Why we should retire the word “Busy”

Every so often, I’ll receive an email from a potential client or a current client that says “I know you are so busy, but…”

And you know what?  It drives me absolutely BONKERS.

Here’s the thing.  I LOVE getting emails, I just HATE when they start with “sorry I know you’re busy”.  This does three things quickly:  creates distance between you and I, assumes something you have limited knowledge of, and finally is an empty apology.  And like most entrepreneurs I do tend to be ‘busy’, operative definition being ‘I have a lot to do on a daily basis’.

But, the truth is?

You have no idea if I am busy or not.


Let’s assume you think you know I am busy:  Sure you might see my schedule when you book a session.  But what you might not know is that I often block off 4 hour periods of time to write, do yoga, spend time with my family, and go to the gym.

Maybe you assume I am busy because I ignored an email from you.  The truth?  I very well may have ignored your email, it may have been eaten by the internet, it may have slipped through the cracks, my Virtual Assistant may have misfiled it (so in essence it was eaten by the internet), or I may have had a family crisis that needed to be attended to.

And the best part?  Is that even though you assume I am busy…. you are clearly still interested in my time so you don’t actually care that I am busy now do ya?  You still want my attention.  If you’re my client, then you deserve it!  Hell ya paid me for it after all, so you sure as heck don’t need to apologize!  (I’ve thankfully trained my clients out of this.  😉 )

If you’re not my client, you still want my time because you’re interested in a) working with me,  b) interested in info, c) wanted to connect.  Therefore apologizing is really more like a “sorry, not sorry”.

So why are my knickers all twisted in a bunch about this?

Because ‘busy’ is bullshit. (especially for entrepreneurs)

(click to tweet!)


So my plea here is to retire the use of the word busy from the entrepreneurs lexicon, apologizing for it, or apologizing for bugging a so-called ‘busy’ person.  I’ve included some suggested alternatives to give a try and some rationale behind my relatively excitable diatribe.


3 reasons why (as entrepreneurs) the word ‘Busy’ Should Go Away


1.  Busy is often used as a placeholder

How many times has this conversation occurred…

“How’ve you been Sally?”

“Oh so so busy!  Busy busy busy! You Wayne?”

“Oh the same.  You know, busy busy!”

In this exchange ‘busy’ is the great empty placeholder.  It creates distance between you and your people.  Rather than saying what has actually been going on:  life, business, work, personal.  Busy has become the universal ” I have so much to do” placeholder so you don’t actually have to talk about your life.  And it signals to the other party “don’t ask, I’m too busy for that”.

What to say instead:  Man my days sure are/have been full!

Why?  It leaves space for the other person to ask you ‘full with what!?”  It is an invitation rather than a red flag.

Also, saying “I can’t meet because my calendar is full” is honest, and it feels good to hear that isn’t because you aren’t making time for someone, it is because you can’t right now.


2.  “I’m too busy” is a GREAT excuse, but never the reason I say ‘yes’ or ‘no’ to someone

Let’s get real.  If I say no to an interview or to a client, it isn’t because I’m too busy.  Even if I AM indeed living ‘full days’, if a good opportunity comes my way I will jump on it faster than you can say “double rainbow”.  If an opportunity feels ‘eh’ to me, then I’ll say no.

What to say instead:  “I’m sorry this opportunity isn’t in line with what I’m up to these days, but thank you so much for thinking of me.”

Why?  Because it is honest.  Someone’s feelings might be hurt, but the reality is rejection in any capacity is frustrating.  You might as well give an honest read of the ‘why’ you aren’t going to say yes to an opportunity, then at least there is some measure of feedback exchanged and the other person doesn’t feel like you’ve just kicked them aside because you’re too ‘busy’.


3.  Busy is a choice.  You can choose a different state of being.

As entrepreneurs, we rule our schedules, and we choose how much time we spend each day doing tasks. If we have a ton of commitments, it is because we said yes to them (or we are raising children 😉 ).  If we don’t, it is either because we haven’t hustled enough or we said ‘no’ to a ton of opportunities.

What to do instead:  Say ‘no’ lots or create a schedule that isn’t as full. If something doesn’t resonate, don’t say yes just because.

Why?  Because all opportunities aren’t created equal.  And sometimes spending time with our kids/families/friends trumps blog interviews.


Real talk:  Sometimes we truly are ‘busy’.  Our lives get sucked up into familial commitments, raising kiddos, soccer games, dinner parties, paperwork, housework, homework, and more.  And in that case?  To hell with it.  Say you’re busy, because sometimes it’s just the truth.  Let’s just be mindful about using it mmmmkay?


Now it is your turn. 

When have you used the word busy and not really meant it?  How can you reexamine the word and experience of busy-ness in your work and life?

241 thoughts on “Why we should retire the word “Busy”

  1. This is great!! You’re so right… I use "busy" all the time. And it’s usually either to not have to talk about my life or to excuse myself from an activity I don’t really want to do. It might be rude, but I should put on my big girl pants and just tell the person that I don’t want to do X.

  2. Oh man, I’m going to have to adjust my blog post for today so it doesn’t look like I’m following directly on your coattails! I swear that "Work/Life Balance Post" has been on my editorial calendar for a month! Shucks, I’ll just have to give you a shoutout.

    But seriously, I immediately go on the defensive when I hear someone say "Oh I’ve been so busy!" What I hear is "You’re not as busy as I am," and then I have to reply with "Oh yeah, well I’ve been busy too!" Then it’s a competition over who has been more busy. Even though no one actually knows what that means to the other person. Gahhh!

    1. Precisely. I used to find myself getting into arguments about being busy all the time. Oof.

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