A short rant about not being busy

‘Are you busy?’

I swear I’ve been asked this at least half a dozen times this week by different people. And not in an ‘are you busy because I need a quick word’ sort of way, but in an ‘is work generally busy’ way.

‘No,’ I answer.

That throws people. They look confused, as though I’ve just admitted out loud to being a FAILURE AT LIFE.

I’ve had to start explaining to people that the reason I wanted to work for myself in the first place was for the flexibility to take time off whenever I liked, or to have quieter periods during the school holidays. For me, that’s the whole point of self-employment. Why on earth would you give up a stable, reliable income and then continue to work like someone was watching you all the time?

I’m not busy at the moment because I choose not to be. SHOCK HORROR.

It’s the middle of the summer holidays and next year Belle goes into year eleven, so I want to be at home while she’s still vaguely interested in hanging out with me. We also moved into a new house at the end of June, and it’s nice to be able to potter about arranging books into pretty colours and generally settling in.

Just because I’m not busy, does that mean I’m not successful or hard working? Does it mean I’m lazy, or that no one wants to work with me?

Of course it doesn’t. I have actually worked pretty hard since I started working for myself in 2009, but I have worked hard to get to the point where I don’t have to all the time if I don’t want to, not just for the sake of it, to look impressive.

So why do we have this fixation on being busy as a sign of achievement, like some kind of badge of honour? Like you can only be a SUCCESS if you are driving yourself to the brink of exhaustion every day.

too busy to have lunch

Definitely not me

What especially winds me up is people who claim to be too busy to EAT.

‘Oh yes, I’ve been so busy I’ve not had time to stop for lunch!’


I’m sorry, but if you work CONSTANTLY for an entire day without stopping to eat or drink then I have no sympathy for you. Do you honestly think you’re performing at your best if you don’t actually FUEL YOUR BODY? Does it not occur to you that if you stopped for a break and a sandwich and a glass of water that the afternoon might be a little bit easier? That you might actually get more done?

Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that there aren’t plenty of people who are just genuinely very busy in day to day life, because they have lots of children, or relatives they care for, or several jobs, or whatever the reason, that’s all fine. There is nothing wrong with that, (other than I expect they’d like a rest). What I object to is this PRESSURE to at least APPEAR busy, like Monday mornings are this huge chore that can’t possibly be negotiated without at least SIX memes about needing coffee.

So what I would really like is for people to stop asking if I’m busy, or perhaps to congratulate me if I say no.

I might even start responding with ‘I’m hardly ever that busy. I’m actually really very bright and efficient and so can do a lot of things in half the time it might take someone else,’ but that’s probably a teeny bit on the arrogant side.


*wanders off for a cup of tea and a sit down*

Image – by Ollyy/shutterstock




  1. 14 August, 2017 / 11:33 am

    I am so happy to hear this. God I hate the people who are constantly on social media talking about how busy they are, instagram story-ing at midnight about how they are still working, #girlboss and #slaying all the time. And don’t get me started on the ones who don’t eat. I just question their time management and think ‘if you didn’t spend 5 hrs on twitter earlier you might be in bed, having had dinner by now’.
    I started to slow down so much during my treatment that I get a bit freaked out when I see crazy busy periods now. Which might not be good, but it does help me not pack my time with too much stuff!

    • Jo Middleton
      14 August, 2017 / 2:26 pm

      Haha! I am definitely not #slaying at ANY time! That’s the thing though isn’t it, with all these people who are apparently too busy to even butter two slices of bread – they still have time to post all the hashtags!

  2. 14 August, 2017 / 1:24 pm

    I love this blog post. I’m a self employed reflexologist and my response is, with a smile ….im as busy as I want to be…. to be honest in the school holidays that can mean not busy at all ! It’s a joy to be self employed and have this option but it has taken years to say no to bookings in order to preserve my not busy times.

  3. Helen
    14 August, 2017 / 1:24 pm

    I completely agree. I am a single mum with 4 children and a part time job. I have taken a while to figure out that I do everything better and if i can have some time and space and time to myself. I too am tired of feeling I’m failing if I am not filling every minute with work, jobs and socialising.

