Does ‘busy’ mean you are not my priority?

Do you have your priorities right? Think again.

“When someone tells you they are too ‘busy’…. it’s not a reflection of their schedule; it’s a reflection of YOUR spot on their schedule”. – Steve Maraboli

The story of the three missed calls

Let us take the scenario of John getting three missed calls on his phone:

– One from his immediate family or a friend whom he hangs out with during the weekend
– One from the company he works with and
– Another one from a client

Whom should John call back first? The common answer we get is the client first, company second and family or friends last. If this is the answer then John has gotten his priorities wrong.

Our company and clients are all a means to achieve our objective of being happy. Anything and everything we do in our lives is for our happiness and our happiness comes from our family and friends. 

So, the ideal order of John handling his three missed calls should be to call:

– Family/ friends, first
– Company he works with, second
– The client, last

Let us delve a little deeper and go through the three scenarios.

John handles it right!

If John returns his wife’s call first, she might have called to know when he would be home. He says “By 7”. She replies, “I will go to the mall and be back by 7.” Or else, she might tell him, “Hey John, your mother called.” Knowing that it is going to be a lengthy conversation, John answers “I have to return a client’s call. Can I call you in two hours”? The answer most probably would be “Sure”. She would never say that “I want to tell you now”.


John returns the call to his friend who is booking tickets for a weekend show and wants to know if John is in. John says “Yes” or “No” and his friend is gone. Or his friend might say “Hey buddy, I wanted you to know I got that contract.”. John congratulates him and tells him that “I want to know all the details, will call you in two hours as I have to return a client’s call,”. His friend will never insist on talking right then.

John’s second call is to his company and a colleague tells him that they have to get back to David from HSBC. To that John informs his colleague that he has gotten a missed call from Mary from Citibank. Knowing both the clients, his colleague might tell him that “We will have to handle HSBC first” or he might suggest, “HSBC can wait as Mary is a priority” . Both clients being of the company they are able to prioritize who to call back first.

John’s third and last call will be to his client, because once he is on call with the client he can never tell them to wait while he attends to a call from his family, friends or company.

Having said that, 99 percent of the time John will be able to get back to his client in less than a minute by keeping the other two parties happy. His family/ friends and his company have his best interests in their mind. 

This way John has gotten his priorities in life in the right order!

The priority perspective

Always remember, you can count your close friends and family on your fingers, you can do the same with the number of companies you have worked with. But your clients are dime a dozen and expendable.

Then why do we find ourselves giving top priority to clients, who are innumerable? Your order for prioritizing should always be infallibly the same: family and friends first, company second and clients third. This should be the order irrespective of the time of the day and whether you are at work or otherwise.

David drives the point home

Based on the above principle, David who runs an events company, had a policy that if it was a one to one team meeting and if someone’s family/ friend called they should pick up the phone and answer the call saying, “I am sitting with David. Can I call you in 20 minutes or is there something urgent?” David believed that it would take only ten seconds to answer that call but it would ensure a happy family member and in turn a happy team member. Most of the time it might be a call similar to a colleague’s husband wanting to know if she could pick up the kids from school. 

One of David’s colleagues disagreed with the company policy saying that he knew when to call his girlfriend or mother back, as they kept calling him 100 times a day. This is what we hear most of the time. We usually don’t bother to answer calls from family or friends, assuming that they will understand. That is the crux of the problem! We are shortchanging the most important people in your life and are taking their understanding for granted. 

In reality, let us see how David handles this scenario. 

Suppose David sees a missed call from his mother. He calls her back and tells her “Mom you called?” She says “Yes. I wanted to know how Alisha’s (David’s daughter) skit in school went.” David tells her “Mom it was brilliant but let me call you at 5 PM and we will talk in detail”. Keeping his word, he calls her at 5 and they enjoy talking about his daughter. Doing so gives both of them immense happiness. Or in another instance, David’s mom might ask him to just pass on a message to his brother and the call is over in less than thirty seconds. 

In a similar scenario David’s brother Joe too sees a missed call from his mother and a client. But what does his brother do? Since he has gotten his priorities wrong he chooses to call his client first. Two hours later after attending to his client, Joe finds that he has now 11 missed calls from his mother and he calls her back. Joe’s mom asks him about his son’s football game. On hearing this, Joe covers the mouthpiece and tells his colleague that, “11 missed calls from my mom only to ask about my son’s game! My mother just does not get it!”

The same mother and two different responses from her sons. Joe is getting his priorities wrong and taking his mother for granted. If he had done the same thing with his boss or his client they would have thrown him out long back.

‘Busy’ means you are not my priority

Telling your loved ones that you are too busy to give them time means that you are taking them for granted and getting your priorities wrong.

Get your priorities right and find the true path to happiness!

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