A man walked up to me after a speaking event and asked for fitness advice. "I really need to get in shape," he said. "Where should I start?"

"That's a tough question to answer without knowing a lot about you," I said, "but a great start is to do moderate cardio first thing in the morning for 20 minutes, three or four times a week..."

He frowned and started shaking his head, but I soldiered on.

"... doing that will help your fitness," I said, "and research shows you'll feel more energetic and be in a better mood for up to 12 hours. That's a pretty cool use of 20 minutes."

He snorted. "You might have 20 minutes to spare," he said as he turned away. "But I'm too busy." 

Ah.

Busy and Overworked: The New Status Symbol

According to researchers from Harvard, Columbia, and Georgetown (how's that for a trifecta of top B-schools?):

Busyness and overwork, rather than a leisurely life, have become a status symbol. In contemporary American culture, complaining about being busy and working all the time has become an increasingly widespread phenomenon. 

Our investigation reveals that positive status inferences in response to long hours of work and lack of leisure time are mediated by the perceptions that busy individuals possess desired human capital characteristics (competence, ambition), leading them to be viewed as scarce and in demand... a busy and overworked individual is perceived to have status in the eyes of others.

Or in non researcher-speak: I'm really busy, so I must be in demand.

I must be important.

Which may be why one of the most common responses to the question, "How are you?" is no longer "great!" Or "good!"

Nope. It's "Oh my gosh, I'm really busy." 

Said not with resignation, but with a thinly-veiled sense of pride. As a humblebrag.

Because hey: Saying, "I'm so busy" must mean I'm crushing it.

Busy and Overworked: The New Go-To Excuse

And maybe I am... but that doesn't mean I'm crushing the things that will make the biggest difference in my life. 

Saying, "I'm so busy," is a great excuse for not doing the things you want to do -- or even worse, not doing the things you really need to do.

"I'm so busy" is a great excuse to not exercise. Or not explore a side hustle. Or not go back to school. Or not try something you've always wanted to try... but are also scared to try.

Being "too busy" gives you an automatic out. And allows you to feel okay, or even oddly proud, about taking that "out."

The decision is, after all, out of your hands. You're just too busy.

Or not.

Everyone has the same amount of time. The only difference is what you're willing to do with yours.

"Busy and Overworked: The Last Thing You Should Say

Think about someone you admire.

You don't admire them because they talk about (or even brag about) how they put in impossibly long hours as they constantly rushing from appointment to appointment, errand to errand, crisis to crisis...

You admire them because they're doing things they're excited about. Things they want to learn. They want to try. They want to achieve. 

They're too busy constructing a life that allows her to do more of the things that matter to her, that bring meaning and purpose to their lives, to talk about how busy they are.

And you should, too.

When someone asks how you are, don't see the answer, "Oh my gosh, I'm so busy..." as some sort of implied status symbol. See "Oh my gosh, I'm so busy" as a sign you need to take better control of your life.

See it as a sign you need to make some changes -- not just to your priorities, but to the actions that result.

And then make those changes.

Because you should never be too busy to do the things that truly matter to you.