Busy isn't a Brag

Being busy isn’t something to brag about.

It might seem like it is, but let me explain…

When I first went freelance back in 2014 my primary focus was to be busy.

When you’re trying to build a business, rather than stalling and trying to figure out all the specific details of what that business is, my intuition said it was easier to “steer a ship that was moving*” in to the direction you believed was right, than it was to start the journey knowing exactly where you wanted your final destination to be.

*That’s a quote from YouTuber Louis Cole (a.k.a Fun for Louis)

And although it might ostensibly seem that the further you are in your career, the busier you should be, my intuition of late has been saying that the more successful business people actually are the ones who are the least busy.

Let me explain…

Of course a CEO of a company is going to have far more on their to do list than an intern but rather than trying to do every single thing on that list themselves, they learn to prioritise, delegate and most importantly pass up on any tasks on opportunities that aren’t directly related to their goals.

Within the freelance video industry there seems to be an unwritten rule that if a fellow freelancer asks how things have been, the stock answer is “busy”.

And I used to think that being “busy” was a sign of success and don’t get me wrong if your inbox is full of people wanting to work with you you’re probably doing something right.

For the last four years I’ve tried to be as busy as I possibly could be and fill every available time slot in my diary. That included evenings, weekends and days where I really should have been resting and recovering and anywhere but behind a camera or in front of my laptop.

For me being busy has been detrimental.

Sure in order to get a new business off the ground you can’t shy away from paying clients that perhaps aren’t exactly the kind of work you want to be doing. But there has to come a point where you narrowing down and truly focusing on the meaningful work you believe will forward your career.

Saying thanks, but no thanks when an opportunity presents itself is always difficult, especially when you’re freelance and don’t know where your next paycheque is coming from.

But in my experience without realising it, all of a sudden you can fill up your diary with projects that aren’t quite the right choice for you and then not have any time left over to focus on your goals and ambitions.

There’s an adage in the video community that you shouldn’t say yes to a project unless it offers at least two of the following three things…
  1. Payment
  2. Portfolio
  3. People

Payment is an easy one, we’ve all got to pay our bills and if there’s a job that lets you do that, it’s an easy decision to take it.

Portfolio. Is it the kind of project that you’ll want to add to your portfolio and show to potential clients in order to get future work.

People. Are there the right kind of people on set that you enjoy working with or want to network with/gaining experience from in order to further your career.

To me this seems a near perfect model for deciding whether or not to take a job, but there’s one more thing I would add that is a key component of deciding whether to do a job or not.


Getting to make your living producing films is an incredible way of life and one we should all be grateful for. But if you end up taking job after job that you really don’t feel passionate about the outcome, I’ve seen firsthand how easy it is to descend rapidly in to a negative spiral.

The bottom of that is a place you really don’t want to be.

Being busy is great, but for me in recent years, being busy has meant a lack of priority, a lack of focus, a lack of clarity in the direction I wanted to head.

There’s a magnet on my fridge I read everyday, it says…

“When you can’t see the wood from the trees, stand back”.

And if you get caught up looking at every tree in the wood, it’s easy to lose sight of the overall direction in which you are headed.

If you’re in the early stages of a new endeavour, chase every opportunity that presents itself. But when the ship has set sail, be ready to pass by certain channels and focus solely on the direction you want to be heading.

So going forward I’m trying not to be busy, but to be busy doing things I need to be doing for my career. I’ll let you know how it works out.

And remember, being busy isn’t a brag.

I wish you every success.


What I’m Currently Reading…

‘Crushing It’ — by Gary Vaynerchuk — it’s a great one! Check it out here… https://amzn.to/2t13pmR)

About Jack

I help people, brands and business communicate more effectively with their customers through visual, audio and written content.

I do this through Southpaw Sport, the sports content marketing company I’m currently building as well as on a freelance basis working for agencies and production companies.

Visit www.jacktompkins.co

You can follow me on YouTube where I post weekly vlogs sharing my experience and opinion on content production.

YouTube — https://www.youtube.com/user/jackt18
And my social media for behind the scenes look at what I’m up to

Instagram — @jackwrtompkins

Twitter — @jackwrtompkins

Jack Tompkins