I’m Busy. You’re Busy. We’re All Busy. Now What?

Being busy is one of the biggest obstacles to making friends in the modern age. This isn’t really news. These days, if you ask someone how they’ve been I bet you’re more likely to hear “busy” than “good.”

Everyone is overscheduled. We all take on too much. I don’t know one person who, when I ask how they are, says, “You know, my life is really calm right now. I’m a little bored.”

But since we’re all in the same boat, being busy is not a good enough excuse to avoid being social. You make time for what’s important, and I think we all know by now that fostering friendships is on that list.

So here’s my problem. Right now I, like all of you, am busy. Even busier than usual because I have a manuscript deadline looming and out-of-town trips scheduled for the next two weekends. Because meeting my deadline is not optional, it has to be my priority. At least over the next few weeks. This means I have to be careful not to overschedule myself.

I might have to—gasp!—say no.

Last weekend a new pal invited me over for a Friends marathon. I said maybe, but when my work wasn’t done for the day I had to change that to a pass. Another friend asked me to join her for yoga. Same deal: Maybe first, no eventually.

I’ve trained myself so well in saying yes that I truly hate saying no. In fact, I think I’m scared to. After passing on my last two Friends marathon invitations, I fear that I won’t get invited again. Same goes for the yoga classes. It takes a while to build up to the lazy Sunday sitcom-marathon invitation, but little time to lose it. I don’t want to become one of those people who just stops receiving invitations because they always say no.

And yet, like I said, I currently have no choice. I can’t go to work, go on my weekend trips, finish a book and say yes to all potential social engagements. There just isn’t enough time.

So what I’ve chosen to do is be very clear. To say, “I would really love to but I’m on a deadline this month and am a bit out of commission. As soon as I deliver this manuscript, though, I would really love to quote Chandler/do chataranga/watch super-skinny Natalie Portman go psycho onscreen while she’s really falling in love with her choreographer and making his lovechild with you.”

I have not earned the right with any of my new connections to become a disappearing friend. It’s far too early in my search. So I accept that by allowing myself this month of saying no, I will probably need to work extra hard extending invitations of my own in February.

No one ever said relationships were easy.

Have you had similar fears of saying no to plans with friends? When you are in a super-busy phase, how do you juggle responsibilities with relationships?


Filed under The Search

14 responses to “I’m Busy. You’re Busy. We’re All Busy. Now What?

  1. debbi

    Be honest about why you’re temporarily unavailable – even if its multiple times. friends will understand. Those who don’t may not be worth the effort

  2. CLS

    I absolutely hate saying no. I have learned that sometimes I have to to keep my sanity, but I always feel guilty or sad when I miss something fun. I have found, however, that it is easier to say no upfront. If I know or think I cant go to something, its easier to just say “no” then to say “let me see” and then have to back out last minute…

  3. Suzannah

    Since your extremely strained schedule sounds temporary….then I think just extend a few invites of your own after things calm down.. just to get the feeling across ….” wow I hated have to miss those times with you, so glad things have calmed down a bit”..
    one reason I am on my BFF search is because sometimes no matter how much you enjoy spending times with a friend, your schedules just don’t mesh, beyond more than phone calls to catch up…
    after being tied down for years with 4 small kids, it was hard to get out at night unless hubby felt up to it, which was not often… I now love going to movies or going for a margarita, so I have found myself in the situation where my closest friend still has a toddler, so it is just not realistic for her get out all that often…

  4. anonymous

    My question really has nothing to do with the post (though I am sharing this one on my Facebook wall!), but I’m curious about this being-a-writer business. Maybe we could talk sometime (like, in February) about how one gets started in that process? My goal this year is to do the friend thing (you’ve inspired me), and to also get serious about the writer thing (you’ve inspired me x2). :-).

    • Inspiration x 2?? I am so flattered! (and thanks for sharing this on Facebook.)

      As for being a writer, absolutely! I am always happy to answer anyone’s questions (as best I can, I’m definitely still learning the business myself). Email me anytime — you can find my email address on the “Meet Rachel” page.

  5. Darlene

    I think that since you see a light at the end of the tunnel of your busy-ness, your plan to extend more invites once things calm down sounds fine. Why not even schedule specific dates and events now for the time when you’ll be able to socialize again? At least then you are on someone else’s calendar, and radar.

    I agree that it’s not a good idea to say “maybe” to plans — I usually opt for saying no, “but I really wish I could, and if something changes, I’ll let you know.”

