Busy is not a badge of honour

Have you been wearing “Busy” as a badge of honour?

Every week I see Instagram memes commending the strive to “Be more. Do more”. Quotes like “I’ve got a dream that’s worth more than my sleep”, or “Success usually comes to those who are too busy to be looking for it.” Although it might seem inspiring at first glance, in my experience it’s a recipe for disaster.

Sure, it’s inspiring to think of leading a big, juicy, passionate life filled with purpose, love and happiness, but what if ‘being more’ and ‘doing more’ is not the way to find it?

Exhausted to the bone. What’s driving it?

So many of my friends, colleagues and clients are exhausted to the bone. Maybe you or many people you know are exhausted too? We are phenomenal humans but we’ve taken on super-human levels of commitment. Why? Is being perpetually overwhelmed and exhausted helping us live the kind of life we want? When you promise yourself more rest, or an easier period, do you find yourself suddenly swamped and over-scheduled again? It’s worth exploring why. Maybe we have trouble recognising or stating our own needs? Perhaps we struggle with boundaries and saying ‘no’? Maybe the busyness helps us avoid painful thoughts or feelings? Perhaps we’re trying to keep up with everyone else? Maybe we have perfectionistic tendencies? Perhaps we worry what we might miss out on? Maybe we’re just so darn busy trying to prove to ourselves and others we are enough?

Is being perpetually overwhelmed and exhausted helping us live the kind of life we want?

When someone asks how you are, is your automatic answer “Busy.”?

I know in the past this was my standard answer.

What priorities could replace ‘busy’?

  • What if instead of wearing ‘busy’ as a badge of honour we move towards and commend a mindful life?

  • Focusing on connection rather than over-scheduling

  • Seeking engagement rather than multi-tasking

  • Valuing quality of experiences over quantity

  • Setting flexible goals aligned with our values, rather than attempting to prove our worth via our achievements

  • Actually doing LESS but with more focus

  • Role-modelling and commending self-care rather than burnout

What would be the benefits of letting go of an incessantly busy life?

  • We’d feel less pressure to keep up with how much everyone else is doing

  • We’d find more time for our true priorities

  • We’d have more opportunity to really enjoy each moment

  • We’d have more mental and emotional space to be connected to what we really need and want

  • We’d have more room in our lives to prioritise our own self-care and wellbeing

  • And we’d realise that we were always enough, as we are. No need to “Be more”

When we stop wearing busy as a badge of honour, we also help others to no longer feel tied to the glorification of busy.

When we stop wearing busy as a badge of honour, we also help others to no longer feel tied to the glorification of busy. If we can say “Actually I’m loving that I’ve found a better balance and the chores can wait” or “I loved having a restful weekend without too much on” then we can pave the way for others to do the same. What a relief.

It’s not easy.

Especially if your default mode has been to say yes to every opportunity, multi task, carry around a million To Do lists and get involved as much as possible. I love the quote “We can do anything, but we can’t do everything.”

Now if you have young children, you’re a single parent, or you have to work multiple jobs just to pay the rent, you’re no doubt taking busy to a whole new level! You may not be able to find space for yourself right now, or do less at this point in time. But for anyone who can let go of some ‘busy’ (like me!) it could be just what you need to boost your happiness and wellness. Many people after deep reflection find that a lot of their busyness is less about real necessity and more about a way to cope with feelings of not being enough.

This is how I’m working on giving up busy as a default mode and doing less with more focus:

  • Less multi tasking

  • More time unplugged from my phone and social media (I find this very tough!)

  • Regular meditation, contemplation, or journalling

  • Prioritising commitments, not saying Yes to everything (I’ve gotten better and better at this)

  • Less social commitments that prioritise connection, rather than rushing quickly from one catch up to another

  • Time just pottering and pondering, not doing anything ‘productive’ (For many people, taking time to just rest and potter around can bring up feelings of guilt, self-criticism and shame)

I’ve been catching myself and not answering “Busy” when someone asks how I am.  Now I know busy is not a badge of honour.

How are you? I hope you can answer something other than ‘busy’…

These thoughts were inspired by The Cult of Busy by Dina Kaplan. It’s an important read that may just have you shifting uncomfortably in your seat as the revelations wash over you.

If you’re struggling with burnout, overwhelm, and the inability to let go of overcommitting and over-scheduling, I’d love to help. Please get in touch about counselling via telephone, Skype or face to face in Melbourne, Australia.


by Jodie Arnot

Jodie is a registered counsellor with a Masters in Counselling from Monash University. She provides counselling via telephone, Skype, and in person, and is passionate about helping women to feel good about themselves and live a life they adore.


Self-careJodie Arnot