Are You Busy?

Busy: How to Thrive in a World of Too Much. Well I couldn’t ignore a book title like this, it resonates more than ever in today’s busy, digital, impatient fast paced ‘I want it all now’ world.

Author Tony Crabbe peels back another layer and flips the notion of ‘busyness’ on its head, re-examining modern ideas about what it means to be busy, whilst questioning the value of this so-called busy behaviour.

There’s a running 21st century ‘anti rat-race’ theme in books around mindfulness, consumer society, and the impact of all this on our health and wellbeing. I’ve blogged about these themes before, on the back similar books like Affluenza by Oliver James , How to Be Idle by Tom Hodgkinson. Now we’ll turn again, to this ‘busy’ phenomena and take a closer look at Crabbe’s analysis. 🧐

I’m Just So Busy….

Is ‘being busy’ actually productive, or is it more often a herd behaviour in line with what we think the rest of the flock are all ‘busy’ doing? Is busyness an indication of being overloaded, trying to achieve unrealistic goals in limited time?

Maybe we’re hiding something deeper behind a mask of ‘busyness’, an emptiness of some kind, or is it a shield we use to prevent others asking us to do more? Or perhaps we’re using busyness as a brand; it defines us and makes us feel a sense of self worth.

Productivity and Greater Quality

Being less busy, more productive and simultaneously tuned into more meaningful experiences isn’t impossible. Crabbe unpicks this mind shift throughout the course of the book.

Lazy and Productive?

Just to be clear, Crabbe is not suggesting idleness, laziness and inactivity are the desired opposite to busyness, not at all – balance is key. That said, it is recognised that idle time is important for allowing thoughts and ideas to flow and digest.

Apparently studies have shown that people’s biggest highs and peak moments in life tended not to happen during moments of idleness or passive relaxation – the high moments came when people were highly active in some way. These points of heightened activity are referred to as “flow experiences”. When we’re ‘in the flow’ we are deeply immersed in our chosen activity, we lose all sense of time and self throughout.

Busyness gets in the way of ‘flow’ experiences.


It’s interesting that we live in an age of information and expectation overload, over stimulus (screen time/movies/computer games etc) yet there there still exists high levels of boredom.

Busyness is a way of life for many – we all tend to accept it as normal human behaviour. Most never question it until it starts to take a serious toll on our health or personal relationships, but why wait for that to happen? Why not take an alternative approach to being busy? Hmmmm……

Mindless Busyness

Crabbe describes this as irrational and habitual busyness, rooted in social norms. There are people who just don’t know how to just be, they always need to be doing something – life is all about doing, and how much they’re doing and what else they can do. There’s nothing inherently wrong with this if you’re pursuing your heartfelt dreams and goals which you sincerely want to pursue –Β  rather than behaving in this way just to appease the expectations of others and ‘fit the mould’.

More, and the Busy Bragger

Get more, do more, earn more, take on more, prove more – this is what Crabbe refers to as “the more game”.

It seems like the industrial age (fast becoming digital) is pushing busyness more and more, to the detriment of our creativity, health, stress/anxiety levels, relationships and sense of self. More is limitless and as we ‘get more’ we can never be satisfied. More doesn’t mean happier.

Crabbe got me thinking when he described it as weird that people brag and seem proud of being busy – when being busy actually (arguably) reveals a lack of “mastery” over your time, talents, productivity and balance of life. πŸ€”

Speed and quantity is not a default measure of quality or efficiency.

Multitasking is a modern day buzzword, psychologically it can work to convince us that trying to do too much (not necessarily to the best of our ability) is a skill and a strength to be proud of. Have we been missguided by the glorification of ‘multi-tasking’ – could being more focused on one task at a time be the real ideal?

According to studies cited in this book ‘the science’ suggests the brain is less productive when multitasking or regularly switching between tasks. Tiiddy Rowan’s ‘Little Book of Peace’ also addresses this.

Big Chunks

I know we’re all different, and much depends on the task, but I really resonate with Crabbe’s “Big Chunks” principle. That is – indulging large amounts of time in one blast to one task, rather than little and often with regular breaks. I think this is because when I get into the “flow” I need to keep going so I don’t lose that flow, and all the ideas and momentum attached to it. This is definitely the case when it comes to brainstorming and drafting a blogpost – it’s like the tide coming in and the need to take full advantage before the tide goes out again.

