“Good! Busy…”

There is a common dialogue that occurs between people that work in a client-based, corporate environment:

“Hi! Good to see you!”

“Great to see you, too. How are things?”

“Good! Busy…”

It seems the new way to answer when asked about work is to say “busy.” Busy equals good, right? In the architecture and design world in particular, being busy typically means a healthy economy, repeat clients and exciting new projects. It’s no wonder that being busy has become glorified. Staying busy as an organization means you are good at what you do.

On an individual basis, a packed calendar and long to do list can be good for you. Studies have shown that a busy lifestyle improves brain function and memory. Being busy as an older adult can even prolong your life.

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Of course, constant busyness can lead to stress. And what is stress exactly? The textbook definition of stress is the body’s chemical reaction to changes in the environment. Stress is a body’s built-in defense mechanism that alerts the brain to danger. Occasional spikes in the levels of the stress hormone, cortisol, are essential to human survival. The problem is that these spikes are no longer short-term. A typical week for the average person might involve rush hour traffic, parenting, deadlines, difficult coworkers, marital problems, financial worries, etc. For most, stress is at a constant high for a majority of the week.

At a minimum, prolonged stress can weaken your immune system, cause weight gain and make it more difficult for you to control your emotions. Unmanaged stress can eventually lead to diabetes, high blood pressure, obesity or cancer. Being busy comes at a supremely high cost, but we still see it as an unavoidable part of life.

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ve probably heard that the workplace is changing. Many people in the workforce are demanding a healthier work-life balance and rejecting the idea that being constantly busy is glamorous or positive. Critics might call this laziness, but there are a number of ways to be busy. Are you busy reacting to things, putting out fires and working without a purpose? Or are you passionately doing something you find meaningful and valuable?  

Being busy has become the professional status symbol. Fortunately, there are things we can do to disrupt this way of thinking and avoid living with an unhealthy level of stress. Start by identifying what you care about in your work and try to delegate the rest. In a diverse workplace, there is likely someone that is passionate about the tasks you find mundane.

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Additionally, stop multitasking. Science has proven humans can’t effectively multitask anyway. Stop checking work emails at dinner or making grocery lists during a meeting. Gain efficiency by focusing on one task at a time. Finally, stop talking about how busy you are! By casually bragging about how rushed you feel, you send a message that you don’t have time for other people, and that you are not open to new ideas or opportunities because you don’t have the time. The next time someone asks how you are, don’t fall back on the same unremarkable exchange. Ban the word “busy” from your vocabulary, and find a more meaningful way to answer. 

 
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Katy Lopez

KLopez@pdrcorp.com

713.739.9059

As an experienced designer at PDR, Katy’s various design responsibilities include schematic design, code research, material selection, production of pricing plans and construction documents, and construction administration. Katy’s sense of humor and exceptional communication skills allow her to forge relationships with all types of clients, while delivering high quality designs.