Time, Time Everywhere, and Not a Second to Use

“I’m too busy” may be the most ubiquitous excuse in existence. Even if you’re not so arrogant and self-important to say such a thing, chances are you’ve appealed to its cousins “I’m not sure if I can,” “I’ll see if it works out,” and plain old “If I have the time.” Why The "I'm Too Busy Excuse" Works So Well

Nowhere does the “I’m too busy” excuse get more play than in Career Avoidance. It’s an effective excuse for two reasons:

  1. Because you truly believe it. There really is no time to spare in your life. I bought Do What You Are early in my college career. That fat book moved from dorm room to dorm room to grad school apartment to adult apartment without being cracked more than an inch. It’s not that I didn’t want to read its personality-based career recipes, it’s that I simply didn’t have the time to do it. Alas, what’s a girl to do? Our recent class poll backs this up. 36% of you are too busy working dead-end jobs to focus on the Career Search. Burgers need to be flipped, people. Shirts have to be folded. Cubicles need to be occupied. There’s no time for this “big thinking” stuff.
  2. It's hard for others to combat. Even if you manage to have some time in your day, who actually knows it? Does anyone follow you every second of every day, keeping tabs on your every move? (If you answered yes, either call the cops on that stalker or find your mom a hobby. Stat.) In other words, “I’m too busy” is a convincing, bullet-proof excuse to use against intrusive parents; freaky, overinvolved uncles; and way-too-eager professors (not that I know any of the latter...).

The Passage of Time

Cling fast to the “I’m too busy” excuse, valiant Career Avoiders. Cling fast. It’s one of the goodies.

Just hope you don’t run into someone – some evil, sinister someone – who tries to wrench the “I’m Too Busy” excuse away from you by, say, making the following claims:

Your Leisure Activities Are Telling

In our poll, 36% of you said you turn to YouTube to procrastinate the Career Search. Little did you know that this activity can actually shed light on your future career, if you let it.

The old advice career advice said to figure out your interests, pay attention to what section of a library or bookstore you’re drawn to. Thing is, no one goes there anymore (well, except old people; at the bookstore last week the gray-haired lady sitting next to me was snoring her way through Forever, Erma. Please refrain from commenting on what my bookstore presence - and the instant recognition of her book's cover - mean for my age.)

Instead of going to the bookstore, these days we go online. So mount a virtual camera on your shoulder and keep tabs on what you’re doing. What do you most like to watch on YouTube? What do you most desire to read on blogs? What books and activities fill your Kindle or iPad? It doesn’t take “time,” per se, to keep track of this. It just takes a shifting of attention.

You might argue that much of what you do is solely for “entertainment.” True, true. But I, for instance, don’t think a Truman documentary is entertaining in the least. My husband, on the other hand, would strongly beg to differ. In fact, he has begged to differ for the past three nights. (I used the opportunity to catch up on my sleep...) Is it any wonder he ended up becoming a social studies teacher? Albeit not until he was in his thirties...

Your Leisure Activities Can Actually Help You

If you’re keeping track of the poll results so far, you know there are still some class members unaccounted for. Pop quiz:  what percentage is missing? Oh wait, this isn’t a math class. Thankfully. You’d be screwed if you had me teaching you that.

27% of you procrastinate by Facebook stalking, a time-honored tradition indeed. You probably think you’re wasting time on Facebook, don’t you? What if I told you that you may actually be getting closer to your dream career and happiness by being on there? Seriously.

Research shows that we're more our “true selves” when we’re interacting on social media than when we’re talking with people face to face. In other words, we put on less of a show than in the real world. Studies also show that the more we get in touch with our true selves on a regular basis, the more meaningful our lives feel (which, as we’ve discussed, is one of the two lasting forms of happiness).

In addition, we're more satisfied at work when we're being true to ourselves.

That said, if you are putting on a show on Facebook or Twitter or Site-Too-Hip-For-Thirtysomethings-To-Know-About, the activity isn’t helping you. The pure act of stalking isn’t, either; you have to be actively contributing and getting in touch with you - not Lena Dunham or Robert Pattinson's abs or your grade school crush - in order to reap the benefits.

You Don’t Need “Time” to Solve Problems

In essence, the Career Search is one big problem to solve. You have to take all the disparate, often conflicting information about your interests and your true self – info gleaned from the previous activities – and figure out what it means for a career.

In the last post I briefly mentioned that incubation can be key to problem solving. If you step back from a problem rather than focus on it, you're more likely to reach a solution. Sleeping may be especially helpful (I am indeed giving you an excuse to lay around more).

For this approach to work, you have to seed the unconscious with the problem you want to solve (such as – shameless plug ahead - by reading Career Avoidance 101’s daily Facebook posts or Tweets). This takes little to no time. You do need the passage of time to get to your "flash of insight," but you don’t need chunks of time.

To incubate, Einstein turned to music, developmental psychologist Piaget walked, and physicist Helmholz went on a "slow ascent of wooded hills on a sunny day" (poetic much?). You go on YouTube and Facebook stalk and sit at your dead end job. In other words, you can tell your parents that you're simply "Being like Einstein."

The Decision-Making Process Isn’t As Strategic As You Think

After you’ve determined your interests, gotten in touch with you and used those pieces to solve the career problem, you’ll probably be left with a general, resonating vision for your life (some might call it an, I don’t know, “All I Want to Be” statement…). But how do you translate that into a specific career?

Here’s where you engage your decision-making skills. You need to decide between the various career options that would satisfactorily meet your life goal. Sounds time-consuming, doesn’t it? Actually, it doesn’t have to be, and it's perhaps even better when it’s not.

We’re taught that the best way to make decisions involves reason and strategy and ridiculously long pro and con lists. In reality, that’s not how people do it. People tend to make decisions – even huge decisions, like about what course of cancer treatment they should pursue – based largely on "intuition" or "gut feelings." There’s no weighing of evidence, no systematic elimination, no creation of compulsive spreadsheets. Instead we humans throw our fates to the stars and go with our guts. We silly humans!

Or are we?

It’s not such a stupid approach, it turns out. The gut feeling isn’t some flimmy-flammy, semi-mystical, call a 1-800-psychic number type of thing. It’s actually based on our subconscious picking up lots of subtle – and often important - cues that our overly rational, conscious mind overlooks. The subconscious adds these cues up and, voila, the gut feeling!

So What To Make of the "I'm Too Busy" Excuse?

When we consider these attacks on the “I’m too busy” excuse, it seems the evil someone who presented them pretty much mucked up all hope of using this defense.

Don’t lose faith, though. The process of job searching – a far different process from looking for a career, or, ideally, for looking for something even bigger than career – does take time. Literal, physical chunks of minutes type of time. You have to create a resume, find job openings, send out application packets, go on interviews. There’s no way getting around how much time that takes.

And so, even if you happen to run into someone who pokes holes in your “I’m too busy” excuse for avoiding the big-thinking portion of Career Search (wherever would you meet such a person, anyway?), you can still use the excuse when the pedal meets the metal and you have to find an actual job.

Which is fitting, I suppose, since that’s all you’ll be finding – plain, old, punch-the-clock, end-up-in-a-stupor-from-boredom jobs - if you don’t give the Career Search a good go. Fair enough!

Time always gets in our way...or does it? (Photo credit: ToniVCand over-eager professors.)