Why I am over Busy.

I am SO over the word “busy”.

Are we too busy to be kind?

Are we too busy to be courageous?

A few months ago, I called a dear friend to see how she was going. She didn’t answer and instead sent me a text, saying to email her as she was too “busy” to call me back.

WTF, right?

I didn’t email her, because I didn’t appreciate her response. It’s important to make real time for your friends; to show them kindness and not let “busy” get in the way.

Now, I’m not saying I’m perfect in this area. I have a lot going on, as many of us do. I regularly have people say to me that I seem really busy as I am doing so much, and I always smile.

My response is always this: “It may look like I’m too busy, but actually, I just work hard. I make sure I dedicate my energy and time to my passions and other things that are important, since time is finite. This doesn’t mean that you can’t reach out to me when you need me – part of making time for important things means making sure I’m not too busy to be kind and respectful to my friends. I don’t let ‘busy’ get in the way of what really matters.”

Those who constantly talk about how “busy” they are, adding adjectives in front like “super” or “crazy”, are unintentionally putting a big “I’m too busy for you” sign on their forehead. If your talk of your busyness starts making it sound as if you can’t make time for anything else, you’re making yourself appear unapproachable. Talking too much about how busy you are makes people think you’re too hard to connect with. When I see a busy sign on your forehead, I’m reminded of a John C. Maxwell quote I recently read:

“The greatest enemy of good thinking is busyness”.

Going on and on about your busyness doesn’t make for good conversation; it doesn’t go anywhere, and all it does is make the person you’re talking to really bored, and even annoyed. Any time spent with people who project the “I’m too busy for you” message never truly feels whole. Fascinatingly, I’ve found that those who are legitimately “busy” don’t actually announce it all that often. However, they’re also usually too busy to go out of their way to find the time for meaningful connections.

The Meaning Behind Busyness

Constantly talking about being so busy means that you’re often doing something called doublespeak. This when you say one thing, but what you really mean is something else entirely.

Here’s what you’re actually saying when you’re acting like, or telling people that you are, just way too busy:

“I’m significant.”

“I’m needed.”

“I’m important… more so than you.”

“I’m using my busyness as an excuse, because I don’t want to do this.”

“I matter.”

“I’m scared of feeling inadequate and missing out.”

“I don’t like feeling guilty about not doing the meaningful things I really want to do.”

Of course, you can’t actually say any of these things out loud to another person. That would just stop the conversation in its tracks, and be really rude. That’s why we turn to “I’m busy!” instead. It’s a convenient excuse that is used all too often because we see being “busy” as being a fantastic character trait.

This is a big part of the work we do is to coach and train leaders and executives to stop the busyness and be truly courageous in their lives and leadership.

How to Stop Using Busy as a Crutch

Do you often feel overwhelmed and exhausted, even though you haven’t gotten around to doing the things that are really important? Do you use busyness as a crutch to avoid feeling like a failure for not accomplishing the things you should be doing?

Here are some ways to start holding yourself accountable and stop hiding behind busyness:


Whether you start journaling, or simply do a mental attention audit, you will learn how to connect where your attention lies and what actions you perform. Ask yourself each day what you got done, and what you paid attention to. Did these things matter? Were they related to what you were meant to be doing?

Alter how you frame and define things

Like Laura Vanderkam suggests, once you start changing your language around how you spend your time and what activities you’ve undertaken, it becomes clear that how we spend our time is a choice. If you tell someone you don’t have time, imagine saying to them that their request isn’t a priority instead. The thought should make you uncomfortable, and with good reason. We are in control; we make the choice about how we use our time.

Clearly defining your priorities and things you want to devote your energy to is also helpful, as you can then start to shift how you define productivity. Once you start including the important things, you stop using busyness as an excuse for avoiding them because they are suddenly a priority.

Be sure to stop – you don’t always have to be busy

Some people prefer to be “busy” all the time, simply because it’s habit. They also may do so because they are scared of being thought of as less productive. This coveted faux virtue of busyness is only causing damage, and stopping us from truly gaining insight into ourselves.

What really matters in life is knowing when to hit ‘pause’ and how to rest and refuel. These quiet moments of pause give you the chance to discover what matters to you and what you really want to be doing – not just what you think you should be doing.

JOMO – The Joy of Missing Out

I mentioned FOMO earlier, and this is the opposite. The Joy of Missing Out, as Anil Dash wrote, is about taking control of your time and your life so that you can find more joy.

You are the one who decides how you spend your time, and by learning to say no more often, you will start to truly feel joy. Ask yourself, what is the point of keeping so busy all the time? Why do you feel you have to say yes to every request? No is okay. Have more time for the things that really spark joy when you embrace JOMO.

It’s Time to Stop Being Busy and Make Time for What Matters

Busyness is not a sign of importance; it doesn’t prove that you matter, or provide an adequate excuse for not being a better friend, co-worker or family member.

Take the plunge today and stop hiding behind busy. Take control of your choices and your time. Discover what really matters and pledge to make it a priority. Start saying no more often and stop overloading yourself.

This doesn’t mean you have to stop working hard – it just means that you acknowledge that your busyness does not excuse you from falling behind in your other responsibilities. The world needs kind people, and people who are brave enough to say “I’m not too busy to help you/do this for myself. You are/I am a priority too.”

Don’t be too busy for what really matters. This means your health, well being, family and your passions. We only have one life.

I’m over busy, are you?

What can you do?

If you’re looking for an intensive introduction to courageous leadership which is all about YOU, invest in your development by enrolling in one of our Courageous Leadership One Day Workshops. They’re being held in Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne in October, and tickets are only $149! With this amazing low price, we limited spaces left – so find out more and book your place here.

To go even further in depth with your leadership development, Sonia McDonald Inc. also offers a comprehensive Courageous Leadership Online Program. Enrolling in this program gets you access to a range of exclusive resources and workbooks, and the opportunity to join in Q&As with Sonia herself in weekly coaching calls.  This program is for any leader who wants to further their leadership and become successful and courageous – and focus on what truly matters. 

You can join the self study program at any time, or claim your spot in our next Group Program, which opens in January 2020, here.