On Being Busy


I’ve been noticing something disturbing lately.

Somehow we have begun to glorify the busy.

It almost seems like the busier we are, the better we feel about ourselves.

Every time I see someone I haven’t seen in a week or two, the conversation always seems to go something like this:

“Hey! How are you?”

“Great, you?”


“How was your week?”

“Good . . . BUSY!”

“Yeah, me too!”

“Whew . . . ”

Commence listing all the many things we managed to fit into the last week.

We nod along and commiserate with each other and then move along to have a similar conversation with the next person.

No one means any harm in it. Often we’re just making conversation. But we’re all so busy, all we can talk about is how busy we are.

It’s almost as if we’re trying to out-busy each other.

You see this all the time with the mommy wars — whoever is busiest has the most important job, right?

The busy contest also carries over into relationships. If I can prove that I had a busier day or week or month than my husband, than I get the break and he has to take the brunt of the household chores or kid duty or whatever it is we’re arguing over.

I see it on Facebook too. You know those posts where someone lists all the many things they fit into their day. Inevitably their friends will all chime in and tell them how awesome they are.

I’ve totally fallen into that trap. Haven’t you?

We act like the one who is the busiest wins.

But what do we win?

Exhaustion? Health problems? Broken relationships? Missed opportunities?

Yes, that’s the irony. In our attempt to fit it all in, we actually miss out on life’s experiences — and usually it’s the important ones. Have you ever noticed that when you’re super busy, you barely even remember what you did?

The more we cram into our schedules, the less we enjoy the activity, and the more we miss out on because we’re so “busy” multitasking and moving onto the next thing.

We cause ourselves so much angst trying to fit it all in.


Do we REALLY have to do all the things we try to do? Surely there’s a better way.

Let’s stop the madness.

Slow down. Smell the roses. Say no to something at least once a day.

And for the love, people, let’s try to stop out-busying one another. I will if you will. Deal?

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37 thoughts on “On Being Busy

  1. I feel that we as people are way too busy. That being said I am way busier than I would like but right now I just don’t have a choice. I desperately wish I did.

  2. This is something great to think about : ).
    I have been trying to be less busy lately, but it isn’t working out well at all. Darn it.
    Hopefully you will be able to relax a little when you go away to the blogger retreat. Have fun!

  3. Yep. I canceled my piano lesson today because, while I could fit it in, it was a source of stress instead of enjoyment. It felt good to say I didn’t have to do it.

  4. I definitely don’t feel like I want to out busy ANYONE. I would love to say on FB – I did nothing today! Maybe the expectations and responsibilities we all face are just becoming more and more so that no one feels they can escape “the busy”.

  5. “How was your week?”
    “Good . . . BUSY!”
    “Not me. Quiet and really great!”
    I can’t quite picture it but it sounds good!
    Actually, I’m good at not being too busy. Kids mostly grown and gone, working part-time, lots of down time.
    I recommend it! 🙂

    1. I tried it last week actually! It was kind of fun. I realized that I automatically fall into the “Yeah, I’m so busy…” thing sometimes, more out of habit than anything.

  6. I totally agree. Hear a lot of this at mommy group… and it always amazed me how competitive the various moms are about it but I wasn’t able to verbalize what was actually happening until I read this. I’m guilty. Totally guilty of the facebook thing.

  7. I couldn’t agree more! The busier I am, the less I enjoy all those things I’m busy doing. And I’ve also noticed that in the rare moments when I haven’t been that busy and I admit that fact to someone else, I feel guilty about it. It’s as if I’m afraid the other person will see me as lazy or unproductive. It’s a shame that the sheer act of doing a million different things seems to be more important than any one of those individual things taken alone.

  8. I LOVE this post! We have had a typically crazy fall, but we are consciously not scheduling things for the kids over winter. We want to make sure they have time to actually play with their toys (my 7 year old’s birthday was Sunday, and he has not had time to play with most of his new toys) and the neighbors. It’s hard, though, to not feel like you are missing out on quality opportunities…team building with sports, music, etc. I am looking forward to fires, reading books, playing games, and spontaneous yes’s to quick adventures…not to mention more sleep, less stress, etc.!
    Thanks for the encouragement!

  9. as someone who is type a im genuinely happy when busy. i also know my limits and dont take on more than i can handle so it doesnt translate into stress!

  10. Ok, so that was probably me on facebook. In fact, I didn’t remember listing a whole string of things I did super-early the other morning. Sorry.

    You’re absolutely right. We glorify busy. It’s kind of crazy when we stop to think about it. Thanks for bringing this to light.

    1. It’s rough when it’s truly necessary. There are seasons when life is incredibly overwhelming. That’s one reason why I resent the whole busy culture we have created. It almost devalues the times when we are TRULY crazy-busy, ya know?

      1. He has such a strong work ethic that it makes it hard for him to slow down. He is under a lot of pressure, because it is his job. I usually to moan and complain, and it only makes it worse. So I am doing my best to make things easier for him. It usually eases up after the New Year.

