I Am Done Being Busy

Stop what you are doing for a minute and focus right here. Tell me, does this exchange sound familiar to you?

“How’ve you been?”

“Busy! How about you?”

“Busy! And you?”


In the last years, I’ve had this conversation so many times, so pervasively, that it has almost become the norm. I wonder what it means. Is it my age, is it my generation, or is it where I am in life? Is it being a working mom with a busy HR career?

Is everyone experiencing this and saying this – or just me and the people I know? Are we really that busy?

It wasn’t always this way. I remember back (way back) when the following exchange was more typical:

“Hey! What’s up?”

“Nothing. What’s new with you?”


What a contrast. “Nothing” sounds lazy while a constant refrain of “busy” sounds downright harried and sad, like your life is not truly under your control. And most of us want to be in control of our lives– and of the minutes and hours that make up our lives — do we not?

As I thought more about this, I looked online for definitions of BUSY and wasn’t pleased with what I saw:

a : engaged in action : occupied  b : being in use <found the telephone busy>, 2 : full of activity : bustling <a busy seaport>, 3 : foolishly or intrusively active : meddling and 4 : full of distracting detail <a busy design>

Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary (19 November 2010)

There’s nothing in the definition concerning purpose, productivity or results. It’s just ineffectual activity. In addition, think about the ways we use this word in conversation. Busywork. Busybody.  Neither sound appealing.

A few week ago, Cindy Janovitz told the Women of HR Community she’s done being nice.

I am done being busy.

I haven’t gotten this all figured out, but I have taken the very simple first step of tweaking my greeting. These days,  I ask, “How are you?” because people rarely answer “busy” to that. And when someone asks me how I’ve been, I smile and say, “Great! I just hired an awesome accountant and I’m studying for my SPHR.”

My to-do list hasn’t magically disappeared but I’m feeling less pressured and more in control ’cause I’m done being busy!

photo by Ebby

About the Author

Krista Francis

Krista Francis, PHR, is nonprofit HR Director and sometimes Acting Executive Director. She lives outside of Washington DC with her soccer-crazy hubby, two active teenagers, a neurotic cat and the best dog in the world, Rocky, aka Party like a Rockstar. In her loads of free time, she tries to keep her scooter running, tests margaritas for quality control purposes and blogs at aliveHR. You can connect with her on Twitter as @kristafrancis.


Krista Francis

@Michelle–thank you!

@Cheryl, I haven’t purchased a hands-free device yet so I’m not using my phone in my car, either.

@Bonni, you made me think of something else. When employees want to talk to me, they usually ask, “Are you busy?” What’s a good answer fro that, I wonder.


I like this post. I think HR folks say that they are busy sometimes as we can’t really say too much about what we are actually doing. It is that whole confidentiality/sensitivity thing. I agree though that busy is an overused term!


The best thing I did to rid my life of “crazy busy” was to stop using my cell phone in the car.
It’s amazing how peaceful a traffic filled drive to/from anywhere is now. It’s a time to slow down and think, plan and breath… try it. Happy Holidays!

Michelle Chesnutt

This was great reading. So many foucs on the ‘busy’ of our life we often forget the simple beauty or wonderful achieivements in our lives. I absolutely love your response…..your new great hire and a personal pursuit. We really all should answer like this.

Krista Francis

@Jay, yes choice makes a big difference.

@Anne, Thanks!!

@Andrea, what a story. I can just imagine people rushing around doing busy work to escape the wrath of the boss, and not having the time/energy to stop and plan what’s true important and significant.

Andrea Ballard

Excellent post! I worked for a while at a place where the leaders often used the refrain “Busy people are happy people” and if you didn’t have enough work, you were the first to be let go. So ‘busy’ became the culturally approved response to any question regarding how you were doing!

I much prefer – GREAT! Thanks!

Anne Messenger

What a GREAT post. I’m going to #1 retweet it immediately and #2 start working on my own response to “How are you?” Thanks so much for a get-ready-for-a-new-year tip!

Jay Kuhns

Well said! I’m so tired of the phrase “crazy-busy” I could spit. However, I too, find myself saying “busy” as a response more often than not. Yes, my pace happens to be quite hectic between personal and professional commitments. But I CHOSE those commitments. I’m going to follow your lead and change my response to more accurately reflect how I have chosen to live my life versus appearing as if I’m complaining that what I’ve signed up for is too much.


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