I Don't Think You're That Busy
It's okay to admit that you have faults. It's okay to say that you forgot, that you didn't feel like it, or that you're a generally lazy person. What's not acceptable is to just say that you were busy, that you didn't have time, that you're really stretched thin.
Something I always try to do when I find the words "I'm too/really/super/very busy" scampering up my esophagus is to replace them with the more accurate words "it's not a priority." Because that would be the truth. When you say that you don't have time, it's not quite accurate, since everyone has time. A finite and precise amount, in fact. Twenty-four hours a day. And you actively choose to do things for all of those hours, because none of those things are required. You might think that things like 'going to work,' or 'getting your car fixed' are required, but they're not. You can choose to not do them, but you probably wouldn't, because they have consequences. But really, everything has consequences – those are just two examples where the consequences might be quite severe. Everything else – from not brushing your teeth, to not texting someone back, to blowing off a social engagement – those have consequences too. Perhaps these consequences don't cross your mind when you commit to an action, but they still take effect.
I once applied for an internship during college that was set to take up 20 hours per week, and it started in the middle of spring semester. It seemed impractical that I'd be able to find that many hours to spend, but the recruiter did some literal back-of-the-napkin calculations (we were meeting in a café) to prove his point. That 20 number translated to about three hours a day. If I slept a (generous) nine hours every day, I was awake for fifteen. If actual class time and classwork combined took up six hours a day, I had nine left. If other extracurriculars took up three, I had six left. Daily tasks like eating and getting ready probably took up two more, leaving me with four. I could take an hour to myself, which would give me three total for the internship. Alternatively, I could put in two every weekday, and then scale up to five on Saturday and Sunday. It was a lot more possible than I had originally thought it was.
When you write it out like that, it's actually remarkable how much twenty-four hours gets you. It's a weird thing to budget your time, because it's only then you realize how much time you're actually wasting. That doing the laundry somehow took you four hours instead of 45 minutes split into three stages. Or that getting ready actually took you an hour instead of ten-to-twenty minutes depending on the length of your facial hair. This isn't even a 'live every second to the fullest' kind of belief, but rather along the lines of 'realize that you have more seconds than you thought you did.'
I always try – as somewhat of a blanket policy – to rarely say no to people. Not in an effort to be a people-pleaser, mind you, but because I can usually do whatever someone's asking for. In the event that I do say no, it's because I actually don't want to, don't think it'd be useful, or don't like that person (which makes me wonder why they asked me a favor in the first place). This is probably why it irks me when people say they don't have time for something. Like when someone insinuates they're too busy to talk – I'd imagine they have a number of other conversations going on that very minute. Or when I ask someone to send me some information or read over something, and they take days to get back to me when I'm sure they weren't working non-stop during that time.
One thing that people I've worked with take note of is the swiftness with which I respond to e-mail. I find it inefficient when I see someone open their e-mail, read it, and then mark it unread so they'll respond to it later (sidenote: half of that irritation is due to the fact that they mark it as 'unread' instead of starring it like a normal person… it's not unread! You just read it!). It probably would have taken (at most) five minutes to figure out what to say to that person, and then you could go about your day and not have to re-remember or worry about it whenever you saw the notification on your phone. Not to mention, no one else has to wait on you. And that's despite having a full-time job, a part-time job, school, gym time, writing time, and relaxing time, because even all of that doesn't quite sum to a full twenty-four.
By the way, just because you're doing someone a favor doesn't give you license to be a dick about it. There's an implicit assumption that when you're taking the time and effort to do something you didn't have to, you can be lacking in your level of quality or your work product because "hey, be grateful that I'm doing you a favor at all." But when someone asks you for a favor, they're asking you because you're good at that, not because your half-assed job might just be passable. More likely, that level of work is more a disservice than not having provided that favor at all.
Think about it in a workplace type setting. If you ask a coworker for help, they might say "I'm too busy," and that would be a perfectly acceptable response. You can see the number of projects they're working on, how late they're staying, and the simple fact that they actually don't have the time to help you. Now what about your personal life? What if someone could see what you were actually doing after you told them that you were busy – would that affect how they felt about the validity of your response? So when I've found that I forgot to respond to someone, or that I wasn't able to get them what they asked for, I tell them exactly that. Hey, I forgot. Agh, sorry I couldn't get this done. It's on me.
Come on. You're really not that busy. It's just not a priority.