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Never tell anyone you’ve “been busy.” Everyone is busy.
I think that is relative, some are more than others :)
OK, you’ve told us what not to say, what should we say?
I’ve been too busy?
I’ve been too busy for you?
“I’ve been busy” is a polite way of telling someone they didn’t take precedence.
and I agree with John, it’s all relative.
With that said, what would be some of your responses to the classic, “How have you been?” I mean, isn’t “been busy” the best answer to limit further conversation? 9 out of 10 times I’m asked that question, the questioner doesn’t seem to care about the response.
First off not everyone is busy.
I was going to write more but I’m too busy.
Some comments may cause blindness.
That’s just not true. Plus, saying that you’ve been busy usually implies that you’ve been unusually busy.
I’d wager that Jason is referring to when someone is making an excuse.
Was supposed to send you that information on Tuesday, it’s now Thursday…”sorry I’ve been busy.”
Any way you cut it, it’s still an excuse – and a bad one at that. When someone says this, all this means is that they simply don’t care enough – it’s not a priority for them to follow through on their word.
Caleb, you’re right though. If someone is just asking “what’s up, how have things been going” and you don’t want to bother giving them a real update, saying “I’ve been busy” does the trick.
What’s sad is that so many “professionals” use “sorry, I’ve been busy” that many people have come to accept this as a legitimate reason for a delay…
It’s not, and should never be.
I don’t see what’s wrong with it.
It’s a polite way to say “I’ve been busy with things more important than you.”
I picked ‘maryisbusy’ as my username about 8 years ago to encourage coworkers not to bug me. It has stuck with me ever since.
Actually this is totally absolutely wrong, but thanks for playing.
Thank you for bringing this up. It always upsets me when someone uses that as an excuse.
This reminded me of the old Penelope Trunk post. “Don’t tell me you’re busy”
I only say I’ve been busy when I have had more stuff to do than fit into regular workhours that is worked overtime.
Actually, most people aren’t busy at all…at least, not in America according to The Economist. Where do people dig up 8.3 hours in a day to watch TV? I can barely scrounge 2 hours per week. Why? ‘Cause I’m freakin’ busy! (And I don’t have much use for TV anyway – I’d rather build stuff.)
i’m just going to lay it out plainly next time: i haven’t been able to prioritize my way out of a wet paper bag since childhood.
“Never tell anyone you’re Biz Markie.”
I tell people I’m just tired, so that when I yawn in their face because I’m bored it just confirms I’m really tired.
I am not sure everyone is busy. Well, I suppose they might be, but it doesn’t mean it’s productive.
@Jeff – good point about the amount of TV watched
“having stuff to do” != “being busy”
I’m not busy when I’m procrastinating.
The opposite is also bad to say…
Stating, “I’ve been slow lately”
Makes those of us who’ve been busy jealous.
(This is different obviously if you own your own business and say this … then people feel bad for you)
I’m not busy.
This is simply not true. I have been busy. I have been not busy. Not everybody is busy. Some people are extra busy. In conclusion, this is quote is worthless.
I’ve been busy, I am busy and I will be busy.
There fixed it for you..!
It is interesting to me, Jason, that you “toss out” a quote this way, on a somewhat regular basis, without even the slightest hint of context. (I do not mean this as a criticism, by the way.)
By simply making such a statement and standing back, as it were, you certainly don’t guide the conversation from the get-go…and it is revealing to observe the various ways in which commenters “take” your quotes. Without a given context, the conversation can go any way within 360 degrees and, as such, must afford you some sense of your customers’ attitudes and preferences that you might not otherwise tap into, were you to set the context from the outset.
However, for instance, while I don’t at all like the idea of “busy” as an excuse for inaction (where I was supposed to do something but didn’t) or as a way of quickly shutting someone up (when I’d prefer to be free of the other party), I do see contexts in which “busy” does not necessarily connote a negative:
1-the manager of the cafe in my building is always telling me that she much prefers it when she is “busy”-because the time goes faster and she makes more money via more customers: she enjoys her job (been at it for 30+ years) so it’s not that she’s dying to get out of there, and to her it’s a real bonus in this economy to bring in as much money as possible for the owner of the place; that=job security
2-I’ve known more than a few local businesspeople who have said (and with some relief) that they’re “so busy”-in other words, business is at last good again, they are happy to be busy and busy means times are looking up
3-a person laid off might be glad to once again be “busy”-I know after 6 months “on the street” I was ecstatic to be busy again!
4-I’ve also known people who, after a serious illness or bout of a chronic condition, are once again able to be “busy”-in spite of your statement, it really isn’t the case that “everyone” is busy, even when they would like to be; there are times when the difficult aspects of living on earth do prevent us from a desired state of being busy—really, the ability to be “busy” is a genuine blessing, especially when seen in the context of all humanity (poor countries, poor people, those with health problems, the aged, the disabled, the incarcerated, etc.)
There must be other contexts as well, where “busy” is good. But I think four examples makes my point…
I’m sensing that what you really mean here is that when someone tells you they’re busy…they’re really telling you nothing, and so it’s a meaningless exchange, devoid of value, devoid of real communication—which can in certain instances be a drag on life (at least when you want to live life fully).
