Ever feel “too busy” to do what actually MATTERS to you? The excuse feels legitimate and even like “being responsible” at times. But, what we don’t realize is all that “Busy” is costing us. Let’s pull back the curtain and see what’s really at play and what we can do to break up with “Busy” for good.

How many times have you answered “busy” when people ask how things are going?

The truth is, Americans wear “busy” like a badge of honor. We fill our lives up with obligations and live beyond our reserves. The more packed our calendars are, the more we feel like we’re making something of ourselves. This addiction to busyness is an epidemic in our culture and it’s running our health, homes, and families into the ground.

The result is a worn out, over-committed, stressed out society. But, even though we know it’s not good for us, we find it’s HARD to break up with “busy”!

According to research, the change from “leisure-as-status” to “busyness-as-status” came with the shift from labor economies to economies based on knowledge and skill. We shifted our pride in our manpower to our pride in our mind and will power.

As a result, and with the speed-up of life, we’ve come to believe that the more and harder you work, the more successful you are. We create euphemisms like “driven”, “goal oriented”, “multitasker”, and “go-getter”, to for people who will deny their personal health and wellbeing, along with their home and often their loved ones, for the sake of work.

We reveal our worship of “busy,” proselytizing memes like “hustler, “up your game,” and “rise and grind,” “get it,” and even “boss babe building an empire.” Not only do these phrases impose pressure on ourselves and others, they expose our veneration of busyness. We don’t see anything wrong with taking pride in our grind.


Earlier in my career, you could have assigned all these titles to me, and I was proud of it. I was charging ahead making my dream a reality.

But after a decade of striving, and accumulating health problems and wrinkles, I found that my frantic pace of busyness (I called it “productivity”) was just a road to exhaustion.

I was a girl who REALLY wanted to make a difference, but in my rush to do-it-all, I had donned a never-ending hamster wheel. And once you’re on this busy hamster wheel, it is very difficult to get off!


My health, home life, and relationships were feeling the toll of my drive. This was the beginning of my journey to RECLAIM my work, my time, my health, my family, and my life.

Now, instead of being DRIVEN toward success, I go where I’m LED to go. I have become very intentional about listening for what is for me, and what’s not. I wrote more about this here.

If you’re not yet sure you want to give Busy the pink slip, I recommend you honestly assess the costs-to-your-life of having Busy onboard…..

Click for a free download worksheet on breaking up with busy

What is Busy Costing You?

We need to determine what it’s actually costing us to do business with Busy.

An article by Johns Hopkins Health Review cites the many symptoms of emotional distress caused by busyness:

  • Difficulty focusing
  • Impatience and irritability
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Mental and physical fatigue

Hello, is anyone home???

This list is easy to breeze by…but wait a minute! Our busyness is costing us our HEALTH!

Anyone who has trouble sleeping can tell you that EVERYTHING else in your life suffers if you’re exhausted all the time.

Busyness is literally brain-frying us! Skewed focus, brain strain, and bodily exhaustion…we should take note of these scientific findings!

If you aren’t too worried about YOUR personal costs of pandering to Busy, consider the costs to your family:

  • Less time together
  • Strained, exhausted, non-optimized remaining time together
  • Kids are learning striving, hamster-wheel life
  • Kids are stressed out
  • Less laughing (many studies prove that laughter is healthful medicine!)

And are there costs to the greater community or society-as-a-whole for our personal busyness? You bet!

When we are busy, we become self-absorbed. Busy masters us and owns us. Busy keeps us rotating around us and our goals and needs. (Sorry, eat some chocolate, I know this is painful.)

When we are absorbed with our frantic busy life, we experience:

  • A reduced ability to deeply engage anywhere or with anyone, because we are thinking about the next thing we “have to do”
  • Less authentic, meaningful connection with others, because we can become transactional and treat people as expendable
  • A clouded ability to see or meet the needs of others

In fact, it’s these corporate consequences of busyness that I am the most worried about…as we each individually pay homage to Busy, we are corporately getting more isolated and selfish. Therefore, we are less communal. We are forgetting how to take care of one another. And, not-so-presto – everyone feels lonely!

That’s right: I think our addiction to Busy is contributing to the isolation and loneliness that is now widely reported (for example here, here, and here) as the number one issue Americans face. (I wrote more about this here.)

So why are we doing this costly behavior to ourselves? Let’s explore that next.

What is Busy Giving You?

