’m honest about it.

    In any case, I agree. We, as a society, need to reorder our priorities. Making genuine connections, caring for our fellow humans, need to be put on the front burner.

  2. Thank you so much, Michelle! I'm so glad you enjoyed the post. I hope it resonates with a lot of people and makes us think. I know I used to always say "busy" when asked how I was doing because it seems like the usual response these days! I agree wholeheartedly with your thoughts here--there are a lot of varied reasons for busyness (and exhaustion), and it often makes us miss things like genuine connections and interest in other human beings. I'm an introvert, too, and I recognize my need for downtime, but I also notice that meaningful down time really rejuvenates me. It's one reason I'm so drawn to pictures, memories, and journaling. Thanks so much for reading and for your insightful comment. :)

  3. Jennifer,
    This was a great post!! I enjoyed it and will come back to it to read the articles that you mentioned....Now that I am not working, I need to learn how to use my time. I found that because I now have so much time, I tend to get sidetracked because "There is always tomorrow"!! I know memory keeping is your business but this post can apply to so much in life.
    Memory keeping is something that i have started to do because i have put it off all these years.... It is now wonderful to have the time to do it but I need to learn how to budget that time better than i have so far. thanks so much for stopping by and for commenting on my follow up post about blogging!!

  4. Thanks so much, Debbie! You're right--the post about "busy" really does relate to anything (everything) in life. It's true for memory-keeping, but it's true for everything else, too. I'm so glad you enjoyed the post. I'm also glad you are getting some memory-keeping done now that you have a little time. I had two foot surgeries a couple of years ago and got SO MUCH memory-keeping done! :) I had six weeks of elevating my foot both times, so I sat back with my laptop and did digital scrap pages left and right, plus a digital book for my extended family members for Christmas. I'm glad you are enjoying your time now to do things like that. Best of luck with the surgery.

  5. Thanks for linking up at the #WednesdayAIMLinkParty 40!

  6. I seriously need to think about a digital book for all my family I have so many pics. Thanks for linking up with us at the #WednesdayAIMLinkParty 40 shared!

  7. Sylvia, you definitely should! A digital book is really the way to go, and that one I've recommended is THE BEST! Highest quality and everything you'd ever want. :) Thanks for sharing this post, too! I so appreciate you stopping by, reading, and commenting.


This blog is intended to be a positive, informative, inspiring place, so any comments that match this vision are welcome.