Busy vs. Occupied.

I was talking with a friend the other day, and he told me that something was annoying him. He’d been talking to his parents, who are both retired. He’d asked if they could help him with this big task, but they said they couldn’t — they were too busy.

“I don’t get it,” he told me. “They’re having lunch or dinner out every day, they’re playing pickleball, they have volunteer projects. That’s all stuff they’re choosing to do! But I’ve got work and family stuff. I’m the one who’s really busy!”

They’re not busy, I told him — just occupied. (Too occupied to take on this one task, unfortunately for him.) But it’s easy to confuse “busy” and “occupied.”

And it reminded me of something I used to do — or, if I’m being fully honest, that I occasionally still do — when I want to feel busy. I’d collect a bunch of small tasks and put them on my to-do list. And I’d cross them off. At the end of the day, I’d feel like I’d accomplished something — look at all the tasks I’d completed!

But then I’d look at the bottom of the list, and there would be one big task still on my list. It’d been the one thing I had to accomplish, and I hadn’t even started it. Deep down, I knew that I was only taking on all these other tasks to try to make myself feel better about avoiding the big task.

But occupied and busy aren’t the same thing. And sometimes, you have to stop what you’re doing and just do the work.

Might as well do it now.


A pickleball photo seemed appropriate for this post. That one was taken by Patrick Hodskins for Unsplash.