Hi, how are you? Busy?


How many times have you had that conversation? In my former (corporate) life, I spent a lot of time, travelling up and down tall buildings, in lifts. And one of my favourite things to do was to count the number of conversations that started with the question “How are you? Busy?“. I am not judging because I have done it myself, plenty of times. It’s an easy question with a fail-safe answer. Have you ever heard anyone say “No, not busy at all.” I never did. Honestly, the answer was always a variation on being busy – “brutally busy“, “crazy hectic, manic” and my favourite response (to date) – “fall out of the tree, bananas busy!

We’ve really bought into the business of being busy. Our self worth leverages off being busy. And if you think the week is busy, that’s nothing compared to the weekend. Those with children who play multiple sports and pursue hobbies will know that their weekends can seem far busier than their working week, often acting as drivers ferrying their kids from sports to art classes then birthday parties, and so forth. It’s a busy life all round.

So, what’s up with being busy? When did it become soooo fashionable? And what does busy really mean? What is it code for? I think it’s code for:

I am feeling overwhelmed and out of control.
I feel like I am busy making a life, but not living a life.
I am not coping, but if I keep going, eventually it will work itself out.

Those are the words I wrote in my journal 5 years ago, pre-meditation. That was the essence of what being busy was for me.  And here’s the thing – our brains register whatever we say to ourselves, whether it be a thought or a fact, as our reality.  So when we keep saying we are “so busy“, guess what happens? Your brain registers that response and starts to feel overwhelmed and exhausted. And when our brains feel that way, our bodies naturally follow. Our minds govern so much of what happens in our bodies.
To quote Deepak Chopra (fellow meditator):

If you want to know what your thoughts were like in the past, look at your body today.
If you want to know what your body will look like in the future, look at your thoughts today.

Instead of saying “I’m sooo busy” or “I am too busy“, author Laura Vanderkam suggests saying “it’s not a priority” and see how that feels. Because usually, that is the more accurate and correct explanation. I have time to do the ironing but I just don’t want to. That’s easy enough but try it with more fundamental things like “I don’t go to the doctor because my health is not a priority.” Ooh..that cuts right through, doesn’t it? And if that doesn’t sit well with you, good. Because that is the point.


Changing, or simply tweaking our language slightly, reminds us that how we spend our time (our lives) is a choice. Our choice. If we don’t like how we’re spending an hour, we can and ought to choose differently. Once we have a clearer sense of our priorities, and how we want to spend our energy and our time, we can then update our definition of “busy” or better still “productive” to encompass those things as well.


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