Busy is a decision

I have written about my dislike of the word busy and especially how it is used in our culture. The cult of busy and the need for people to out busy each other, along with it being a rote answer to the question “How are you?” is something that continues to bother me. But it came back up recently after listening to Debbie Millman on How to Hold a Pencil.

Debbie, speaking on the podcast, said the following that I have been thinking about ever since (at about 6:05, emphasis mine):

Busy is a decision. I say this a lot because people use busy as a badge and the number one excuse as to why they can’t do something. If we use busy as an excuse for not doing something what we are really, really saying is that it’s not a priority. Because we do whatever it is we want to do and if we want it badly enough we either stay up late, or get up early, or we don’t bathe, or we don’t watch Game of Thrones. Whatever it is we make the time to do. … You don’t find the time, you make the time. If you want to do something, you do it.

This quote, with its reference to busy as a decision jolted me. It’s not just the idea of it as a badge, which I see way more often than I care to, but also the idea of busy as an excuse. I’ve slowly made changes in my life over the past several years, mostly in order to be able to do the things that are a priority for me. This means that I say no to things sometimes; it also means I am woefully behind on watching the latest shows or movies. It means I’ve been making space for reading and quiet, which I need more than I realized in the past. In addition, when people ask me how I’m doing, I am trying to not say “busy” in response. Because in reality, I am not busy. And I realize that not being busy is a privilege.