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10 Words to Use Instead of 'Busy'

Perhaps it's as simple as changing the words we use to describe our lives. Words matter -- they powerfully shape how we see ourselves and how we interpret our actions.
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Colleague: "How are you?"

You: "BUSY!"

Sound familiar?

We pride ourselves these days on our "busy-ness," as if being busy were a sign of achievement and value in and of itself.

Last spring, I wrote this post about how we can ban "busy" from our lives, and still get stuff done. Today I'm sharing suggestions on how we can change our perceptions of "busy."

Perhaps it's as simple as changing the words we use to describe our lives. Words matter -- they powerfully shape how we see ourselves and how we interpret our actions.

According to, the word busy means "actively engaged," which doesn't sound all that bad. But added to that definition is "not at leisure, not accessible."

It can also mean "cluttered with small, unharmonious details."

Busy comes from the Old English bisig, which means "careful, anxious, continually employed or occupied."

A quick survey of an online thesaurus produced the following synonyms for busy: unavailable, buried, overloaded, slaving, snowed, swamped, tied up.

Eeeek! When we we're busy, we're not available. We're not present. Being busy makes us feel buried, trapped, and anxious.


Changing our perspective on busy may involve changing our habits and reevaluating how we spend our time.

It can also be as simple as changing the words we use when we're tempted to say "I'm so BUSY!"

The next time you're ready to use the word busy, see if one of the following phrases would work better. And if none of these words work for you when you're busy, it's worth spending some time to ask yourself why.

10 Words to Use Instead of "Busy"

1. Intentionally Full
Can being busy mean that your life is rich and varied and you chose to have it that way? A lot of the things we complain about being busy with are things we intentionally and joyfully chose to bring into our lives -- the houses we clean, the clothes we launder, the children we cheer on at soccer games. Sometimes we need to reevaluate how we spend our time, and sometimes it's just about appreciating the amazing things we spend our time doing.

2. Abundant
Maybe a way to stop being busy is to realize we already have enough -- enough furniture, enough clothes, enough activities.

3. Rich
See #1 and #2.

4. Engaged
When you're busy with work, be engaged with your work. When you're busy with your kids, engage with your kids. What often makes us feel busy is simply the sense that we should be doing something else.

5. Wholehearted
Perhaps we're busy because there's just so much we want to do! Do it with your whole heart.

6. Captivated
Maybe we're busy because our current task, although necessary, feels boring and mundane.

If we practice mindfulness, we can learn to approach life with the beginner's mind, with an open curiosity, as if we're seeing the world for the first time. Engage with your task as if you'd never done it before -- some new, previously unnoticed aspect of it will certainly captivate you.

7. Productive
Take a moment to celebrate your work and your contributions. What you do matters!

8. Resplendent
Maybe being busy is about having amazing opportunity and potential. Can you see the splendid brilliance in your current task?

9. Dynamic
Being dynamic is about utilizing energy for effective and motivated action. In physics, it's about force and power. Instead of being busy, be dynamic -- take inspired, thoughtful, effective action.

10. Excited
Change "I have to" to "I choose to," even with things like "I have to pay these bills" or "I have to write this TPS report." You don't have to do anything -- you choose to do it. You choose to pay the bills because you want to maintain your credit score so you can buy a new car when your current clunker dies. You choose to write the TPS report because you like your job and colleagues and want to provide for your family.

Take responsibility for your actions, knowing the deeper need you are honoring as you carry them out. You can find excitement in the most banal of tasks by connecting to their ultimate purpose.

Change your perspective on busy, and you just may change your life!

This post first appeared on Sarah's blog, Left Brain Buddha. You can follow her on Facebook, Pinterest, and Twitter.