Why Being ‘So Busy’ May Be Hurting Your Career

Photo Source: Photo by mauro mora on Unsplash

I’ve started to notice something recently.

Every time I see friends and ask how they’re doing, they always say with an exasperated sigh, “Argh! I’m sooooo busy.” Or, “You know, I’m just going and going and going, never time to rest!” Or, “Ugh. I’m exhausted. So much to do.” It’s often said with an equal mix of angst and a little pride, so happy to be able to report that things are happening but being overwhelmed by what it's taking to get there.

I’ve been a guilty of this too. I mean, it’s harmless, right? The short answer is no, as evidenced by a situation one of my students went through recently.

This actor was part of several developmental readings of a film, creating great relationships with the producing team in the process. Each time the actor spoke to them, he excitedly talked about all the projects he’s been a part of and how busy he’d been, hoping they would see how in demand he was and that he was a viable, working actor.

He finally saw a breakdown come out for the project and noticed that the role he had read was pre-cast—with someone else. Hurt and embarrassed, he reached out to the filmmaker to find out what happened and why he hadn’t been contacted about the role. The filmmaker apologized profusely and said, “With everything that you’re involved with, I assumed you were too busy.”

READ: The 1 Thing That Will Immediately Kill Your Acting Career

Record scratch.

Yep. My student lost an opportunity because he had made it seem like he was too overloaded to take on more work.

This really made me think: how often have I done the exact same thing, unburdening myself with “busy-ness” when someone asks how I’m doing? So I started an experiment. For one week, I tracked how often people asked how I was doing and how often I felt the need to say, “I’m really busy,” as a response.

Interestingly, I felt myself wanting to say, “I’m so busy” almost all of the time. But I noticed something even more interesting. The conversation stopped there. Very few people asked, “What’s making you busy?” It’s almost as though “I’m so busy” is a back-off answer, something we say when we don’t want to talk about what’s really going on.

Much like we reflexively say, “Fine” when someone asks “How are you?” we may say, “I’m so busy” as a reflex that encourages people to back off. The conversation never moves on from there—no further inquiries about what we’re up to or what it was like to be so busy. It’s a roadblock to real conversation.

So I took my experiment to the next level. Whenever I was asked what I was up to, rather than saying “I’m so busy,” I chose one thing I was really excited about and shared that instead. I also banished any talk of “busy-ness” from my social media pages. It was magical.

By being so open and focused on what inspired me, I no longer needed to share my anxiety. Instead, I got to make a real connection about something that mattered to me and let another person into my world. And I began to wonder what would be possible if actors owned what made them busy and saw it as a benefit rather than a curse? Would my student have been offered the role if he had been focused on the quality of the work he was sharing rather than the quantity?

I invite you to try the same experiment; see how many times you’re compelled to say “I’m busy” rather than really engaging with your peers. Catch yourself each time you try to unload your “busy-ness” and see what’s really there for you to share. And let me know how the experiment goes and what you learned.

Passionate about sharing her knowledge with actors, Erin Cronican is the lead coach and founder of The Actors' Enterprise, one-on-one coaching service that provides affordable career coaching to actors who want to feel more fulfilled and in control of their careers. She helps actors set goals, design their materials, organize their business, and create a plan of action with easy tools that can take them to the next level with an emphasis on feeling empowered and working smarter, not harder. The first consultation is always free. Follow her on Twitter @ErinCronican, Instagram @Erin_Cronican, and like her on Facebook. Outside of coaching, Erin is a professional actor (SAG-AFTRA/AEA) with over 20 years of experience performing in film, TV, plays, and musicals. She also produces and directs with The Seeing Place Theater, a critically acclaimed non-profit, indie company in NYC.

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Erin Cronican
Erin Cronican is a professional actor (SAG-AFTRA/AEA) with over 20 years of experience performing in film, plays and musicals (NYC, L.A., regionally), and on television. She also produces and directs with the Seeing Place Theater, a critically acclaimed non-profit indie company in NYC.
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