6 Reasons to Ban the Word Busy


Busy – how often do you find yourself using that word?

It’s a simple word, and a loaded word. It’s come to mean more than “doing something” or “engaged in an activity.”

The word busy now implies a whole lot more. It’s become shorthand for being…

  • Important
  • Significant
  • Someone who matters
  • Enough
  • Competent
  • The opposite of lazy
  • Valuable
  • Needed

What words would you add to my list?

“Busy” is the quick reply when asked, “How are you?”. While the hope may be to convey some or all that’s mentioned above, the busy response is rather inarticulate, don’t you think? It actually doesn’t offer much of a clue regarding what you’ve been up to!

Busy Like A…

There are four red pendent lights that hang over our kitchen table. Not only are they happy accents, but it turns out that the reflection they make in our kitchen windows naturally attract hummingbirds.

It’s not unusual at our house for a meal to be interrupted by a hummingbird flying smack into the window in hopes of a tasty treat! Frequently they make a second attempt to reach what they perceive to be a hummingbird feast, but are actually a reflection of our striking pendant lights. As persistent as they are small, the hummingbirds linger, frantically flapping their wings at our window, in hopes of getting to that nectar.


are remarkable little creatures! Did you know that they…

  • Flap their wings about 80 times per second or 4800 times per minute! Whew!
  • Use their feet for perching only – no hopping or walking for these birdies!
  • Are the only birds that are able to fly from right to left, up and down, as well as backwards and upside down? Plus, they are able to hover in midair!
  • Are able to fly 500 miles nonstop when migrating due to their fat reserves – can you believe they have that much fat?
  • Navigate a web of branches and twigs with ease.
  • Have a heart that beats 1260 times a minute.
  • Are able to lick 13 times per second – that’s how they feed. And they consume their own body weight in food each day.
  • Naturally are attracted to the color red – hence the love of our lights!
  • Are territorial birds that are aggressive and willing to take on birds much larger in size.

I know a few hummingbird-like people – not people who fly into kitchen windows, but folks who are rarely at rest. I’ve been there too!

Perpetuating the problem is that our culture is a hurry, hurry culture and there’s a constant deluge of information and noise. It’s an environment that encourages a frantic busy pace.

I don’t want to be a hummingbird! And I don’t want to be hummingbird-like!

Over It!

In fact, I am over the whole idea of busy! It’s exhausting!

And that’s why six years ago I banned the busy word from my vocabulary!


Yep! You heard me…no more using the “b” word. After all, it is a four-letter word.

You see, words matter. That’s why for the past couple of years I’ve used the word “full” when someone asks me about my life, rather than the “b” word. And it’s true – my life is full of work I love and people I treasure. However, if I’m 100% honest there was still more flapping going on than necessary. The word “full” was been a step in the right direction, but I’m not satisfied with landing there.

You see, the “b” word, or even the word full, still impacts my life by:

1. Shrinking My Vocabulary

Because words matter, I want to respond more thoughtfully when asked about how I’m doing. Using the “b” word impacts how well I’m able to connect with the people in my life. It doesn’t mean I have to go into magnificent detail, but something beyond a trite one-word answer for sure!

2. Disconnecting Me From My Feelings

Busy is NOT a feeling! Whatever is happening in my life, I have feelings about if I take the time to tune into them.

The question “How are you?” is an invitation to connect with yourself – to pause, feel, and share your feelings!

I know I long for more connection, but it is difficult to connect with others when you aren’t even connected to yourself. In fact, there are some pretty compelling reasons to live more connected to your feelings!

3. Becoming My Cover-Up

I feel important when I have stuff to do, but being the “b” word may also be an excuse for not doing what you want me to do.

Instead, I want to be more vulnerable and let you know that the opportunity or event – whatever you want or need me to do – doesn’t fit into my current priorities or isn’t where I want to direct my energy right now. Responding that way isn’t always easy. People often press and then guilt sets in or even worse people get their feelings hurt. That’s certainly not my heart, but if I’m going to eliminate the “b” word I want to do it in a loving way.

4. Making Me A Victim

I don’t have to be the “ b word.” In fact, over the last several years I’ve worked hard to carve out more space for the activities that make my heart happy and that are energizing to me. I’ve intentionally chosen to work smarter and to be less…occupied (oh goodness, that “b” word almost tumbled out again!)

The more I use that word, the more I see myself as a victim of that word, but it’s not true! Being the “b” word is a choice!

I have many interests. The work I do, is work I love doing. I have six incredibly amazing grandkids that bring oodles of joy to my life. I am abundantly blessed! I’ve come to appreciate life more. Rest more. And to be available (the opposite of occupied) for whatever God has in mind for me! And God’s yoke is easy, His burden is light – no hint of the “b” word in what He has for me to do!

5. Keeping Me from Re-framing

The “b” bucket is brimming! Overflowing! It is a catch-all like a kitchen junk drawer! It’s mighty tempting to lump everything into that bucket when re-framing would serve me better.

What if I began acknowledging the amazing opportunities that God’s allowed me to be engaged in? Slapping that “b” label on them just doesn’t do them justice!

What would shift if I admitted that an activity that I’ve been in the middle of has been stretching or even a tad stressful, yet also a tremendous opportunity for growth?

Or that the sometimes chaotic and noisy times with the grands have been irreplaceable memory making moments?

