Why & When I Try Not To Say Busy

Photo: Cold Climate Gardening

Photo: Cold Climate Gardening

The Easter Bank Holidays were just under a week ago.  I didn’t really have a rest.  I went from work to a family gathering to a conference to another family gathering to an intense weekend of foster caring with various Easter themed entertainments thrown in and then back to work.  I will say that I am tired, I will say that it’s hard and demanding but I will not say that I am busy.  I can’t stand the word and choose not to say it.


I once worked with a person and I still know them now and they love to talk about how busy they are.  They run through their diary, their appointments, their trips and the people they are spending time with using the ‘busy’ word, the ‘hectic’ word and the ‘wild’ word.  They use these words in ways that imply that this is a wave of unasked for, uncontrollable scheduling and life is somehow damaged and lesser because of the busyness.

I’ve also been around people who have talked about burn out, who have talked about demands and pressure in their life and similarly implied a lack of control over their choice of job, routine, company or task list.  I see people who are too thin, too tired, too sick, too heavy and so unhappy.  I’ve also been there; in a job and life without boundaries, people I didn’t really want to be with, information and intimacy I didn’t really want to share.  When I resigned from a particular job I made a resolution to choose what I do and to stop using the word busy. I associate it with a lack of control and so when life is full, it’s full because I choose it and I control what and who is in it.


It’s a fantastic principle and whilst I’ve learnt and applied serious lessons about professional boundaries I’ve taken longer to learn about personal ones.  Life can get full and feel a litte out of control, my creativity and enthusiasm means I’m for wanting to develop lots of projects, spend time with lots of people, stay up late drinking and dancing, write a few books, house small children, watch films, take naps and go on long walks – it’s not possible all at once and I hate the thought of closing something down.  At times like these I’m reminded of my ‘not busy’ principle and have to re-examine, explore and prioritise the way I spend my time.  I’m living through lots of change at the moment, lots of vision and lots of ambition and this is most certainly a time when I have to try not to say busy and because it’s a when time I am open to all kinds of ideas and words and poetry that cause a pause.

– I’m thinking about simplicity.
– I’m thinking about values, ritual and legacy.
– I’m thinking a lot about love.
– I’m thinking about my body.
– I’m thinking about God.
– I’m thinking about time.
– I’m thinking about sleep.

Tell me, what is it you plan to do

with your one wild and precious life?

-Mary Oliver (The Summer Day)

This week I will be back to my usual two to three posts – keep an eye out for more sex thoughts, body thoughts, simplicity thoughts, love, theology and cultural comment on Mad Men, Katy Perry, GIRLS and The Hunger Games.


Filed under Culture

6 responses to “Why & When I Try Not To Say Busy

  1. Hi, this is a striking blogpost – open-ended and recognising the continual adjustment that we all need to make to stay true to ourselves. The further life takes us, and the commitments we have made, the more difficult it is to be seen or known (by whoever sees or knows us) as maintaining the right values. Over the years I’ve slowed down a lot, and I am much less concerned about image than I was (I think!). The lines from ‘Love song of Alfred J Prufrock’ something like: ‘There will be time / For a hundred indecisions and revisions / Before the taking of a toast and tea’ calm me down a lot, as does: ‘He lets me lie down in green pastures / He leads me beside still waters / he restores my soul’.

  2. Yes Ben – thank you – still waters – we forget about our inner life or somehow limit it’s potential breadth and depth by confining it within a role that is perhaps only spiritual and I really find this is not as whole as we should be.

  3. markjs

    Cheers! Totally with you. I started to track my time with an app a while back because there is so much ‘I just have no time’ talk and I thought, that’s not true. We all have the exact same amount of time but make different choices about what to do with it …and truly it is the most precious thing. So I thought, I’m clearly not making good choices. No point in blaming the world… Not easy but incredibly liberating when done right. I’m not good at it though so I’m glad for the reminders like this to keep on practicing. Subversive and transformational…here’s to a full life that’s full of stretch so it won’t split at the seams!

    • Wow interesting- what’s the app? I like the idea of that even for a few days to see what you’re missing etc.

      • markjs

        I have tried a few. Toggl is what I use on the iPhone. Handy because it’s always with me but limited because I’m cheap and use the free version. It means you can only categorise your activity in about 6 groups or so. A better one which is on my Nexus 7 android tablet is Gleeo time tracker. Looks cool and has amazing features. No matter what you use though it’s phenomenal when you see how much time you spend doing fill things rather than doing what you need to do. I got the idea from reading ‘the sixty minute father’ when Jack was born…the author talks about lost time etc… Enjoy.

      • markjs

        Correction…eternity lite is the iPhone app that I use but have also used toggl on the iPhone but it doesn’t produce reports the way I like…you know me and my nerdiness!

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