Rita Riebel Mitchell

Using the “I’m so busy” excuse

No June Post? I’ve been busy.

Yes. We’ve all said it. We’ve all heard it. A million times. When our friends apologize for not texting or calling because “I’m so busy,” we shake our heads and say, “Yep. Me, too.”

But beware. It’s code.

What? Code? Code for what?

“I’ve been busy” could be code for “There were other things higher on my priority list,” or “I didn’t really feel like talking to you.”

Oof! That’s a punch in the gut. The truth hurts.

What should you say?

Nothing. No excuses, no hurt feelings. You can apologize for not returning a call or text, but don’t give “I’ve been busy,” as an excuse.

What if you are busy?

Schedules fill up. Deadlines loom. Sometimes it’s overwhelming. But if a close friend or family member asks for your time, you might want to consider taking a short break.

Short breaks often reduce stress and can make you more productive when you go back to work. The keyword here is short… and only if you can really spare the few minutes it takes to make the person feel that they are important to you.

While writing, I often need a short break. Then again, if I’m in the middle of a thought, paragraph, or am “following” my characters as they deal with developing situations, I don’t want to be interrupted. I’ll let all calls go to voicemail, ignore texts and wait until I get the current scenario written before responding.

If the person texts and texts and texts, or leaves multiple messages… take 30 seconds to ask them to text or call you again after your deadline or when you think you’ll finish with your current task. Again, give them a specific time. This puts the responsibility of future communication on that person, and you don’t have to remember to do it.

I’m so busy with chores

Be respectful and take a minute to respond. Tell your mom or friend that you are in the middle of washing the floor, doing laundry, or whatever you are doing – or should be doing. Again, ask them to call you later. Estimate the time.

“I should be finished my chores by 3. Call me then.” Or “I should be free between 3 and 4 if you want to talk longer.”

What if you aren’t busy but don’t want to talk or text?

If you don’t want to text or talk to someone, say so. This is especially important if that person tends to stress you out. But be kind. Be polite. No reasons are needed. No excuses for not talking. Make a simple statement that gets you off the hook.

“I can’t talk to you right now,” or “I’m in the middle of something. Can we talk another time?”

Is it lying to say you are doing something when you aren’t? Technically, yes, but think of it like this: aren’t you always in the middle of planning to do the next task on your list?  

In this case, include a suggested time for that person to call back: tomorrow, next week, or next month.

After all that…I have been busy.

“Busy doing what? You’re retired!” My husband and I hear that all the time.

I am a retired teacher but that doesn’t mean I sit around all day drinking mint juleps and binge-watching television shows. (We are trying to cut down on TV time.)

My to-do list includes yoga, walking, house and garden chores, reading and writing. That doesn’t count shopping, cooking, and going out/ socializing. Then there are various appointments and the multi-day (or multi-week) projects, and occasional travel.

Am I too busy to write a blog post? Sometimes I’m busy and sometimes I’m procrastinating.

Have you been busy?

How often do you use that phrase as an excuse for not communicating or completing a task?

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