Getting Rid of "Busy"

“Beware the barrenness of a busy life.”
–Socrates

We need a new word for “busy.” We like being busy. Our fast-paced world tends to encourage and reward those who are (or at least, who seem to be) busy. In fact, we often wear busyness on our sleeves as if it were a badge of honor. Whenever people ask us how our day went, the word busy is bound to show up. It shows up because it communicates to people with the power of one simple word that we’re up to something with our lives and we aren’t simply wasting our time on frivolous activities. And that’s something important for us to communicate in our busy-obsessed culture even though it may not be reflective of reality. So we end up saying to others that we’re busy in an attempt to look acceptable to a society that pressures us to be so.

Perhaps we really are busy. But “busy” doesn’t really communicate much except for the fact that there’s a flurry of activity happening in our lives. As I wrote in a post a while back, a lot of activity doesn’t necessarily equate to productivity (see post here). Activity is about doing many things while productivity is about doing the right things. And so, we can be busy with a lot of activity and at the same time, really accomplish nothing of significant value. We can be busy with social media. Or busy with entertainment. Or busy with anything else of little importance. We’re busy alright. And we tell people that. But the real question is this: are we productive (or fruitful)? Are we doing the right things that move our goals forward? More importantly, are we doing the right things that move God’s agenda forward?

Being busy isn’t necessarily wrong. But we don’t want to be busy for busy sake. Nor do we want to be pressured by society to look, act, and talk as if we’re busy. And we certainly don’t want to be busy with the wrong things. As Henry David Thoreau put it, “It is not enough to be busy. So are the ants. The question is, what are we busy about?” So how about we be busy with the right things? How about being busy in prayer? Or being busy in sharing the gospel? Or being busy in the study of God’s Word? Or being busy in serving the community? And so a better description to use would be “fruitful.” Hopefully, we’re using our limited time in meaningful and fruitful ways.

Whenever people ask me how I’m doing or how my day went, I try to avoid using the word, “busy” (which isn’t always the case just yet). And that’s because “busy” only communicates to people that there’s a flurry of activity in my life. And perhaps that’s really the case and so “busy” becomes an appropriate response. But we’re not just aiming for a busy life. We’re aiming for a fruitful life. And if that’s truly the case, perhaps it would be a better response to tell people that our day had gone by fruitfully and not just busily.