Good Busy

Posted | 15 comments

Good Busy

“Great things are not done by impulse, but by a series of small things brought together.” – Vincent Van Gogh

I may be bucking a recent trend here, but I have no problem with busy. Personally, I like having lots of things to do, and it is a proven fact that busy people get stuff done. I like people who do stuff. People who do stuff are interesting.

I have no problem staying busy. Between the husband/house/kids/job and everything else I have going on, I can keep myself busy 24/7. I am aware; however, that I can easily drop into a mindless vortex of busy for the sake of being busy. That’s a bad busy. Bad busy is not the kind of busy I want.

To combat bad busy, I made a long, long laundry list of goals I wanted to accomplish this year. I wanted to focus my busy on the things that mattered. This culminated in a daily checklist of some thirty-odd plus things I needed to do each and every day to reach these varied goals. It was daunting to say the least. So, as the hours turned into days and the days became weeks, I realized that  while having it all may be a possibility, I’m probably not going to be able to make it all happen at the same time.

So, stuff got dumped.

Don’t worry. I didn’t just randomly begin to cross things off the list. I just started asking myself what’s really important to me right now. I started considering what things I can do today that will have the biggest impact on my tomorrow. For now, I eliminated every goal except for the following three:

1. Being loving…not just towards others but towards myself as well,
2. Being fit…cause I have stuff to do and this old body has to drag me through another 50 years or so,
3. Being fully engaged in meaningful work.

Choosing the good busy is not always easy. Honestly, it’s been tough from time to time. Just because I know it’s good for me, just because I know it supports my goals, doesn’t mean that doing it is effortless. I still have to push and prode myself to do the right thing. Can anybody say resistance?

Sometimes, I falter and I choose bad busy. I putz around completing meaningless tasks, I eat the candy, I snap at the kid, or I watch some mindless comedy that makes me smile. I’m human and prone to error. It’s what I do next that matters most and what I do is:

1. Allow myself to feel bad, for one hot second,
2. Look hard and long at what contributed to my moment of weakness,
3. Make a real plan for doing better,
4. Then I forgive myself and mean it and let it go and move on.

As Scarlett O’Hara said, “tomorrow is another day.” As Oprah says, “when you know better you do better.”

We all know that in the end it’s just about showing up everyday and doing what needs to be done. It doesn’t matter if it’s cold or hot or if we’re tired or not. When we commit, especially to our dreams, we need to be committed.

I’m asking myself over and over and over again does this thought, this behavior, and this activity support my goals. What I’m finding is I’m becoming more focused on being good busy. Letting go of bad busy is becoming easier.

As the hours turned into days and the days became weeks, I’m starting to see little tiny slivers of progress.  As I consistently show up and make right choices, I find making right choices becomes easier.

So, don’t believe them when they say all busy is bad. Busy for the sake of  being busy, busy that distracts from a happy life and achieving meaningful goals, is bad busy. It should be avoided. Being busy with things we love, people who matter, and stuff that counts, being busy reaching for goals we’ve set is good busy. It should be embraced.

It’s still true that busy people get stuff done. The world needs people intent on being good busy. The world needs people who are busy being happy and busy reaching for their dreams. So, let’s go get busy filling our days with the good busy.


  1. I agree with you that not ALL busyness is bad. Being productive and running a business and a life takes a lot of work. But busy for the sake of busy . . . busy because you’re adding in a whole ton of unnecessary stuff . . . busy on the things that don’t really move your business forward . . . those things should all be avoided and that’s what I address when I talk about busyness being “bad.”

    • We’re on the same page. If busy is driving you forward and your enthusiastic and able to take care of yourself, then it’s ok to be busy.

  2. Denise, I love your phrase “mindless vortex.” It sounds like you’ve learned how to avoid the swirl by evaluating what you’re doing and why you’re doing it. Excellent advice.

    • I don’t always avoid the “mindless vortex” but I certainly recognize it sooner and get out quicker.