Mind Dumps

I also liked Crabbe’s suggestion of creating your own mind dump – which could be a list in a notebook of all the thoughts, worries, and ideas whirling around in your head clogging up mind space and interrupting your peace. You can come back to the mind dump and pick something from it and give it dedicated thought and attention when you choose to, but until such time, it can stay in the mind dump.


The antithesis of all this busyness is that whole ‘in the moment’ ‘slow down, switch off’ etc movement.

Maybe one day in the future we’ll see an evolved western society that no longer admires health deteriorating busyness, or upholds it as a positive trait. Quality production over mass production might take centre stage. Wishful thinking? Who knows – but we can take control and make changes to our individual lives and value systems, choose different role models and surround ourselves with people who do not ooze busyness.

As with many life decisions – we need to be prepared to go against the grain on this one if we want to make real changes and reduce busyness as a feature in or everyday lives. Step away from the herd, focus more on pleasing our inner selves instead of performing for others and fitting in.

It all starts with a simple mind shift, then a domino effect – philosophically, that’s what this book is reminding us.


This is one of those books that taps into something we all have a ‘knowing feeling’ about or questioning thoughts around but maybe never really stop to give it serious thought or take any major action to change – busyness/stress/overload and all the baggage that comes with it.

Yes I’ll be keeping this one on the shelf – it’s interesting, thought provoking and a good aid for personal self reflection, plus one I’d recommend to anyone. Books that tap into the nooks and crannies of human behaviour never cease to intrigue me.

Best wishes to all, and have a good week ahead πŸ€—x


Cartoon illustrations were all sourced from free clip art.

40 thoughts on “Are You Busy?

  1. Pingback: How To Be Idle!! Is Laziness Misunderstood? - Cherryl's Blog

  2. Pingback: When the Body Says No: The Cost of Hidden Stress - Cherryl's Blog

    1. Cherryl

      Schools are generally a hub of stressful, non stop busyness, and an email inbox doesn’t help (the email inbox is a default information dump lol) πŸ’» thankfully it can be abandoned and returned to at a time to suite 😊

      No I hadn’t come across Pomodoro technique but had a quick glance… sounds like the opposite of the suggestion in his book – that the brain is less productive working in short burst with regular breaks and switching between tasks. I’m sure both approaches probably work in some situations and maybe for some tasks more than others……maybe one size never fits all.

      Wishing you a good dose of ‘non-busy’ time and balance for the week ahead πŸ™

  3. Sheila Landry Designs

    Hi, Cherryl! πŸ™‚ Boy! Did I need to read this post. I feel that this has been a year of transition for me, which isn’t always deemed as ‘productive’ to the outside world. The guilt and anxiety that goes along with that way of thinking is not easy to manage. I am definitely going to be looking into this book. I always appreciate opinions on making healthy life choices and this seems to be something that fits that description. Thanks for posting. I hope you are having a good summer.

    1. Cherryl

      Hi Sheila, I’m glad you like this book, I think it’s a good one. I hope the year is unfolding smoothly for you. I’m also open to new wisdom and thoughts around being healthier etc, we need it these days. Lol, it’s been a bit of a ‘blink and you miss it’ kind of summer this year, hopefully we’ll get a bit more warm sunshine before the end of September πŸ€— πŸ’« πŸ”†

  4. Robert Partington

    Thanks for this. In spite of all who take pride in it, busyness is NOT a virtue, nor even a state worth pursuing. All too often chronic busyness reveals a lack of healthy boundaries. Love your β€œThere’s nothing inherently … fit the mould.” One is right thing, right reason, but the second is right (or wrong) thing, but wrong reason. Even so, the latter is mindlessly popular. Many of us need to replace the β€œmore” with a contented β€œenough” while learning, as you say, to just be. Thanks for finding my blog so I could discover yours.

  5. equinoxio21

    Totally agree with the global overload. Overtourism, overmeetings, overall…
    Reminded me of a book I read in the mid-80’s on Time management. The key learning I took from the book was:
    In any given work week, schedule appointments with yourself. Just like that. 2 or 3 appointments in your agenda labelled “Myself”. One hour. And never move those appointments…
    (That has been a cardinal rule in my life)

  6. Ab

    Interesting post, Cherryl! In my 20s when I was just starting out, there was a perception that being busy is the same as being productive and successful. Two decades later, I can see that being focused is a better way to be. And part of being focused is not taking on too much, and getting something done better. Quality over quantity. And I’m glad to see that anti-racing movement pick up legitimate steam.

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