The Word Busy is Not a Noun

“Why do we spend so much of our limited time on this earth focusing on all the things that our eulogies will never cover?” ~ Arianna Huffington, Thrive: The Third Metric to Redefining Success and Creating a Life of Well-Being, Wisdom, and Wonder

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Let’s face it – life is full of appointments, commitments, deadlines, expectations, tasks and the list goes on. I could have simply said ‘life is busy’, but I am trying to disconnect from that overused word. When is the last time you either said or heard the word ‘busy’? Like so many other women, I too have been caught in that busy trap. Sometimes we say, “But it’s a good busy”, as though we are making the word sound sweeter to both ourselves and others. Unfortunately, our culture has promoted this sense of constant frenzy to the point that we frequently follow the word “I’m…” with “…so busy” rather than our own names. Remember, the word busy is not a noun. It is actually either an adjective or a verb depending on the context.


At times this past week, I was feeling overwhelmed and was tempted to use the word busy on numerous occasions. However, I just had to refocus my perception of what I needed to get done versus what I wanted to get done. Mid week, I had to drop everything after my son had a fall during an outdoor physical education class. My priority then became his fractured foot as opposed to my list of life tasks. Not so surprisingly, what needed to get done did, and what didn’t can either wait for another day, or maybe it wasn’t that important after all.

When we re-prioritize our lives, both on a day-day level and a more global level, we not only simplify, but also manage, our time more effectively. I referred to Steven Covey’s First Things First in a previous post about using a time management matrix to quickly identify what is important versus not important and what is urgent versus non-urgent. Ultimately, living in the important/non-urgent quadrant allows for a less stressed, frantic state of being.

Why are we caught in the busy trap?

Lately, I have been thinking about this pervasive busy trap, and ironically, this past week saw a video that really solidified my negative perception of busyness. Lisa and Vanessa from Mindfulness Based Achievement, teach women “how to lean in without burning out”. In their video, The 6 Biggest Myths Around Success, their #1 myth is that “being busy is a sign of prestige”. They accurately sate that we often equate value and importance with being busy, and wear it like a badge of honour. We often avoid slowing down to face other more revealing parts of both ourselves and our life. Lisa and Vanessa encourage us to accept good enough and prioritize as other successful people often do.

Mindfulness as an antidote to creating busyness

I love yoga for many reasons. Yoga is a form of mindful exercise that encourages you to just “be” in the moment. During the practice of yoga, we are often reminded that this your time to focus on you – no one else needs you right now. Interestingly, if it was any other hour of the day, we would undoubtedly feel needed and pulled in many different directions. Ironically, the days I need to be practicing yoga the most, is when I don’t feel I have the time to squeeze it in.

I recently purchased the book Mindfulness – An Eight-Week Plan for Finding Peace in a Frantic World by Drs. Mark Williams and Danny Penman. Of course, because of how ‘full’ my life is, I haven’t gotten very far in the book, which is a sure sign that I need to read the book and apply the wisdom. In their book, Mark and Danny describe our common state of ‘Doing mode’ versus ‘Being mode’. This constant idea of ‘Doing’ ends up depleting us leading to exhaustion and burnout. By consciously attending to ‘Being’, or mindfulness, we are more in tune with giving both our body and mind what they need to be nourished.

So, if you were to step back and take a look at your daily schedule, does it appear that you often create your own sense of busyness? Would you be willing to set aside 5 minutes a day to engage in a mindful activity such as meditation to see what calm can feel like?


Williams, M. and Penman, D. (2011). Mindfulness – An Eight-Week Plan for Finding Peace in a Frantic World. Rodale, New York.

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  1. 1

    Great post! I find that people in medicine are horrible about using busyness as a badge of honor. And I’d love to know what you think of that Mindfullness book when you’re finished!

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