Let’s Ban The Word BUSY!

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James Manwaring

James Manwaring is Director of Music for Windsor Learning Partnership, a Multi-Academy Trust in Windsor, Berkshire. He oversees music for the 4 schools in the trust and has been working in music education for 16 years. James has been nominated for a National Music Education...
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How busy are you?

I have a saying in Life – “Not Busy, Just Living”. I am fairly convinced that I didn’t come up with this quote, but it is one that I hold dear.

The thing is, I just hate the word ‘busy‘ and I would like to see it banned in school.

As a word it has become one that is so often used to describe everything:

  • How was your weekend? – Busy
  • How was your evening? – Busy
  • What does your day look like? – Busy

Humble-bragging about being ‘as crazy busy as usual’ is actually a badge of honour and a status symbol for some according to research at at Columbia and Harvard universities.

What does it even mean to describe a weekend as busy, or a day as busy? Surely there are better ways of describing what is going on in life rather than resorting to the word busy.

The busyness business

The thing is, I think the word needs to be banned because I think it is having an adverse affect on our lives and it is particularly problematic in schools. I think it is stopping teachers from moving forward and being productive and efficient because it is a word we can throw out there and be done with.

The number of times I have heard someone in school say – “Now I know you are all busy, but would you mind doing…”.

Is that true, are we all “busy”? Does the use of that word not make people feel like they don’t therefore need to really do whatever is being asked of them?

I think it does. I think that progress is being held back in our schools and lives because we have been lulled into thinking that we don’t have time. Often the “busyness” that we are describing is merely what we have to do on a daily basis – it is our job description. But to then say we are busy, well that just brings a air of negativity to our lives that we could do without.

  • Would it not be better to have a positive outlook on life?
  • Would we not sooner find our place in this world if we saw our days as opportunities to make progress, to achieve and to strive forward?
  • Would it not be better to look back on a week and on reflection, not describe it as busy, but instead look at all we have achieved?

If we continue to see everything as “busyness” then we will fail to fully look at what we have achieved. I also think that our time management skills and our overall outlook on a day will improve if we don’t just resort to saying we are busy.

Would it not be better to have a workforce that see what they do as living? I know teaching isn’t “life” but we do have to spend rather a large amount of our life at work. So would it not be better to look at it as a series of opportunities?

Stolen identity

I also think that “busy” is stealing our identity. It would seem that the most common description someone will give to describe themselves is busy! This is surely not good for our own mental health and our own development. We need to be describing ourselves, our weekends and our working weeks as much more than just “busy”.

  • What have you achieved this week?
  • What did you do this weekend that wasn’t work? – those things make you who you are can will impact on your teaching.

I think we owe it to ourselves for our own well-being to start to look at life through the lens of achievement and positivity rather than simply thinking we are busy.

So what would it look like if we did ban the word?

Well, we would start to look at our days differently, working out what we need to do and reflecting on what we have achieved. We would get to know people we work with and start to share with others what we love.

But above all this we would bring an air of positivity into our workplaces and we would start to see that if we pull together we can achieve so much.

So lets start living and stop thinking that we are too busy. If we carry on like that then we will start missing opportunities to truly develop and life live well.

And lets face it, we aren’t “busy”, we are just “living”.


See also the blog by That Boy Can TeachWhy I Never Use The Word Busy 

11 thoughts on “Let’s Ban The Word BUSY!

  1. Well said! We all say we are busy, and what that means is when something else comes up, however important/worthy/urgent/fulfilling we tend to say “I haven’t got time”.

    A good friend told me we all have the same amount of time (24h a day obviously) – the difference is what we choose to do with it. This was an important lesson in priorities for me and I think of it often because I find it helpful. Maybe it can help others too (and let’s not get into a debate about the “choose” word here).

  2. Great take James, I agree. When asked how I am , I’ve cup with ‘all’s perfect’, on the basis that, pretty much it is and if it is not, that’s because things in life have got in the way and need my attention. As we live and work in the same neck off the woods, there is always something of great interest being added into the inbox at short notice. For example, from nowhere came the opportunity to take some creative children to a ‘Never such Innocence’ event at the CWGC in Maidenhead. Even though they can’t go, some of our Y11 musicians have been inspired to write a requiem around 100 years on from 2018, and it’s grabbed the attention of more than just the music peeps as well. Who knew???

  3. Absolutely love this positive perception on just living. When I am ‘busy’ it’s because they are additional responsibilities I have chosen to take on and really enjoy having such a full, enriched life, surrounded by research and people.
    This has helped me immensely!

  4. The thing that gets me is we’re feeding this to the children… I overheard some year 7 or 8s in a shop after school the other day, this was their conversation:
    “Hey, haven’t seen you for ages, what’s up?”
    “Yeah, good. Busy. You?”
    “Yeah, soooo busy.”
    Should 12 year olds be so busy? Or too busy to chat?
    World’s gone mad.

  5. I couldn’t agree more – we are ruining young people by making them think they are busy. Some tell me they are too busy to get homework done sometimes! We must change the narrative!

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