The B-Word: What Busy Really Means

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Today’s content is a repost of one of my favorite blogs of all time. It continues to challenge me and I trust it will do the same for you!

How often do you say the word ‘busy’ each day? Over the past year, I have been pondering what we really mean when we say that we are busy. The word has crept into our vernacular and is so common that we likely do not realize how many times we say or hear it each week. The problem with this simple word is that it is used as a euphemism. Underneath this four letter B-word, masquerades a definition.

Here are six things that I believe the B-word really means.

1. I cannot prioritize. Therefore, I feel compelled to do everything and that makes me feel busy.

2. I need to feel important. Our culture places a high value on busyness. Therefore, if I tell people that I am busy, it must mean that I am important. Can you feel good about yourself if you are not busy?

3. I cannot say “no”. Of the many demands on my life, I feel compelled to do them all, or at the least, as many as possible.

4. I’m too busy for you. By stating that I am busy, I am really saying that I don’t want to spend time with you.

5. I don’t know how to be still. Keeping busy can be a way of suppressing things that we do not want to deal with (if I’m busy, I don’t have time to think about it). Alternately, sometimes we haven’t learned how to embrace a non-busy environment (our media rich-culture makes it difficult to be undistributed).

The last reason is really a positive use of the B-word, but it still requires you to rethink how you use of it:

6. I really love my life…and my schedule is full of things I love to do. If this is the case, you are in a good place! However, you may want to consider the different ways people interpret your use of the word. Is there a more effective way to express a full life without it being misinterpreted?

As leaders, we need to assess how often we use the word busy. If we use it often, then we need to assess why. When we have schedules full of things that we love to do, we’re not busy. Instead, I believe that we are fulfilled.


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Jeff Suderman is a futurist, consultant and professor who works in the field of organizational development. He partners with clients to improve culture, leadership, teamwork, organizational alignment, strategy and organizational future-readiness. He resides in Palm Desert, California. Twitter: @jlsuderman Email:

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