As with anything that we keep doing repeatedly, there are payoffs involved (otherwise we’d stop!) The payoffs for “being busy” are so ingrained in us and our culture that they are likely invisible to us.

We don’t even know that we are being subconsciously rewarded for being hyperactive, hyper-committed, and hyper-extended.

The first step in taking back control in your life is to understand what you’re GAINING from claiming “busy” for your life.

Claiming “I’m sorry, I’m busy” comes with unseen payoffs. If you want to break up with Busy, you have to recognize and replace the payoff you’re getting.

Because being “busy” has STATUS.

We may appear “unreachable” because of our busyness. When we offer the “busy” card as a reason for our inability to participate in something, we create an illusion that we are unreachable, or at another level from others. This creates separation, which in the long run, will turn into loneliness.

Did you know many people who are very busy actually are lonely? Because they’re hiding behind Busy!

They knowingly or unknowingly are servicing the things they think are important so they can create distance between themselves and the world. “Busy” keeps stuff and people at bay.

Sometimes “being endlessly active” can make us feel important, productive, or like superwoman. (This harkens back to the “get your hustle on” kind of memes we circulate.)

For many, endless activity is our drug of choice as we get continuous accolades (or the self-perception of them) for our production and super-human output.

If we wear busyness as a badge of honor, we have to break our addiction to the status of busy and start looking at the personal and family costs.

Ditching Busy takes rewriting stories in your mind about what constitutes “success.”

After all, if you slowed down, would you get as much done, and therefore be “as successful”? If this worry gnaws at your mind, it’s time to step back and re-evaluate your view of success.

Perhaps many of us even associate “busy” with “useful” and so we give ourselves credit for contribution. Instead of actually having something world-impactful to show for our lives, we credit the constant flutter of activity as impact. They are not the same. And often, they’re inversely related: the less we DO but with intentionality, the MORE impact we have.

Our personal worth has nothing to do with how much activity we engage in (or create!) It is given by our Creator and is immeasurably unique and magnificent.

Our endless activity can never buy us happiness, success, status, or personal satisfaction. The only thing that can fulfill us is BEING who we were created to be and then selectively, intentionally investing our time accordingly.

How to Break Up with Busy:

By now, we’re clear that Busy is draining our individual, family, and community life of health and connection.

We’re also realizing that we’ve been getting some “fix” from Busy and we’re ready to break ties.

If you’re ready to shove Busy out the door, here’s how:

Break Up with Hyper-Speed

Here’s some news: not everything done fast is done well!

In my own life, I am continuously given the opportunity to break myself of my addiction to FAST.

I get a LOT done in a day and my brain thinks at Mach speed. And in the middle of my “getting stuff done,” I can respond poorly to a child’s request or interruptions or a toy flying by my head inside my house.

Sometimes those interruptions to MY day, MY work, and MY goals reveal the common denominator: ME. Busy keeps us focused on ME.

Now I’m not saying you shouldn’t be able to have boundaries, or constantly yield your schedule.

What I AM saying is that our response when we are on hyper-speed to any variance tends to be negative. Our addiction to the PACE of Busy leaves little room for interruption.

I am honestly still bumping into this one, even though I’ve made a ton of progress in being available and fluid in my life.

The only cure for hyper-speed that I know of is to JUST STOP. We’ve got to interrupt the brain cycles that we’re addicted to!

Ditching hyper-speed may look different for each of us, and include several approaches:

  • Getting out your family calendar, cutting out what’s not important, and infilling dates, hospitality, and refueling time
  • Just stopping. Taking a break to walk, to get into nature. Scheduling this daily.
  • Adding simple self-care items to your calendar, like drinking water, calling friends, field trips, personal refueling and family dates to balance out the workload
  • Going on vacation. Forcibly breaking the pace!
  • Putting on the out-of-office notice so you can THINK for a few days
  • Doing a deep-clean of your files and desktop so you can SEE what’s important and what’s no longer important. Empowering yourself with good systems.
  • Reflection: Sometimes hyper-speed is a side-effect of a truly onerous workload that is more than one person should handle. If so, it may be time to find new work.
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I hope some of these ideas will help you trade hyper-speed for a more intentional, peaceful way of living your life.

Break Up with Excuses

Maybe hyper-speed is not your problem, but your Busy Buddy has kept you in control.

Constantly offering the excuse that we are “busy” says something more than we realize.

We hide behind “I’m busy” because:

  • We don’t want to do something
  • We can’t afford it
  • We don’t have the answer
  • We are too scared, etc.