  3. I love the distinction between good busy and bad busy. And I love how you broke down your goals into the most important. Made me think about my goals and I think relationships, health and purpose pretty much sum it up for me and most others. Sometimes doing nothing is the best kind of good busy that I can do. It is so counterintuitive but lack of busy can lead the the best good busy there is.

    • Ummmmm….love this. Choosing to do nothing. Sometimes that’s the hardest thing to do.

  4. Love the forgiveness part….also what works for me is to recognize when I am not acting from my HEART but in my head, the place where the vortex of busy resides <3

    • That’s been key for me too. As long as I stay busy with what’s important it’s all good.

  5. Wonderful to receive you here, Denise.. and your deep reflections on ‘busy’. Yes, yes… I have heard the Chinese proverb “If you want something done, give it to a busy person.” My mother was a very busy woman. So busy that when she finally had a health condition that stopped her…. at 94… I felt relieved. Others in my family felt terrible that she had been stopped. But something in me said… it’s time. It is time to stop. Her business was deeply ingrained from her first 50 years on the farm which you either work, or die. You have to grow food to have food to eat, to feed your family, for the winter, to save those in poverty.

    2012 was an EXTREMELY busy year for me. It was the year I launched my first online programs after studying in prestigious business program… which was pretty manic in and of itself. Or I was. I had to learn so MUCH that year along with holding women in a process that took them deep into their internality and support them through it. Because I was new, I was not necessarily effective… and thus many a night I was up late late late.

    So 2013 began with… nothing. No energy. No drive. I was concerned because this work is my passion. It is my passion for ME. So not only did I not feel the desire to work with others, I didn’t feel that desire to do the work myself. I also recognized something else going on. It felt like gestation. That I was integrating alllllll that I had learned and put out that previous year… and that I needed to wait for the deeper self to deliver the impulse for action. So I slowed down… and waited. And remembered this piece from T.S. Eliot’s Four Quartets…
    “I said to my soul, be still and wait without hope, for hope would be hope for the wrong thing; wait without love, for love would be love of the wrong thing; there is yet faith, but the faith and the love are all in the waiting. Wait without thought, for you are not ready for thought: So the darkness shall be the light, and the stillness the dancing.”

    It took me a while to unhook for the ‘thought’ that I needed to be busy. But once I did, a deeper healing occurred and the new wisdom that wanted to be realized began to emerge.

    I know this is long. Yet your exquisite piece here has stirred it into life. thank you for receiving me, Denise! Always a blessing to enter in to your sacred wild ways. xoxo

    • I love your response here, Kathleen. I am so with you here. xxxooo

      • The T.S. Elliot quote is beautiful. I’m keeping it close to my heart. One I’ve carried with me for a long time is from Virgil… “Yet sprinkle sordid ashes all around and load with fattening dung thy fallow ground, a change of seed for meagre soil is best and earth manured not idle though at rest.” I’m glad you and Sue Ann have both leaned in to your fallow periods and honored them. Just like the body requires rest for recovery, so does the mind.

  6. I do want to add, that I cherish the choices you made. I have written them down because they are such clear intentions… and ones I hold as well, and see that I could gather that which is most important to me under these three headings. Beautiful process, Denise!

  7. I have been pondering “busy” a lot lately. In January I claimed the word “spaciousness” as my word for the year and I started clearing away some of the “busy” that had engulfed me. Oh my! It’s been a journey. I am so thrown to activity I forget what it’s like to just stop. I get anxious. I don’t know how to “be” with stillness and no “to do” list. I don’t know how to NOT cross things off my list. It’s become a game. I “practice” do nothing moments. I’ve worked my way up to 30 minutes, quite an accomplishment but admittedly I’m still “listening” to something. Who knows? Next year I may take it up a notch and try one of those silent retreats. 😉

  8. wonderful post, denise. i recently came up with yet another list of “things to do”, and immediately became overwhelmed. so i put all of the items into one of seven important-for-my-life-right-now categories. if it didn’t fit, it didn’t stay on the list. this has helped me maintain a “good busy.” thank you for articulating this idea so well.

  9. Great post! I too love being “good busy,” scheduling with priorities in mind! 🙂

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