“Busy is a decision.”

Debbie Millman, the host of the podcast Design Matters, is also an educator, writer, artist, curator, and designer. In a recent book by Tim Ferriss, Debbie drops a piece of wisdom that hit me with a rare force. Everyone likely recognizes the feeling of hearing something that strikes them as absolute truth, and Millman’s words definitely created this feeling in me.
In response to the question, “If you could have a gigantic billboard anywhere with anything on it, what would it say and why?” Debbie replied simply, “Busy is a decision.” Let that one sink in for a minute and consider what she means. There is no more perfect and concise way to put it.
When it comes to to getting things done, or more importantly not getting them done, Debbie rightly says that there is no more inauthentic excuse. Think about something you wish you had done over the past week, month, or year. Why didn’t it get done? If your brain goes straight away to “I was just too busy” or “I had too much to do” or any variation of that thought, you are not fooling anyone but yourself. What you are really saying is that whatever you wanted to accomplish simply was not important enough. It was not a priority. You clearly did a lot over the past week, month, or year, but this project, goal, or aspiration was not as important as you claim it to have been or you would have done it.
To take this to the extreme, why did you not stay at home last Wednesday to work on a side project, novel you are writing, business you are developing, etc. instead of going in to work? The answer is likely because you need your job and the income that comes with it. Okay, fair enough. So your job took priority. Can you say the same about the TV shows you watched? About the Instagram feed you constantly checked? About the chores you did around the house? The shopping trip for clothes you do or don’t need? If you think back over your activities from the past set time period, and they do not in hindsight appear as important as what you would have liked to have done, then you have some serious adjusting to do. Saying you were too busy is just lazy. There are people who have gotten done what you wanted to do, but with less time than you had. The difference is that for them it was a priority.
Remember Debbie Millman’s words, “Busy is a decision.” Whether at work or at home, the next time you don’t get something done and are faced with the disappointment of it, try changing the narrative from “I was busy,” to “It wasn’t important enough.” You’ll find that it hurts a little bit more, and hopefully gets you moving in the right direction next time.

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