‘Busy’ is not an emotion. Stop trying to make it one.

Quote Worth Sharing:

Today, it is a shorty but a goody: Act First, Apologise Later.”

I can’t actually remember where I came across this, but it has definetely been one I have found useful in many different situations.

Yes – it has boundaries. Don’t go bury you’re neighbour’s noisy cat.

However, more than anything it prompts you towards the vital ingredient to any form of success – initial action.

The more you hesitate, the harder it becomes. Action is the most important step.

Before we begin…

Being busy = good thing

Before I commence my Thursday evening rant, I may as well clarify something first.

I am not criticising people who like being busy. In fact, I am definitely one of those people myself. As long as you are filling your time with things you find somewhat worthwhile, being busy can be a great thing.

Looking at a quote from Mark Manson that I have used in previously blogs, one could even go as far as suggesting being busy and solving problems is the path to happiness:

Happiness comes from solving problems. The keyword here is ‘solving’. If you’re avoiding your problems or feel like you don’t have any problems, then you’re going to make yourself miserable.

If you feel like you have problems that you can’t solve, you will likewise make yourself miserable. The secret sauce is in the solving of the problems, not in not having problems in the first place.

So what’s the problem with being busy then…?


You bump into someone down the road from work. It’s 5:30pm and they have likely just clocked off. It’s been a while since you’ve seen them and you’re not sure what they are up to.

“How are you!?” you ask, genuinely interested in their life and glad to see a familiar face.

“Oh, busy, busy…” they reply, with a half smile / half ‘I’m drowning save me’ face / half ‘hair flick, whoopah, I’m so hot right now’ attitude.

“But anyway, how are you!?” they continue, with a flick of the hair – one more time for full impact.

You’re left wondering.  “Hmm, how busy am I? Am I as busy as them? Will my ‘Busy Badge Of Honour’ make me look as important as their ‘busy status’ put them out to be?”

But Why? 

Why did you have to be put in a position to compare your own busyness to your friend?

Why is it that this is now such a common ’emotion’ or indicator of ‘importance’?

Why is it that we now not only use ‘busy’ as an emotion, but as the most vague and useless answer to simple questions.

Cut to the chase – busy is not an emotion.

If someone asks you how is work? Sure, maybe it’s busy. If they ask you how your week has been, then yeah again, maybe it’s been busy. If they ask you how your surf was, then yep, if you’re living anywhere near the Gold Coast, it was probably also busy.

But you, as a person, do you really need to pick that word to describe your current state.

Don’t get me wrong, I have been absolutely guilty of doing this exact thing I am whinging so passionately about. It’s hard not to!

But after reading a little into the topic, and hearing the word used as a response more and more (from start-up groups to the classic corporate lift chat), I thought it was finally time to put some sassy venting on paper.

The way I see it, using ‘busy’ as an emotion, or a go-to response to general questions, can be looked at in a few different contexts.

And unfortunately, most of them promote negative consequences for many involved.

‘Important Busy’

Some people like to use ‘busy’ as a subtle bragging point.

Sure, they act like they are saying it in a negative ‘where is my life gone’ kind of way, but deep down, they are thrilled to announce their lack of time due to amount of work. They are thrilled they are where they are, and this is the way they are letting you know.

Again, don’t get me wrong, there is nothing wrong with enjoying the  frequency and intensity of your work. It’s bloody brilliant. But wouldn’t the response ‘Yeah, I’m really good, work is busy and I’m enjoying it a lot’ explain the situation a little more clearly?

Why add a negative / competitive / confusing tinge to a conversation when it is actually not necessary?

‘Silent Cry For Help Busy’

Others use ‘busy’ as a genuinely negative cry for help. They use it as an alternative to ‘stressed’, ‘overwhelmed’, or even ‘scared that my family don’t know my name anymore because I haven’t left this building in three days’.

I understand. Often the ‘busy’ response is easier, and definitely does not take as much (or any) courage to say out loud, but in the end, it means nothing.

It has even been suggested in Pyschology Today that using the ‘busy’ response, and actually constantly striving to be unnecessarily busy could be a red flag in itself of some serious, deep and dark issues that you are ‘distracting’ yourself from.

‘You’re Not Getting Into My Life Busy’ 

And finally, although some don’t realise it, their ‘busy’ response will be interpreted as a hasty construction of a brick wall between the person who has reached out and asked them how they are going.

In essence, is it really much different to responding “occupied and distracted and unwilling to let you in to my life or emotions, get out of my face”?

So then what’s the alternative? I really AM busy!

Overall, I see no real benefit in using ‘busy’ as a response to these questions.

In fact, the more I have thought about it, the more I have noticed that the majority of the time (noting that sometimes busy does make sense) other words can be used in its place.

And often, here, these alternative words stimulate much better, more meaningful conversations, for everyone involved.

One simple, but very, very good thing that occurs the majority of the time is it avoids the conversation leading off to ‘work’ from the get-go. Talk about your dog for a while. Sure, nothing wrong with talking about work, but why not leave that for the ‘How’s work’ question?

Again, I want to reiterate that being busy in itself is not a bad thing. It is that the use of the word ‘busy’ is simply not productive or worthwhile in most situations.

Think about this next time you use the word.

Is it really relevant to the question? Is there another word to describe your thoughts? Is this maybe the time to let that person know that “I’m pretty stressed and am hoping to speak to someone about helping me out” rather than, “yep, I’m busy.”

One other simple method to avoiding the ‘busy’ response can be thinking like a child. Really. Listen to the question, and ponder whether a young child would see ‘busy’ as a suitable response, or whether that would lead them to scrunch up their face wondering what they did to deserve such a blunt rejection to their affection.

You monster!

Rant over

Never really been so sassy in this ‘business’ blog, I kinda like it.

Anyway, I’ll leave it with this  video that a friend from work showed me recently, it puts my thoughts into song and dance – yay!


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