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Why Saying ‘I’m Busy’ is a Disaster

By June 24, 2022Articles

A lot of us think being busy is a good thing. We wear it as a badge of honour. We use it to signal how full our lives are. (Look at me doing a million things! Aren’t I amazing?) We use it endlessly as an excuse “Sorry we haven’t had that drink. I’ve just been so busy.”

Australians’ addiction to being busy is so extreme that leading psychologists say it’s stopping us getting the rest we need to thrive. Data shows we’re working 3.2 billion hours of unpaid overtime a year, and one in three of us don’t get enough sleep and have burnout.

So … I want you to stop being busy. And certainly, I want you to stop telling people you are. Right now.

The first subtext when you say you’re so busy is that you’re not managing your time well. The second is that while you might think the message is “I have ton on because I’m superwoman/superman”, what the other person hears is “You are not a priority.”

In 2019, researchers from the Harvard Business School wanted to understand how the way we say no to invitations affects what people think of us. They found using busyness as an excuse was seen as less trustworthy than saying “I don’t have the money.”

  1. Here’s what to say instead to avoid being divisive:
    Just say yes! Invitations are a sign someone is asking if they’re worth spending time with. Make a commitment, get organised and go into the world and enjoy. Being pigeonholed as the person who is always unavailable and more important than anyone else will hurt relationships and your career.
  2. Explain why you can’t take up the invitation. And do not use the busy word! “I’d love to but I’m taking my daughter to Harry Potter.” Be honest if it’s a case of needing a night on the couch with a Magnum and Netflix: “I’ve run out of energy and need to recharge.” (Not having enough energy is always better than not having time.)
  3. Ask for a rain check. Simple. It shows you still value spending time with the person, just not that day.

My super power is doing a million things without ever being busy. In fact, I’m so anti-busy that I wrote a book about how to cut busyness out of your life forever and replace it with calm creativity and purpose.

It explains why being a relevant leader is critical to your success now and in the future, and gives a roadmap to move you from being stuck in the status quo to becoming an influential leader.

Find out more at

Yes, I approve of you adding that to your to do list!