Are You Busy?

Are You Busy?

Well… are you?  I’ve certainly heard myself say I am.  And I hear many people around me saying they are too; and this is not restricted to work colleagues, it includes non-working friends and family too.  I have even witnessed some competitive ‘I’m busier than you’ type behaviours over the years, the roots of which I’ve never really understood.

So, when I came across the following article by Lennox Morrison at BBC Capital, it really made me reflect, and ask what it means to be busy, what messages we are conveying to others and more importantly what messages we are ACTUALLY conveying.

Morrison briefly talks about the changing ‘always on’ digital world in which we live, which could be contributing to this busy feeling.  However, the focus of the author is that there is no longer a badge of honour, a sign of value, or a measure of importance (as there once was) attached to claims of being super busy, and in fact repeated claims can leave those around you positively unimpressed.

So rather than being exalted because of your ‘busyness’, it is actually more likely you will be considered inefficient and unable to organise or prioritise – clearly not skills many of us would want to list on our CVs.

So next time, before you play the busy card, consider re-phrasing.  When a colleague asks for help you could say – “I need to finish x y and z first and then I’ll gladly spend some time with you after lunch.” or if your manager gives you another task you could say – “Would you prefer me to prioritise this or help you with that?”  And when someone asks you how things are going, use the opportunity to share something exciting you are doing or working on, rather than clicking on the default ‘I’m busy’ button.


It would be great if you could share your busy experiences and stories – that’s if you have time of course. :-) 

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  • Thanks everyone for your comments - and Sue, that's brilliant - I'm really looking forward to listening to the radio 4 programmes - am going to get downloading!  Thanks again.

  • Hi Kathryn

    A great share thank you.

    We banned the word 'busy' in our Leadership Team when I worked for my previous employer.  Like you suggest above we re-phrased this by explaining what we were working on.  

    Thanks Sue for sharing these radio 4 programmes too - I'm going to have a listen.




  • Hi Kathryn

    This post reminded me of a conversation I had with a friend earlier in the year who had listened to a couple of programmes from this Radio 4 series  Oliver Burkeman Is Busy

    When we ask our friends, family and colleages how they are; a typical response these days is 'busy' rather than 'I'm well' or even 'I'm not so well'.  Is busyness something that is just 21st century life?

    I promptly downloaded the programmes (they are only 15 minutes each and really good!), and it did, for a while, change my approach with others and myself and certainly helped with my productivity.

    Your blog serves as a great reminder to go back and revisit these.



    BBC Radio 4 - Oliver Burkeman Is Busy
    Oliver Burkeman explores why people feel so busy today.
  • HI Kathryn,

    Great share thank you. We're all busy! I can't seem to find anyone in this world anymore that isn't busy.


    I can think of an example where a friend of mine was working on a really interesting project, but I didn't get to find out about it till it was done. It's something I'd have loved to have been involved in, even if just to provide some advice along the way.

    'Awwww, you should have told me you were working on this. I've some ideas that I could have shared with you, why didn't you talk to me?' I asked.

    'I just know how busy you are so I didn't want to bother you' was the reply.

    Reflecting on this, I've probably told that person several times how busy I was. Not because I wanted to elevate my status, more because it's true, I was. I am! But perhaps my line of 'I'm busy' signalled to this person that they shouldn't bother me, interupt me, or worse still, they were not important enough to warrant my time.

    So yep, I think the I'm busy line of conversation is really old news now. It's time we all moved on!

  •  Very informative



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