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Why ‘Busy’ is a dirty word.

by Melinda Jennings on Tuesday 3 July 2018


When someone cuts you off in traffic, or you’ve just stubbed your toe, ‘busy’ might not be the cuss word that comes straight to mind. Still, we’re putting it out there – ‘busy’ is a dirty word, and one that you should try and cull from your vocabulary.

It wasn’t always this way, but our always-on-the-run, microwave-dinner, constantly-connected-with-technology convenience culture has changed the way we throw around the ‘b word’ (we’re still referring to ‘busy’ by the way, not the other ‘b word’. Stay with us). 

Think about it; how many times a day do you complain about being too busy? In a meeting, to your partner, at dinner with your friends; we as a society just love to talk about our full schedules.

Is that a bad thing? Not necessarily. In fact, a study in the Journal of Psychological Science says that we are actually much happier when we’ve got a lot going on in our lives. It keeps us from being bored or stagnant, and ensures our brains are engaged and active. 

The problem, then, seems to more be with the wording. We’ve put such a negative frame around ‘Busy’ that when we say it we automatically subscribe those same negative attributes to it. We tend to use it as an excuse for all the things it’s keeping us away from cooking a healthy meal, taking care of ourselves and getting to the gym, or spending time with our friends. 

So should we be working on becoming less busy? Or should we be working on using that dirty ‘b word’ a little less?

Ways to stop using the word ‘busy’

Now, we’re not about to just list a bunch of synonyms for ‘busy’. You’re not getting off that easily. That’s a fast tracked way to simply replace one dirty word with another, and it’s not going to have a positive impact on the way you view your day-to-day schedule.

But here’s what you can do… 

1. Explore the emotion behind ‘busy’

Newsflash: ‘busy’ is an adjective, but it’s not a description of your emotions or feelings. That means when someone asks you how you’re doing and you respond with ‘busy’, you’re actually describing the status of your to-do list, and not answering the question at all. 

By actively thinking about how you’re really feeling – be it stressed, anxious, overwhelmed, or, dare we say it, content and happy – you take away the power (and overgeneralisation) of simply saying ‘busy’.

2. Remember you’re choosing to be busy

'Excuse me – you’re trying to tell me that it’s my fault I’m trying to juggle raising two kids, a full-time job and a busy social life?' Well, in a way, yes. But we’re also not trying to say it’s anyone’s ‘fault’– that’s the kind of thinking aligned with that dirty ‘b word’. 

If busyness is something that should be embraced, then we need to truly view our full schedules as something we’ve designed, authorised and created ourselves. Is that such a bad thing? It really depends on what you’re spending your time doing, and that’s only something you can (and should) look at closer.

These 2 practices sound simple, but they can take a bit of getting used to. It’s a lot easier to succumb to throwing around the ‘b word’ like everyone often does, but by rising above it and changing your attitude, you might soon start to see the incredibly positive impact it can have on your wellbeing.

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