You’re Not That Busy.

Posted September 12, 2013 by Ellen Hunter Gans in On the Ladder
Busy Woman

I know, I know. That headline is bound to irk a few people.

It irked a few people when the Harvard Business Review posted a blog on this very topic last week, pleading people to stop complaining about how busy they were.

That post illuminated the very real problem with complaining about a packed schedule: it’s inherently competitive. It comes across as one-upmanship.

It underscores the idea that people with the least free time are the most valuable.

Centuries of history would beg to differ. It used to be that leisure time was the hallmark of the aristocracy. After all, if you had free time, it meant that you weren’t having to scramble for every scrap of food. You weren’t having to log insane hours of work on behalf of someone else just so you could keep a roof over your head. Leisure time meant success.

What didn’t the Harvard Business Review post address?

Why on earth do we all think we’re so busy?!

People reacted negatively to that post because so many of us thought, “No, but I really AM busy!

Let’s discuss.

There are busy people. The single mother with three kids, two jobs, and night school? She’s busy.

I only think that I’m busy. I think that I’m busy because I didn’t watch any TV today. I didn’t have time for a nap. The laundry I intended to do is still sitting in a pile. It’s 12:30 a.m., and I still have work to do. I’m not going to have time for yoga tomorrow. I feel busy.

If I tracked my day, I would see that I went to a 1 hour yoga class, which involved 15 minutes of commuting each way and 5 minutes of lollygagging around the lobby.

I arrived early to a client meeting and played two games of Candy Crush Saga before they arrived. (I’m sorry. It happened.)

I turned off my alarm this morning. Twice.

I picked some tomatoes from my sadly neglected garden.

I read the headlines on while waiting for a conference call to start.

I read the headlines on again later, just because.

The biggie? I attended a THREE-HOUR LACTATION CLASS because I have a baby due in six weeks.

I also ate ice cream while texting a friend about all the horrific things I learned in the lactation class.

And I fully intend to stay up later than I should, reading Andre Agassi’s autobiography.

None of the things on that above list were completely essential. Useful? Sure — especially that lactation class. Absolutely necessary for survival? Nah.

I am going to get a lot busier once the baby arrives. I’m only giving myself three weeks of maternity leave. (There I go, falling into the trap of bragging about how busy I am. I’m not immune.)

I am going to keep reminding myself that every day is full of superfluous stuff. I like that superfluous stuff. It keeps me sane. It’s important. But I can survive without at least some of it. I can always find more time for the essentials if I need to. There will still be a whole lot of people with more on their plates than me, and most of us could find a few things to remove from our plates if we had to.

What could you do without?

If you honestly tracked your time, how much superfluous stuff would you find?

(Candy Crush Saga may feel essential, but it’s not. I promise.)

About the Author

Ellen Hunter Gans

Ellen Hunter Gans is a freelance writer and communications strategist. She's also a marathon runner, an Ironman triathlete, a wildly untalented cross-country skier, a newly minted Crossfit junkie, a yoga devotee, a wannabe culinary genius, a voracious reader, a grammar snob, a world traveler, an outdoorswoman, an oenophile, a mediocre gardener, and a secret fan of awful television. Her blog is at, and her business website is at