I must intentionally choose to view what’s filling my minutes and hours and days in a whole new way! After all, every time I utter the “b” word, I perpetuate the less than positive feelings that accompany that word!

6. Keeping Me Too Focused on Work

In the past, working too much was a tremendous temptation for me! If you are a driven type like I am, you may struggle with it too! I’ve learned that just because I’m in motion doesn’t necessarily mean I’m engaged in the activities that will help me achieve my goals. It’s more likely that I’m wearing myself out running on my hamster wheel going nowhere!

I don’t want to be frantically in motion! I want to be effective and productive and put my best efforts into a few key areas that will yield great results so I am able to make a powerful impact!

It’s also about trusting that God will provide all I need – that He will make up for the lack if I’m obedient and take time to rest; do nothing!

Switching up my word choices and eliminating the “b” word from my vocabulary has been a big part of my strategy for shifting my thinking because I know that what will lead me to new actions.

I know it’s a risk, I bet that “b” word is keeping a whole lot of you stuck too!

What would change for you if you were to insert words like diligent, productive, industrious, intentional, or bold in place of that “b” word? Or how might your connections be different if you were to articulate more clearly to others how are you really doing?

Imagine what it would be like to stop flapping frantically like a hummingbird and start soaring like an eagle on the currents in the sky. That sounds wonderfully peaceful and relaxing to me; freeing!

The “b” word – what have you been trying to imply or avoiding by using that word?

Originally published on 8/22/16 – It’s been updated and revised just for you! 🙂

Marvae Eikanas

Marvae Eikanas is an author, entrepreneur, ICF certified coach, Career Direct Consultant, DISC consultant, and HBDI practitioner. She helps her coaching clients sharpen their skills, face their fears, eliminate funky mindsets, hone their habits, and cultivate clarity so they can THRIVE personally and professionally. Schedule a consultation with Marvae here.


  1. Dawn on March 23, 2016 at 9:13 am

    Love this Marvae. Busy is not an attractive word to me either.

    9 years ago I continually saw women in their 40’s well into their 60’s running around being BUSY and it was not attractive.

    It appeared unorganized, frantic and did not fit the description of the graceful God I was reading about in the bible.

    I am grateful to have learned the difference between being busy and being on purpose – gracefully as I mature.

    Of course to calm the busy life requires a change. Letting go of the adrenaline based energy and being still long enough for the body to reset into its own natural rhythm.

    Thank you for this inspiring blog.

    • Marvae on March 23, 2016 at 10:11 am

      Thanks for sharing Dawn! It does require change to calm a busy life – heart change and being honest about what is motivating us. Deep down I think we all crave a slower and more meaningful pace of life which is very counter to our culture. I pray more and more of us experience the calm more and more often!

  2. Mary on March 23, 2016 at 2:13 pm


    Thank you so much for articulating what is going on with all the hustle bustle and ‘busy’ talk. This falls right in place with my recent pondering’s over what contributes to a culture of shallowness or depth within relationships.
    A very helpful post, Marvae, and I look forward to reading more of your take on life and living.

    Blessings… Mary

    • Marvae on March 23, 2016 at 2:25 pm

      Delighted you took the time to stop by Mary! It is next to impossible to nurture deep relationships when you are perpetually “busy.” The most meaningful moments in relationship typically happen at the most inconvenient times and if we are constantly in motion we miss out.

      That’s a powerful reason to eliminate the word “BUSY” from your vocabulary and slow down!

  3. April on March 23, 2016 at 6:17 pm

    This really hit home! After all the years of home schooling which required near perpetual motion, this empty nest stage is an adjustment. Crazy as it sounds, I sometimes feel guilty for taking more time for relationships than for my precious measureable goals that always structured my days in the past. In a culture where small talk includes comparing accomplishments and activities, it is refreshing to read your positive spin on taking the word “busy” out of our vocabulary, and in a real sense out of our lives. Good riddance!

    • Marvae on March 23, 2016 at 6:50 pm

      It is true the the homeschooling years are brimming with activity! It is almost like weaning yourself from the hamster wheel and re-calibrating your normal. Since God made us for relationship, and so much positive Kingdom stuff happens in that place, it is a valuable investment of your time even if you can’t measure it! I look forward to hearing how saying “good riddance” to the word busy changes things for you!

  4. MaryLou Caskey on March 30, 2016 at 8:28 am

    Marvae, Wow, there are so many points here that I have felt about the word busy and you shared them so well. Thanks for putting words to my thoughts. I appreciate you.

    • Marvae on March 30, 2016 at 10:25 am

      Thanks so much MaryLou!

  5. Angela Edwards on November 4, 2017 at 8:53 pm

    As always, Marvae: A very fun and enlightening read! This definitely gave me a new perspective on that one four-letter word with so much power.

    This put me in mind of a friend of mine who doesn’t use the word “unstoppable”. Instead, she uses “unflappable”—which immediately put me in mind of your persistent, flapping hummingbirds. *Giggles*

    I have my takeaways from this and have referred my mother to read your blog as well. I’m sure she’ll be BLESSED by your story!

    Thank you! (((HUGS)))

    • Marvae on November 4, 2017 at 9:23 pm

      Words are so powerful! Unflappable is a great replacement for Unstoppable! And you know I adore your giggle! Thanks for passing on this blog to your mother!

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