    • Jo Middleton
      14 August, 2017 / 2:25 pm

      Hooray! You are NOT failing Helen, not at all. It’s like that old mantra about loving yourself first isn’t it? You HAVE to invest the time in taking care fo yourself and resting if you want to do the things you do have to do WELL.

  4. Graham Igglesden
    14 August, 2017 / 2:32 pm

    You’re always on point SlummyMummy

  5. Gemma
    14 August, 2017 / 6:54 pm

    Best phrase I ever read: “you can’t pour from an empty cup”. Saluting you on taking time to rest!

  6. 14 August, 2017 / 9:19 pm

    I am not busy either :)
    I make a conscious decision to ease back during school holidays. Good for you.
    H x

  7. 15 August, 2017 / 11:34 am

    I had a job where I was too busy to eat at lunch time and I didn’t spend time on social media. I just didn’t have time to go to the kitchen that was next door to my office to get a sandwich. I was feeling poorly, I was overweight, annoyed and stressed all the time. So now I definitely don’t want to work like that ever again. It’s not worth it.
    I had a friend that was saying she is so busy without having a job or kids. Being active on social media is not “being busy” unless you get a salary for it.

    • Jo Middleton
      16 August, 2017 / 2:09 pm

      It’s totally not worth it. If you regularly work to the point where you aren’t even meeting your own basic needs then something is badly wrong.

  8. Claire
    15 August, 2017 / 3:18 pm

    Yes! Zero sympathy for the “haven’t had time to eat” brigade. Everyone should have time to at least wolf down a sandwich, even if it’s at their desk. Genuinely not having time for lunch is not something to brag about, it’s unhealthy – either plan your time better and stop tweeting and IG-ing 3489293749 times a day, or speak to your boss about your ridiculous workload!

    • Jo Middleton
      16 August, 2017 / 2:00 pm

      I totally agree Claire – it’s not something I’d be proud of telling anyone, I’d just think it showed I couldn’t manage or plan my time properly! If you know you really are going to be busy, then plan for that in advance! Hardly rocket science is it??

  9. 16 August, 2017 / 2:06 pm

    Based on my blog’s domain, I feel a duty to weigh in on this.

    You’re damn right! If you want to work for yourself, flexibility and freedom is exactly what most people desire.

    For me – I’m not there yet. Full time work. Part time business(es). New baby. I look forward to the day I can say I’m not particularly busy

  10. Hannah
    18 August, 2017 / 3:26 pm

    I wish Facebook didn’t lure me into reading such inane nonsense. Some people are busier than others, sometimes people are too busy to eat because they have meetings during their lunch hour, or are trying to meet a challenging deadline. You’ll find that a huge amount of teachers do not eat lunch so that they can free up time elsewhere in their lives and simply have to, in order to get through the workload. It’s not their fault. My mother is a nurse and she often doesn’t take the breaks that she is entitled to because she puts the patients before herself so that they aren’t waiting. It’s well documented that junior Doctors are often too busy to sleep never mind take a lunch break. Perhaps people who tell you that they’re too busy to eat are struggling to cope. Maybe empathy and compassion is what’s needed rather than accusations and high praise for yourself. I can’t believe I have to point out that your workload is not the same as all other people’s workloads which is the main reason this article is vacuous.

  11. Lou
    18 November, 2017 / 9:31 am

    You are so right about busy being a choice. We all need to focus on getting the balance right and applaude each other for that. Setting my week and day in to time chunks of work time, family time, housework time has helped me be more present for each area of my life. I try and stick to how I have decided to spend my time each day, it doesn’t always go to plan and I don’t always get everything done but I am being easier on myself about that these days. Does it really matter if that wash goes on today or tomorrow so I can take the kids to the park? Not really. And can the car tax wait till tomorrow so I can enjoy an evening in front of the tele with a takeaway with my man. Yes it can. I am working towards having the freedom to decide exactly how I spend my time and being able to be around for my kids and partner more. Thanks for inspiring ;)

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