All my life, starting in childhood and continuing through college, my career as a software engineer, and my career since then as a full-time writer, some of my friends and acquaintances have been busy. They were always hard to schedule anything with, because they were always already scheduled to attend Junior Achievers or to volunteer at the soup kitchen or to meet up with the group they’re joining for a trip abroad or whatever.
I, on the other hand, was not busy. That made it possible to schedule things with these guys, because if they could find a clear spot on their calendar, odds were it was free on my calendar too.
I generally found that to be okay, although sometimes I’d feel a bit taken advantage of. (In particular, when I had to move stuff that I’d planned to do, simply because it was at least possible to adjust my schedule, whereas theirs had no adjustablity.)
In what I now think was an odd reaction, when I was younger I felt kind of jealous of these guys. Sometimes I even went so far as to fill up my own schedule, so I could be one of the busy guys. I think I was just reacting to the fact that everything ended up having to revolve around them, and felt like at least sometimes everything ought to revolve around me.
I’ve since changed my mind. Not being busy is vastly preferable. Plus I no longer feel taken advantage of, because I’ve largely given up trying to do stuff with the busy folks.
Starting way back when I was in high school, I noticed that these unadjustible schedules could suddenly develop adjustability when the right opportunity came along. I mean, sure, if you’re invited to accept the Nobel Prize, of course you clear your schedule. But it didn’t take an invitation for dinner at the White House for these people to shuffle around their schedules. Faced with any sufficiently exciting opportunity, their schedule would suddenly develop some of that hitherto unavailable adjustability.
So, many years ago, I started letting it be a little test. Was spending time with me sufficiently exciting to produce a little schedule adustibility?
I don’t think I’m a jerk about it. Everybody has some immovable items in their schedule—that’s fine. But when so many items on someone’s schedule are immovable that it becomes difficult to make a plan, I become doubtful.
Writing a whole post about it may make it seem like I pay more attention to this than I actually do. In fact, I scarcely think about it at all any more. I pay no attention to whether the busy folks schedules are more adjustable for others than they are for me. (I did briefly, when I first noticed the phenomenon, but that was long ago.)
I just spend more time with people who are easy to schedule time with, and less time with people who are busy. And I make sure that my own schedule has enough adjustability in it that other people can schedule time with me.
Sadly, being “busy” is a euphemism for “I don’t really want to do that / go to that thing.” I do it myself because it’s easier than saying no.
Yes, it can mean, “I don’t want to do that.” It can also mean, “I don’t want to do anything with you, but I don’t want to be so rude as to say so.” I remember my feelings being hurt, when I first figured that out.