“I’m busy” is just our handy excuse – our Busy Buddy – to stay in control of ourselves.

We don’t say the real reason we can’t do something; we are hiding or delaying, and we may not even realize it.  And this is a disempowered position from which to live life.

I know that I have put people and opportunities off because I am legitimately juggling a ton of things, and they’re not a top priority. And that’s okay. The whole point of ordering your life is to live out your priorities!

But I have also put people and opportunities off at times using the “busy” excuse because I didn’t know the answer to something or because I couldn’t figure out where they fit in the matrix of my life. And mentally, I just couldn’t make room for “one more thing.”

Can you relate to not having the mental space for “one more thing”? Unfortunately, THAT is the by-product of our toxically busy lives.

We’ve got to settle down. (I’m preaching to myself here, folks, watch out!) We’ve got to learn how to be thankful right where we are at, learn how to rest in this season, and know that some things will fit and some won’t. Those that don’t may come back around. Those that don’t weren’t meant to be.

It’s okay (and really healthy) to prioritize and to say no WITHOUT pulling out the “busy” card.

So, breaking up with our excuses sounds harder than it is; it’s really just honoring our true priorities. This is the way to truly take back control of our lives: identify and invest in our priorities.

Listen, our excuses all have different root causes. And we could spend hours analyzing why we are hiding behind Busy.

Or, we could just simply step back, figure out what we really want, and start doing that. (Use our free awesome Priorities Roadmap tool for this!) Amazingly, as you start living the life that feeds you, hiding away won’t even occur to you. Clarity about why you can’t do something will come to you without excuse.

So, simply trade your excuses for your priorities.

Breaking up with your excuses will EMPOWER you to be true to yourself and not hide behind Busy.

And we choose empowered or disempowered language every day…read on to break up with the most destructive product of Busy: our own words!

Break Up with the Label

We have the power of life and death in our mouths. What we say comes to pass!

Read that again! If you’re saying it; you’re going to receive it!

Have you ever noticed moms dragging their kids around, telling them they’re “brats”? What do you think they are going to get? Brats!

Similarly, if you say you have a junky marriage, guess what you get?

Those examples may be pretty obvious, but it’s true with claiming that we’re “busy” as well.

If we constantly say, “I’m sorry, I’m so busy, I can’t come,” or “I would, but I’m busy,” we are slowly eroding our own word. YIKES.

Essentially, we are saying our YES is not firm and our NO is not firm. We are labeling ourselves as hiders, hesitators, and excusers.

We’re pulling out the Busy Card but we’re actually labeling ourselves at the same time. We’re saying “I’m Busy. I’m unavailable. I’m distracted. You’re/this is not important to me.” And guess what? In accepting this label, we are CREATING it!

How can we stop labeling ourselves as “busy”, and encouraging this endless cycle?

  • CHANGE YOUR WORDS. When people ask how you are, refuse to claim “busy”! I’ve started saying that it has been a “full” week or a “rewarding” project, rather than giving Busy any credit.
  • Make a declaration (I wrote mine down on a 3 x 5 card) that you have enough time to accomplish what is truly important (and anything else you wish to say about how you’re choosing your priorities). This will help you break your frantic pace and reset your focus. Read this decree over yourself MANY times a day until you believe it!
  • Make a list of your priorities (download our free tool here!) to identify and honor your priorities so you never have to be bullied by Busy. Post the list in multiple places. Store it in your phone. Incorporate it into an app – whatever works for you!

Finally, to help you along this journey of breaking off your toxic relationship with “Busy,” I’ve created a FREE downloadable worksheet for you. This guide helps you take inventory of the impact of Busy on your life and make a plan for creating something NEW moving forward.

Click on the image to download this useful tool and share it with friends and family members who could benefit from kicking “Busy” to the curb, too!

Click for a free download worksheet on breaking up with busy

Well, spit spot, this has been an EPIC topic to write about, and I sure hope you are as inspired as I am to break up with Busy!

We are all on a journey to reclaim our lives and kicking out this obstacle to living an ordered life will make a HUGE difference.

Ditching Busy will give you back your focus, health, family, and priorities. It’s worth it! Please join me on the journey to live a fulfilling, abundant life – not a busy one.

-Vicki Norris

Here are some additional tools to help you on your journey to Break Up with Busy:

Road Map to Priority-Based Living
Create Margin Freebie Pano


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