    You’re fortunate that you can see the end of your busy period — due to my job, mine has lasted for literally years! (which is why I am looking for a new one)

  6. Jamie Collyer

    This is SO true! I often turn down offers from my friends because I am “too busy”. I’m usually just working or tired or something else rediculous!

  7. katieleigh

    I hate saying no, even when I am busy – and lately, I’ve been the less-busy one, because of my freelance/unemployed schedule. So it’s hard when people have to back out of plans with me. Rejection, even when it happens because someone is sick or just overscheduled, is never fun.

    However, this post reminds me to keep asking friends to get together, even when THEY are busy. So, Rachel, you continue to be an inspiration! 🙂

  8. Ana

    I agree with the general theme here—its OK to have a busy period once in a while, and to opt out of social gatherings, but if “too busy” is a constant state, your friendships are going to suffer. I think that is exactly the problem a lot of us have, and it takes really rethinking priorities, and re-arranging your schedule sometimes to make sure friendship stays on the radar. (I know this is a whole topic in and of itself, but WHY are we so busy year-round these days, shoudn’t being calm & a little bored be the default? )
    I second the idea of going ahead and scheduling specific plans for February—it’ll be fun to look forward to them, too! I always try to schedule a drink or coffee with a friend after a deadline at work, just to see a light at the end of the tunnel!

  9. Lorrie Paige

    I guess I’m one of the lucky ones in I don’t allow myself to be that busy to say no to people I really want to hang out with. At 48 years of age now, I’ve just always set my life up in a way that I really control my life’s schedules.

    Frankly, if I ever said, “I’m too busy to hang out with you”, I’d be lying. Don’t get me wrong, I’m just as busy as most people but I can simply not do those things and go out with a friend instead. There is no contractual work commitments for me and I can go out with my boyfriend anytime. We live together and I work at home so we see A LOT of each other, even having long conversations during any slow business days of mine, so I can always see a friend instead of being with my boyfriend at times if a friend wants to meet up.

    I do agree with you when you said next month you’re going to have to work extra hard with the invites. At least that’s how I feel, from the other end. I’ve done my inviting to be turned down by the “I’m so busy” excuse, so now they would have to make extra effort to have me interested in seeing them.

    Unless under rare circumstances (like get this work done NOW or be fired, which is like in your case Rachel), I don’t buy the “I’m too busy” AT ALL. Sorry, but it’s bullcrap 99% of the time. People must eat to survive, right? Why not have lunch with a friend? Invite over to your place if it’s a time-consuming hassle eating out. A person just doesn’t really want to hang out with you if they say they are too busy. If $50,000 dollars were to appear in the hands of a “too busy” to spend time with you person, but only if they would hang out with you, I’d think you’d find them suddenly having time for you.

    Maybe a person says they’re too busy and although they truly want to spend some time with you, you are way down their list of priorities. Not very friend-ly is it?

    If a person says to me they are “too busy” and don’t ever want to schedule a future date with me, I say, “buh-bye”.

    • Suzannah

      I agree …that now a days…” I am too busy”… is an excuse, that is supposed to be unquestionable…like nothing else, needs to be said….and I agree a portion if the time, it is a non-offensive way of saying” not interested, no thank you”
      So is someone is always busy, yep it is “get a clue time!”

  10. San

    Oh, you couldn’t have put it any better “It takes a while to build up to the lazy Sunday sitcom-marathon invitation, but little time to lose it.”.

    That is the hardest part about new friendships – if you don’t accept those invitations, they’ll eventually disappear.
    Only long-time friends will understand that you’re saying “no”, because you’re busy and not because you don’t want to hang out.
    It’s tricky, but I think if you can limit this to a short period of time and then take the initiative yourself, it should work out! 😉

  11. I think being busy is quite normal since we are ‘supposed’ to be multi-tasking different roles (daughter, wife, mother etc).

    But what is exasperating is that my friend would just reject my invite with just a simple… “I’m busy. if I’m free, I’ll join.”

    I suppose friends is at the very bottom of her “to maintain relationship” list, or to contact when she is bored to tears. Maybe I have got start taking my stand that I won’t be waiting here at the same old spot when you need friendship if you don’t try to maintain a it. It takes 2 hands to clap.

  12. June

    I have friends who do not have full time jobs and have no children to look after or a partner and still they have no time for me. Guess I should really take the hint 😦 they sometimes say they are too tired but from what? They are happy to gave me visit at their home but too lazy to come to mine or go out. That’s prob why they don’t work much….too lazy. I need new active friends

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