Stop Saying "I'm Busy": Try Saying These Instead

“When someone tells you they are too 'busy'… It’s not a reflection of their schedule; it’s a reflection of YOUR spot on their schedule.” ― Steve Maraboli

“When someone tells you they are too 'busy'… It’s not a reflection of their schedule; it’s a reflection of YOUR spot on their schedule.” ― Steve Maraboli

I’m Busy Podcast Details

In my most recent podcast, I talk about something a little bit more close to home for me. It’s one of my greatest irks with people: our dependence on phrase “I’m busy.”

In the podcast, which you can listen to below, I talk about why the phrase it’s bad, why I think it’s so prevalent in our culture, and also some suggestions for different things you can say instead.

You can also listen to the podcast on Spotify or Itunes, literally, click anything that’s green in this sentence.

But yeah: let’s get into why “I’m busy,” or the word “busy” should be removed from your vocabulary entirely.


Like the quote above, telling someone that your busy, especially repeatedly, is a surefire way to push people away.

And I get it. You’ve got a girlfriend. You’re in the Greek life, and you’re double majoring. But as Mark Twain said:

The difference between the almost right word and the right word is really a large matter. ’tis the difference between the lightning bug and the lightning.

The reason why this word pushes people away despite our intentions I think varies from individual, here are some reasons why:

  • Perceived as too busy for the person asking (too busy for YOU)

  • They think you’re not actually busy, just don’t want to explain why

  • What you’re suggesting is not worth their time (I’m too busy for that)

Like I talk about in the podcast, I perceive someone telling me they’re busy as that they’re too busy for me.

Because like above, I get it. You’ve got a packed life. But so does everyone else. You still have time to grab lunch with your friends, see your significant other, and run track.

In a world of grey, there have been very few absolute truths I have learned. But the following holds true in any situation:

People make time for what and who they care about.

So if you genuinely care about someone but really can’t fit them into your schedule for that day, week, whatever period, try using these phrases:

  • “I can’t hangout today/____, how about ___?”

    • This conveys that you are busy (without saying it) and offers a plan B, a promise to make time for them in the future.

  • “I’m working on ____ right now, can I get back to you ___?”

    • Again, lightly lets them know that you have a schedule, but reassures them that you will return them when you can.

  • “I’d love to _____ with you, but I have to _____ tomorrow.”

    • A better way to say no or I’m busy.

Note the main goal is to remove the phrase “I’m busy” from your vocabulary. And to remember that it’s not a feeling, so when people ask “How are you?”, say something else.

If you want to learn more about why our culture believes being busy is associated with being of a higher class, as well as just a more in-depth conversation about this topic, I’d recommend checking out the podcast. Again, click here for the Spotify and Itunes.