        I am hoping to get tickets to a Flyers game, it is one of the times he truly lets go and relaxes.

  11. I agree – but it’s a habit that’s hard to change. I need to start with myself! My husband always says I need to say no more and he’s right! Thanks for the reminder!

  12. I actually don’t use the word busy. I hate it because everyone is busy and a lot of times I find it an excuse people use for not connecting when they should. Also I think it’s very important to schedule downtime for my kids. We always have a day or at least a few hours on a weekend where they can just play with their toys.

  13. I totally agree – I want to start saying – “I’m soooo relaxed…yup, just had a pedi now maybe I will take a nap” I would love to see the look on peoples faces haha!! Sometimes we take ourselves waaaay to seriously!

    1. LOL. Try it and see! Haha. My husband and I were joking last night, discussing this post. He was like, “If you have time to read that post, you’re just not that busy. HA!” TO which I added, if you have time to WRITE that post, you’re not that busy. Or if you have time to post on Facebook everything you did that day, you’re probably not that busy. Snort . . . I crack myself up. 🙂

  14. Jo-Lynne,
    This is such an important topic. I have loaded up my daughter with ballet, tennis, drama plus five days of preschool, and she loves it all, but, I make sure to give her downtime when she is home from school, which means saying no to some after school playdates, etc. I can see when we are too “busy.” I am doing the same for myself, as well.

  15. I find this topic comes up every Monday morning at work. “How was your weekend?” You know, I don’t do much on weekends, and I like it that way! Even doing the normal boring home stuff like groceries and cleaning, and church. Weekends are for doing nothing! But we all seem to want to spout a long list of fabulous activities that we did or we feel weird (or socially unloved!) if we have nothing to report 🙂

  16. Love this, Jo-Lynne. I’ve been thinking about this for a couple of years now, particularly because a good friendship of mine has “shifted” over this very issue. My friend is ALWAYS late, and when she does arrive, she’s flustered from being “SO busy!” I just couldn’t emotionally hang on to that friendship, so I’ve backed way off. Busyness truly DOES affect our relationships.

    Also, I recently read this great article on this topic: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/nell-minow/the-four-letter-word-i-wont-use_b_3359639.html. Thought you’d like it. 🙂

    1. Great post. And I love her opening point: “…busy-ness is a more important signifier of status than money. The polite greeting, “How are you?” is almost invariably answered with “Busy!” Sometimes it is said with a smile, sometimes with a bit of faux self-deprication or a head-shake, but it is always a humblebrag assertion of the speaker’s importance — and the relative unimportance of the person they are talking to.”

      That is SO true.

  17. Well said! And the worst is that I get sucked into feeling guilty that my kids are not busy enough when they are quite content to cloud-gaze, play with their toys, or *gasp* sit on the couch and just be bored every once so often!

    I’m in for getting OFF the busy roundabout and will spread the word!!!

  18. I guess that I just don’t know how to let anything go. I often tell people at work that my evenings feel like marathon. Make dinner, clean up, put S to bed, shower the girls, read books, bed, pack lunches, run a load of laundry, pick up the family room and playroom and it goes on and on… Even the mundane of life makes me feel busy and overwhelmed. I can’t imagine when my kids get older and have homework and activities!

    1. Your kids are young and you work fulltime. It IS a rat race. It will definitely be crazy with kids in activities, but on the other hand, when they’re older, they don’t require nearly as much energy. You can do it! Hang in there. 🙂

  19. I love this – I think we are really doing our families and ourselves a disservice by being so busy. We need quiet, we need to learn to be alone, to be still, to be present. These are much harder than being busy but much more important for our souls and for us to connect to ourselves and the important people in our lives. I think women and mother’s in particular feel like they need to prove their worth by how many tasks they can complete, how much they can handle.

  20. So true, I’ve found that the busier and busier I get it’s almost like a dependancy. I end up not getting anything at all done if I’m not busy enough that I have to do it…It’s so crazy. I’m right there with you! We all need to slow down and remember to live a little!

  21. You must have been reading my mind! My husband and I detest when we talk to family members and all we hear is “We’re sooooo busy”. Yeah, who isn’t?? In order NOT to be so busy we have limited the number of after school activities for the girls (1 per week) and I make a point to cut back on events on school nights. It’s so tempting to attend every press event but that’s time away from my family. It gets old after awhile.

  22. Love this post! Recently I posted a picture that said “stop the glorification of busy” on my FB page. I was amazed at the response it received, both negative and positive. Everyone is busy with kids, jobs, and activities. But it has to be said, some of it is self imposed. We all know that family that has their kid in so many activities that they have lessons/practice every single day, and their family can’t even eat dinner together once during the week. My husband and I are trying so hard to keep our kids’ schedules open. We don’t want to be slaves to their activities and for some reason we get push back for this way of thinking.

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