By LeRay Warrior, Principal at MEDiAHEAD.

“Sorry, I’m busy” is an excuse that spills out of our mouths far too often these days. Not only is it a poor excuse, it’s also demonstrably false according to recent studies carried out on our work habits.

So why do so many employees continue to use this phrase on a daily basis? And how busy are we really?

We’re Not as Busy as We Think We Are

Too busyBefore we think about uttering that phrase or a close equivalent, it’s useful to take a moment to look at the facts about how busy we truly are.

Recent studies have shown that we as Americans, are productive for only a small portion of our 8-hour work day. A survey of over 2,000 full-time office workers revealed some startling statistics. On average, we’re only productive for 2 hours 53 minutes of our 8-hour day.

That’s less than 3 hours.

It also uncovered that we tend to spend over an hour per day on non-work related websites, with an almost equal amount of time spent checking social media.

When you add in having chats with coworkers, taking smoke breaks, making and eating snacks, and of course making the obligatory round of office coffees, it’s not hard to see where all the time suddenly goes.

Perhaps the most interesting statistic from this study is that we spend almost half an hour per day looking for new jobs. And yet we are often “too busy” to help colleagues carry out meaningful work at our current place of employment, or taking the meeting from the sales rep who may benefit ones organization.

“I’m Busy!” Has Become Code for “I Don’t Want to.”

Too busyWhen colleagues approach us to get help with a task and we say we’re too busy, it’s often nothing to do with our current workload. Instead, it’s become a polite way of saying we don’t want to do something.

Think about it; let’s say your coworker needs help with a report that’s due to be presented to your respective manager tomorrow. You give the usual spiel about how you’d love to help, but your totally swamped with your own work. Sadly, it would take no more than 15 minutes to run over the figures with him.

And yet people don’t think twice about leaving early on a Friday, getting to work slightly late, or taking long lunches with coworkers. That’s before even mentioning the usual 15 minutes here and 15 minutes there that people dedicate to scrolling through Facebook, LinkedIn and any other social media platforms we enjoy.

Today, employees are wising up to the fact that “I’m busy” signifies that you don’t want to… not that you can’t.

Why “I’m Busy” Sends The Wrong Message

If “I’m busy” becomes the go to answer, then it creates a negative perception. You’re likely to need help with something yourself one day. If you’ve always been “too busy” to help others, then don’t expect people to form a line to give you their time when you’ve gotten stuck with a task you can’t do alone.

Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, if people think you’re busy all the time then they won’t bother presenting you with opportunities. By always thinking about yourself, you’ll miss out on the opportunities to work on collaborative projects that could be vital to both your personal and professional growth.

Change Your Mindset

If you’ve fallen into the “I’m busy” trap, it might be time to remove those words from your business vocabulary. By making time to help colleagues, or take an additional meeting, not only can one build better working relationships, we can also create a network that we can go to too when we need help.

So next time you catch yourself saying, “Sorry, I’m busy”, really think about how busy you are. If possible, replace those words with your willingness to help. You may be pleasantly surprised with the results.

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