Make Some Room Chapter Ten (Busy is a bullshit word)

Make Some Room Chapter Ten (Busy is a bullshit word)

Busy is a bullshit word. Stop saying it. Choose to say something real.

busy is a bullshit word in grand canyonWhile we were on the river, navigating rapids especially, there were times when we were fast, furious, and focused. We did what we had to do in the moment (navigate a tough rapid, unload boats and set up camp, prep and serve meals). But after the flurry of fast, furious focus, we settled back in to the rhythm of the river.

I wouldn’t call the fast, furious, focused time “busy,” though. We were purposeful, engaged, and in tune with our surroundings.

Someone might not be available to help you right this second because they are engaged in some other task, but no one was “busy just to be busy.” We were either purposefully “doing” or we were sitting and relaxing, taking advantage of the much-needed downtime between chores, rapids, and rest.

There was no mindless surfing the internet, checking email, or worrying about what was happening on social media.

Basically, we had two options:

  1. We were “ON” (focused on the task at hand)
  2. We were “OFF” (resting, chatting, restoring our energy for our next “ON” cycle)

When I think about how we lived and worked on the Canyon versus how we live and work at home, the difference is striking.

Without our devices, we weren’t artificially overstimulated. Our brains weren’t constantly searching for the next/new/important thing.

We just existed down there in that canyon with each other and with nature.

If we didn’t have cooking or groover duties, we found other things to do. For instance, instead of staring at screens, some of us stared in wonder at the sky, the water, and the incredible walls that never seem to end in Grand Canyon. Others sat quietly and journaled or read books. Some snuck away to bath in the very refreshingly (read: FREEZING) cold water or to lay in the shade and nap. Some laced up boots and hiked to see pictographs, amazing views, or roaring waterfalls. Most of us did all those things at points all along the trip.

But there was no “busy” for sake of being busy. We didn’t seek out things to fill the time. Most of us were satisfied to relax and sit when we had the time (partly because we were exhausted, but partly because there was nothing else urging us to “go, do, acquire, learn”).

Nankoweap Granaries in Grand CanyonBeyond the Canyon

I noticed something happening several years ago: everyone was walking around saying how “busy” they were. They walked fast, talked fast, and seemed really stressed out.

Then I read several articles that referenced the “Cult of Busy.” People wear their overwhelm like a badge and proudly discuss how many hours they put in at work, at night, and even throughout the weekend.

Perhaps you are card-carrying member of the “Cult of Busy” and in your social circles, being busy is seen as a positive thing, something to be glorified, or rewarded.

I wonder though, when was the last time anyone handed out an award for “Busiest Business Person of the Year?” Ick!

So, what does being “busy” really mean?

Frankly, I believe busy is a bullshit word. It’s filler language, like saying, “I’m fine” when you’re really truly not.

“Busy” is meaningless and vague.

Harvard economist Juliet Shore, wrote in The Overworked American:

“In 1948, our parents and grandparents had more leisure time, and they got 50 percent less work done per hour than we do. If we just cut back, we would have a lot more leisure time today.”

She believes we are addicted to work (out of fear of losing our jobs OR out of fear of what we would do to fill the time if we weren’t at work).

When someone tells me how busy they are, I ask follow up questions, “So, business is booming?” or “Is life just terrific?” By and large the honest answer was a sheepish “I wish!”

Here’s what I think is happening – “busy” is our safe word. Our go-to answer. It’s a cop-out; a way to sound like we’re rocking and rolling and making it happen when in reality it’s a cover up, a sham, a farce.

After my Grand Canyon trip, when I shared the Make Some Room Manifesto with my friends and across social media, one of my readers wrote back with this:

Angie, This manifesto hangs on our refrigerator. My husband and I have adopted ‘Busy is a Bullshit Word.’ We say it every day, either to ourselves when we need to make choices about what to commit to, or about other people when they say they are too busy to hold up their end of an agreement they made with us.

It’s changing our lives.

~ Elizabeth

BAM! That’s exactly what I’m talking about. Busy is a cover up. A way to make an excuse without being specific. A way to keep people at arm’s length. To not engage. Or to weasel out of something without actually saying what you mean.

Think about it this way…

When a person says, “I’m fine” in response to a question, what does that really mean?

It either means nothing or…in some cases, it means he or she ain’t fine but doesn’t want to say so.

Further probing might get the person to admit what’s going on; in others, he or she refuses to say so and it becomes a passive-aggressive way to punish people.

Within society, I think some people are using the phrase, “I’m so busy” in the same way.

It might be as an attention-getting behavior (“Oh poor me, I’m soooo busy”).

Or it could be a way to deflect having a more real, honest conversation (because things aren’t going well at all, and they don’t want to discuss it).

Ways to Make Some Room

Because I believe it’s important to be prepared, here are some things you can do instead of using the generic “things are busy:”

  1. Be honest
  2. Be forthright
  3. Be specific

My friend Brooks has been practicing and loving saying, “I’m awesomely full with lots of spaciousness, too.”

She also notes, “It’s very empowering to choose other words – it’s a choice.”

For example:

  • “There’s a lot of good flowing in my life/work right now.”
  • “I have so much potential/possibility to choose from…”
  • “I’ve got lots of pots brewing these days…”

By saying what you mean, asking for what you need, and being specific with your language, you can begin to live in a transparent and honest world. It becomes easy to communicate with you and people know they can trust you.

I’d encourage you to banish “busy” from your vocabulary. I bet it will change how you feel about your life. And it can create the opportunity for deeper conversation and connection between you and the person you’re speaking with.

Busy is a bullshit word. Stop saying it. Choose to say something real.



Have you missed any chapters

There are plenty more chapters available in the book. I’ll let you know as soon as the PRE-ORDER function is available through Amazon.

Make Some Room Manifesto[All content and photos are (c) 2016 Angela Mattson Stegall and Nelson Stegall for the book, Make Some Room: Powerful Life Lessons Inspired by an Epic 16-day Colorado River Rafting Trip Through Grand Canyon.The book will be available mid-June through Amazon.com in paperback and Kindle formats.]

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