When I ask somebody at the office “Hey man, how are you?” I often get the answer “Very busy!” For a while now I stopped replying with “Oh, good!” Instead I say “I am so sorry to hear that.” Sometimes I just tell them the story of the old carpenter.

Being busy is the norm. People who are not busy are doing something wrong. They definitely don’t want to be successful. Because to be successful you have to be busy. Right?

I don’t think so. Three reasons:

First of all: looks can be deceiving.

A lot of people know how to LOOK busy but are really not. Remember that guy in your office with the agenda that is swamped with appointments? The same guy it is impossible to schedule a meeting with? He is always running around doing something. He knows how to look busy.

Second: there is a big difference between being busy and being productive.

Others really are busy. But with the wrong things. Churning out reports, answering e-mails and filling Excel sheets. Making long hours. But how does that contribute to the results? What would happen if they stopped writing reports, answering e-mails and filling Excel sheets for a month? Would we even notice that in the company results?

Last but not least: there is also a big difference between being busy and working effectively

To explain this I want to share a little story with you.

The story of the old carpenter:

The old carpenter was sitting in a rocking chair on the veranda of his house smoking a pipe. He was watching the busy young carpenter that was going from door to door in the street, offering his carpentry services to everyone.

When the young man passed his house he said: “I am so busy! I fix chairs, cupboards and tables at almost every house in our street. I already earned 20 dollars today!” The old man would just smile and say “Good for you!”

Meanwhile, the busy young carpenter was thankful for the fact that he was getting all the small carpentry work in the entire street. Making a few dollars and snatching all the work away from the old man who used to do it. He was actually feeling a bit sorry for the old man. Wondering how he could make a living. But the old man never seemed to worry about the fact that the young carpenter was taking all his work.

Weeks passed and nothing seemed to change. The young man was still very busy, doing all the little carpentry chores and making a few bucks. His back started aching and he was feeling tired. When he looked at the old carpenter’s house he would always see him sitting in his chair. Sometimes he was making a phone call, writing a letter or he would have a visitor. But he never looked busy! He felt really sorry for the old man and thought he would probably be going out of business soon.

One day the young carpenter had to satisfy his curiosity. Boldly he went up to the old man’s house and asked him: “How can you sit in that chair like that? You don’t look busy at all. Don’t you want to make any money to earn a living?”

The old carpenter smiled and said: “Young man, I have been very busy. The last few months I had a lot of phone calls and meetings with a project developer. He just asked me to build 50 new houses in our town.” The young carpenter was flabbergasted and didn’t know what to say. The old man continued “I am looking for good carpenters to do some of the work. Do you want to work for me? I’ll pay you $50 per hour.”

Leave a Reply