Can We Stop With The Busy Contest?

by Christine Organ
Originally Published: 
huePhotography / iStock

As soon as the words were out of my mouth, I regretted them.

What had started with a simple enough question from a friend — How are you? — quickly turned into an annoying display of thinly veiled humblebrags.

“Good!” I said. “But busy. We’re really freaking busy.” I then went on to list all of the work projects, sporting events, household chores, social activities, and committee meetings that were keeping me and my family so “busy.” I even threw in a sigh about how little sleep I was getting and how exhausted I was.

My friend nodded, but didn’t respond. Game-set-match. I had won the Battle of Busy.

After all, busy has become a badge of honor. Busy is better. Busy wins. Right?

Well, that’s what I used to think. And judging by the sounds of things, I suspect I’m not the only one.

Busy seems to be the humblebrag du jour. We rattle off a litany of reasons why our busyness is noble or worthwhile. We become the martyr, the poor soul, the selfless sacrificer drowning in a sea of overwhelm that is deeper than everyone else’s. Oh, you think you’re busy? we say to our friends. At least you don’t have ballet and soccer and swimming and travel baseball and hockey and a long commute and PTA meetings and my husband is on the school board and we both work and we want to see our friends and…blah blah blah.

But as my words of busyness stumbled out of my mouth in response to my friend’s simple question as to how I was doing, not what I was doing, I realized how far into the rabbit hole of busyness bragging I had gone.

And I wanted out.

Busy is not a badge of honor. Busy is not better. Busy does not win.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for living a full life. We only get one shot, after all, at this time on earth so we might as well go all out. You like to be busy? Great, you do you.

Not to mention the fact that we are, in fact, actually really fucking busy. But when did busy become a contest? When did we all start competing in the Busy Olympics? Where did this idea that busy is better come from? And why do we feel the need to make sure everyone knows just how busy we are?

Look, we’re all busy. Sometimes we’re busy by choice. Sometimes we’re busy because life is hard. Sometimes we’re busy because kids are a lot of work and cost a lot of money. Sometimes we’re busy because we have to be; sometimes because we want to be.

This isn’t one of those article about minimalism or slowing down. Nope. I’m not even suggesting that we become less busy. What I am suggesting, however, is that we shut the fuck up about how busy we are all the time. Yes, we’re busy. We’re all busy so let’s stop making a contest out of it. Simple as that.

Some of us are busy at work. We’re hustling to make ends meet, or enduring long hours and nasty bosses, or busting our asses at two or three jobs. We’re returning emails to our kids’ teachers while on a conference call. We’re skipping lunch so that we can make it to our kid’s baseball game. We race to make the commuter train home so that we can eat dinner with our families, and then after we tuck our kids into bed at night, we’re logging back on to our computers to return emails and work a few more hours. We’re busy.

Some of us are busy at home with children. We’re changing diapers and feeding babies and making fifteen snacks a day. We’re cleaning up goldfish crumbs ground into the couch cushions and calming tantrums and putting Band-Aids on imaginary boo-boos. We’re breaking up fights over Legos and whose turn it is to choose the bedtime story. We’re giving baths and mopping up the puddles on the bathroom floor. We’re wiping tears and driving carpools and trying to help with fifth-grade math homework we don’t understand. We’re busy.

Some of us are busy volunteering. We’re planning the PTA fundraiser or serving food at the local homeless shelter or organizing service projects for our church. We’re advocating for change and making calls to legislators and walking in picket lines. We’re busy.

Some of us are busy wearing all the hats. We’re returning emails while we breastfeed the baby and the older kids watch an episode (or three) of the Regular Show. We’re organizing fundraising events while we wait for our daughter to finish her dance class. We’re folding laundry while helping our little one read, and we’re cooking dinner while talking on the phone to our sister. We’re busy.

Some of us are busy taking care of ourselves and others. We are exercising and reading and writing in our journals. We are mastering the art of self-care. We are meeting friends for dinner and listening to our mom tell us about her latest doctor’s appointment. We’re cooking healthy meals for our family and getting enough sleep. We’re walking our dogs and stopping to chat with our elderly neighbor even though we know it will take her 45 minutes to finish telling one story. We’re busy.

Yes, we’re busy. We’re all freaking busy.

But this competition to see who’s the busiest? I think it’s driving us all a little crazy.

So count me out. I’m going to discontinue my “busy but good” qualifiers when people ask, “How are you?” I will hold back on giving a rundown of allthethings that occupy my time and energy. I quit this decathlon of busyness. It’s an exhausting, annoying, and no one wins.

Besides, I’m too damn busy to compete anyway.

This article was originally published on