I do think it might also be interesting if you were to provide at least a little bit of context when you present your ideas in this format. This is almost too much freedom.
I have been inspired by 37signals for quite a few years, and I do sincerely respect your (and your colleagues’) insights and abilities.
In that spirit, please forgive me for perhaps being pedantic about this, but without much else to do right now, I had to find some way to get “busy”—
This is an insight? Come on guys. We’ve come to expect more, and breaking things down to such basic black-and-white without any consideration of shades of grey doesn’t match what I’d look for from 37S.
I agree with Kyle. Too little value. Put it on Twitter instead.
BTW: The reason I posted this is because I heard a derivation of “Don’t say you’re busy, everyone is busy” three times in the past ten days. I think it’s a great point. “I’m busy” or “I was busy” is often used as an excuse, but it’s really no excuse – everyone is busy.
“I’ve been busy” can ONLY be an excuse, and most likely the person is saying it because they know they’ve really been slacking and and were “too busy” to get anything done. JF’s post really means “Don’t make excuses.”
BUSY – what you sign up for by not killing yourself.
JF- obviously some people aren’t too busy to tell you what to write about in your blog.
I’ve been busy focusing my attention elsewhere seems to be more honest.
When u have been busy and cannot attend to someone you could always say “Sorry, I am/was held with something/someone” or “am in the middle of something. can i get back to u later ? is this urgent?”. Some people set “Busy” as status message. But if I could edit the status messages I always set saying “Pls leave ur message. Expect delayed response”. That way u have not blocked people out but at the sametime tell them u r going to respond late.
I’ve been content.
No, everyone is not busy. Everyone says they’ve been busy, but most people are lying when they say that. If you’ve actually been busy, there’s nothing wrong with saying that, but of course it seems like a lie because there are so many others who use that excuse.
So maybe one should say “I’ve been busy” in a more creative way to set it apart from everyone else’s lying.
Perhaps explain just what you’ve been busy with so they see real evidence of the fact that you have, in fact, been busy?
I disagree: most (reasonable) people understand and accept when you’ve genuinely “been busy”. We’ve all been there.
A better insight: don’t say “I’ve been busy” unless you’ve been busier than normal!
Hmmm…people who aren’t that busy hate the idea of people actually being busier than they are.
Me? I work for a non-profit 40+ hours a week, own my own business (one that I have a manager who deals with 90% of the work, but I’m still expected to put face time in), and have 15 credit hours of graduate work is semester (as well as finishing up the thesis).
I was asked recently to do a little web development by a friend who knew me from that previous life. When questioned why I haven’t been able to get back with him, I mentioned I’ve been busy (and mentioned the above), and was treated as if I just pissed on his grandmother.
I’m sorry Jason, you are right…everyone is busy. And it is all relative. To almost anyone I know in my former life as web developer / programmer…any one of the three activities that take precedence in my life would be more activity than any of them take on. When I mention this to friends in the medical program…many just roll their eyes and correctly so.
Me? I’m glad to be busy, but it means my time is prescheduled. Is it selfish? Yes. Do I feel guilty? No.
We all have a set limit to what we can do in a given amount of time. After you’ve done your limit, you are more than likely useless…I know I’m not going to be productive the rest of this evening even though I have a stack of work sitting in front of me. If someone tells me they are busy, I understand that my request is not as important to them as other things in their lives. Heck, it helps me know where I rank in their lives and vice versa.
You gave it no social consideration. “Been busy” is a kind excuse if we don’t want to break the relationship of mutual obligations completely. At the same time it gives you some space to breathe so that you and your interlocutor don’t have to synchronize your systems of value and priorities (“Been busy playing Wii with friends” vs “Been busy negotiating this contract for the next year of work for our company”). It’s not a statement of a fact by a machine – it’s rather a sign that you are well-socialized and generally willing to cooperate.
It does come across as a vague filler to a conversation; not unlike …”that’s interesting”.
Mostly when someone asks what I’ve been doing, I tell them I’m working on project X or planning project Y.
But in the rare cases where I just answer “I’ve been busy” it’s because I’ve made a judgement that:
a) I’ve been more busy than you
b) I don’t really want to share what projects I’ve been busy with
i’ve been busy = you are not important enough to me to take time and do something about it
can be applied to relationships, work, friends, etc….
it is an excuse, and a bad one. everybody knows that
I have been allergic to this sentence for years. the worst thing is actually when you kindly ask “how are you?” and the answer is “Busy”. This is beyond the excuse it show a sort of justification that the person actually has a life! But that still doesn’t answer the question: “are you WELL and busy?” or are you just “DEPRESSED and busy?”
it completely puts you off to even tell them what you have been up to without actually using the word busy.
Bees are busy. All the time…
Jason co-founded Basecamp back in 1999. He also co-authored REWORK, the New York Times bestselling book on running a "right-sized" business. Co-founded, co-authored... Can he do anything on his own?
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