I Have Two Kyles: The “Busy” Pissing Contest


When my two nephews were much younger, they used to be very competitive with each other. It came naturally – as brothers who were a year and a half apart in age, their tendency was to constantly try to outdo each other. The youngest was particularly bad – trying to one-up his big brother at almost every turn.

J: “I made a snowman at school today!”
L: “I made TWO snowmen today.”

J: “I ate all my hamburger for supper!”
L: “I ate TWO hamburgers!”

J: “I finished my homework!”
L: “I finished my homework…. twice!”

J: “There’s a boy named Kyle in my class!”
L: “I have TWO Kyles!”

This is hilariously absurd. But we all know that guy who has to let us know he has two Kyles, right?

We tend to communicate with each other in this “two Kyle” way when it comes to being busy. When someone asks us how we are, a small talk short-but-sweet response is likely something like “Oh good, but busy.”

“Oh yes yes. Me too. Very busy. Two Kyles busy!”

Okay, look. We’re all busy. We are knowledge workers in a time a place where there is literally an endless amount of work to be done. And at this time of year? Of course it’s even crazier. Raise your hand if at least one day this month you will eat nothing but Ferrero Rochers in the parking lot of a gas station because you forgot that human bodies need fuel to survive? That is not some kind of busy humble brag. Mostly, it’s a cry for help… and a request for a decent sandwich.

I’m not here to belittle anyone else’s work load. I’m simply suggesting we need to stop talking about it and engaging with it in this way.

Busy isn’t fulfilling. It’s not. It’s actually pretty soul sucking, isn’t it?

Busy keeps us focused on the urgent, not the important. When we convince ourselves that work is a series of fires, we learn to sniff out smoke instead of fresh air.

Busy disconnects you. Even saying it shuts us down, and acts like a wall for others around us. I came to this harsh realisation when my kids stopped asking me for things because they knew I was “really busy.” Ouch. This is the worst.

Busy isn’t productive. Overwork doesn’t produce great work. Period.

Being Two Kyles Busy is so 2015. 

Let’s stop this. Let’s leave Kyle out of this in 2016.

  1. Stop engaging in this kind of talk. If someone asks you how you’re doing, find something other than “busy” to say. If someone says that they are busy, refrain from saying “me too.” There are literally millions of other things you can say. If you can’t think of anything, name your favourite of the seven dwarves and leave it at that.
  2. Build up better boundaries. If you find yourself focused on the urgent and not the important, it may be that your boundaries are out of sync with reality. Learn what good boundaries are, and challenge yourself to make better ones.
  3. Practice reflection and intention. Reflection literally means to bend back into oneself – intention is to stretch one’s thoughts outward. Think of it as mental yoga, the greatest tool set of self care and weapon against overwork.
  4. Play.  Play is transformational. It is foundational. It can heal our bodies, reinvigorate our relationships, open our minds, help us solve problems, and connect us to each other. And in a field that requires us to heal, relate, solve big problems and make new connections, play is fundamental. If you want to learn more about play, stay tuned for an exciting announcement.