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Do You Know Anyone with the Busyness Disease?

How many of us feel somewhat proud of our busy schedules? Surprisingly enough, many. Being able to initiate the humble brag (with requisite exasperation) about how many things we have to do, or have done in a day seems to offer some validation to our existence. 

This is true across the board whether you’re an executive, construction worker, or stay-at-home parent. We somehow feel better about ourselves by being insanely busy — to the point that busyness has taken on disease-like qualities. We are a living in a time of constant connection, 24-hour news cycles, and false ideals promoted through social media. One consequence of these mechanisms is that we force ourselves into a seemingly endless “productive” busyness that’s actually far more harmful to us than the good we want to feel as we are ticking things off a never-ending list. 

So why do we do it?

The Pride in Being Busy

Being busy today has become synonymous with being successful and accomplished. There is something mildly enviable and seemingly important about the person who’s always rushing from one thing to the next, constantly exhausted, and slightly behind. I mean they wouldn’t be at all behind if they weren’t so busy and they wouldn’t be so busy if they weren’t important, right?

Somehow, as technology has allowed us to become hyper-aware of what everyone else is doing, we have collectively started competing with each other for the title of being the busiest human alive. It’s the ineffective and losing pursuit to have it all. 

The “Look how amazing I am — I successfully work over 50 hours a week, coach little league, volunteer at my child’s school, run 5 miles a day, shop and cook 3 meals a day, coordinate my neighborhood watch group, take my dog to play-dates, and still have time to make handmade Halloween costumes and be everyone’s best friend” mindset. Who needs sleep?

The reality is that although being busy has become something of a status symbol, striving to be busy is often both an excuse and a defense mechanism. If you are too busy to date then you can’t be blamed for failed relationships, and if you are constantly busy without big pockets of down time then you must be relevant and important. Paring down your schedule might mean facing uncomfortable truths or change others perception of you. 

And being busy can make us feel accomplished. If you have checked a dozen things off your to-do list then you must have had a productive day and accomplished things. Unfortunately, sometimes being busy is the same as spending lots of time on busy work and you are really no better at the end than you were before. 

What Is Your Busy Life Doing to You?

A lifestyle that’s constantly busy can have many harmful effects on a person’s health and happiness. Not only can you find yourself exhausted, but you can also become disconnected from friends and family and, if your busyness is just busy work, you may eventually become resentful of the time you’ve lost. Children, for example, don’t stop growing or hitting milestones just because you needed to get those last few things on your list done. 

There are other repercussions as well. People who keep themselves over-scheduled and try to accomplish “it all” can find themselves facing a laundry list of health problems as a result of the increased stress and anxiety that keeping a busy schedule can lead to. Among the problems an overly busy lifestyle can cause are the following: 

The Cure for Busy

The cure for the societal glorification of being busy isn’t likely to occur any time soon, but focusing on your approach as an individual can have some immediate effects. 

You will need to start with giving yourself permission to slow down, relax and enjoy your life a little more. This is harder than it seems, especially if you are someone who is heavily involved with social media. Making a commitment to being more intentional in your life regarding your efforts, and choosing what you want to be a part of is crucial. You will also need to find your inner “no” and become comfortable with the idea that you don’t have to be part of everything, you are not the only one who can do things, and people won’t think less of you for choosing to sit something out.

Surprisingly, as you begin to enjoy your less busy life, you may just become the envy of all of those around you.

Do You Know Anyone with the Busyness Disease?

Kurt Smith, Psy.D., LMFT, LPCC, AFC

Dr. Kurt Smith is the Clinical Director of Guy Stuff Counseling & Coaching and writes a blog about the issues facing men (and the women who love them). As an expert in understanding men, their partners, and the unique relationship challenges couples face today, he regularly appears on The Huffington Post, NerdWallet and PsychCentral. Dr. Kurt is a lover of dogs, sarcasm, everything outdoors, and helping those seeking to make their lives and relationships better. Check out his weekly tips on Facebook or Twitter.

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APA Reference
Smith, K. (2020). Do You Know Anyone with the Busyness Disease?. Psych Central. Retrieved on October 29, 2020, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 16 Jan 2020 (Originally: 19 Jan 2020)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 16 Jan 2020
Published on Psych All rights reserved.