By Jeanine Nicole

“It is not enough to be busy. So are the ants. The question is: What are we busy about?”
Henry David Thoreau

We’ve all been there. “Busy.”

So many of our conversations seem to start and end with “Hi, how are you?” “BUSY!”

Having been a really “busy” person who felt overwhelmed by days and weeks and years of running around in its clutches, it’s time to re-examine this four-letter word.

Often, we toss this word around without much thought. (Maybe we’re too busy to examine it further!)

If you’d like to see how often this word pervades our daily life and in what context, do a keyword search for “busy” in your email inbox and sent box and witness the results.

Meanwhile, Three Key Observations about “Busy”:

1. Busy-ness Is a Word Laced with Self-Importance

“I would love to attend your thirtieth birthday party, but I’m just too busy.”

How do you feel when you call someone or they finally call you back, and their constant excuse for not making the time is that they were “busy?” Busy can sometimes unknowingly imply “you are not one of my priorities; I had too many other things going on, and I’m really important for having all this ‘stuff’ to do, while I imagine you must sit around at your house all day tapping your fingertips on the counter.”

Let’s face it—chances are, most of us have jam-packed lives, many demands on our time, and lots of stuff to do. So, we get it, you’re “busy.” But guess what? So are we! When you use your “busy-ness” as an excuse, you unwittingly devalue the fact that everyone else is busy too.

2. Busy Means Something Is Running Your Life, and It’s Not You

“I’m so sorry I haven’t called you back until now, I’ve been soooo BUSY!

To be busy insinuates that you are caught in a whirlwind of commotion, a hamster wheel of activity that seems to never end. Think about it—in most cases where “busy” is often used, the context is often that busy-ness is an excuse given in an attempt to apologize for missing out on something that you wish you could have done.

If you wanted to be there, call, send that card, why didn’t you? Who is running your life: you or your “busy-ness?” It’s too easy these days to get trapped in the confines of your to-do lists so that there is little breathing room for your own choices.

It’s a very different ball game to be choosing and owning your actions by firmly saying “yes” and “no” with clarity and intention, rather than blaming your inability to do everything you’d like on getting caught up in the busy trap.

3. Substitute the Word “Busy” for Something Else

“I’d love to grab coffee with you, but my schedule won’t allow it. Things got crazy busy this week!”

It might seem silly at first, but the first way to transform the feeling of being busy is to simply stop saying that you are! Replace the victim mentality of your schedule running your life and be aware of phrases like “things are crazy right now,” which is a synonym for busy. Instead, switch to implementing affirmative phrasing that indicates you are the one behind the driver’s seat. Try some of these substitutes, or use your own:

“I have a complete schedule this week and am, unfortunately, unable to attend your barbecue. Let’s plan to meet up another day.”

“I am overwhelmed with amazing opportunities and events happening in my life right now! I can’t wait to add more of these next week!”

“I have been occupied with attending to my beautiful life this month. So many highlights I can’t wait to share with you when we meet up!”

“I am engaged in a lot of activity at the moment, and I’m happy to take on that project as soon as I am able.”

“I have been focusing my attention on x, y, and z and will be committed to these endeavors rigorously for the next few weeks.”

“I’ve been very involved in my work, family life, and community lately. It’s been great to be immersed in spending time with them, and I’m glad we get time to connect now, too.”

“I am engrossed in my FABULOUS life! How are you?”

The next step would be to actually balance out your calendar to improve your work/life balance. Say “no” to certain obligations and make only agreements that you know you can live up to so you don’t fall “behind” and get “busy” again.

What role does being “busy” play in your life? How do you feel about others’ busy-ness? What ideas do you have for putting busy-ness at bay and feeling empowered to love the life you lead?

Jeanine Nicole is a workshop facilitator, life coach, writer, and yoga instructor who lives in New York City. Through her experience with social work and education, coupled with a passion for global activism and community service, she believes that much lasting change in our world begins from the inside out. She is passionate about poetry, creative expression, aligning her activities with her interests, and helping others to similarly follow their bliss. She is currently exploring life’s exciting terrain through her inspirational blogs: Zest for the Quest and Begin Within.

*Photo by HeijoTheOne.