Is ‘busy’ the new status symbol?

Since when did the socially acceptable answer to ‘how are you?’ become ‘I am soooooo busy’.  Of course, my tongue is firmly in my cheek, but nonetheless, does this ring to you?

I used to think nothing of it when people told me they were ‘so busy’ – I even used to envy them in a way; they must be so busy because they were really good at what they did, and that meant they were in such demand, and/or they must be so popular that everyone wanted them around!  I confess, I didn’t feel so busy myself, I felt things were good and interesting but didn’t feel breathless necessarily, or run off my feet and so “in demand” as those other people seemed to be.  It did make me feel somewhat inadequate!

But over time, people telling me how so incredibly busy they were, become, frankly, boring.  Because you see, actually, I reflected that everyone is busy.  And I started noticing some differences in how people, and especially women, were approaching their state of being busy.

It struck me that some women I know, who are actually very busy, be it with huge jobs or big families, never say they’re sooo busy, in fact, they seem to deal with life with grace and poise and just deal with stuff.  If you asked them if their work is busy, they’ll probably say it is, but that whole ‘I am soooo busy’ never comes into it.  In contrast many of those other women and men who do proclaim their state of being busy at any provided opportunity, didn’t, on objective assessment, really have as much going on in their lives, and much of that ‘being busy’ was self-generated chaos.

So why the need for the status of being busy?

Those super busy people don’t seem happier; they seem breathless and not in control, and from what I know of Positive Psychology, they aren’t thriving or flourishing through this endless running around.  So, I pondered, what drives this need to proclaim and portray this endless state of busy?

I came up with three possible answers:


Well, it worked on me for a while.  If you are busier than someone else, it could mean that you are more in demand, professionally, socially or whatever.  Ergo, you have more status.  I do think this is a big motivator for many people who simply by proclaiming they are busy – feel they are more important and by extension that others are less.


If you are forever busy, running from one place to another, you don’t have time to stop and think and perhaps confront things that should be confronted in your life. I think that this is part of the reason why some people keep piling on things to do on themselves, not giving themselves a chance to stop, take a breath and reflect on what’s actually going on. Having a self-awareness mindset means you have to look within, if you are too busy all the time, you’ll never be able to do so.

Underestimating the importance of down time

There’s has been much research on the importance of sleep being reported recently in the mainstream media.  It seems that we have commoditised sleep and underestimate its importance for our health and well-being.  The same, in my mind, applies to down-time.  Super busy people seem to feel that every spare moment should be filled with something. If they have a 30 minutes gap, they’ll fill it with a networking coffee or a phone call.  They will make appointments on weekend back to back.  And when you tell them that you’re doing ‘nothing’ they look at you as if you’ve arrived freshly minted from Mars.

So why do I think being soooo busy isn’t good for you?

We all need time to reflect and process.  Throughout my painful personal health journey, I used all of the tools I learnt from Positive Psychology and my yoga practice, and a lot of what I did was reflection, being present and mindful.  Because of my own experience I now believe it is extraordinarily important to re-assess yourself day to day so that you don’t ever get to that breathless state of being busy.  And my reasons are very prosaic.

Your health and wellbeing

If you are too busy to stop and reflect on what’s happening with you physically, emotionally, and mentally, how can you tell when an annoying cough which isn’t going away has actually turned into emphysema?  Or that some weird symptoms you are having should really be investigated before they become something a whole lot worse?

The health and wellbeing of those close to you

If you are forever running from place to place and thinking about the next thing on your list, how can you tell when your closest and dearest aren’t thriving?  That’s actually what strikes me the most about those people who are always so busy – that they are not aware of the impact their own busyness has on the people around them.  To know what is really going on with your partner and children you need time to be present and to actually take the mental space to reflect on what’s happening.

So many teenagers who find themselves in very bad situation say they felt like their parents ‘weren’t paying attention’ and weren’t actually there because they were sooo busy.  Kids and adults can be masters at hiding what actually going on for them – and if you don’t take the time to really look, you’ll risk missing it.

Taking time to savour

Take the time to savour all the love and kindness you are fortunate to be surrounded with.  Practicing gratitude is a wonderful way to bring vitality into your life – to do so, requires taking the time to notice, appreciate and be thankful.

The thing is, if you’re soooo busy, when do you have the time to savour all that is good and right in our lives?