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Just too busy being busy?

By Alison Sweeney - posted Friday, 8 September 2006

Read any commentary on social trends and you’ll see the ubiquitous term “time-poor”.

The populist view is that we’re all time-poor and it’s affecting every aspect of our life. Advertisers have embraced the concept wholeheartedly. We read publications online because we’re time-poor. We buy takeaway meals because we’re time-poor.

A leaflet appeared in our mailbox and there it was - “Are you time-poor? Do you need help with your ironing and cleaning?”


Businesses offering personalised services from shoe-shining to life style management are the clear winners as they prey on the vulnerable time-poor masses. Gyms refer to their time-poor customers. It’s not just advertisers either. Teachers deal with time-poor parents. City planners spew rhetoric about time-poor urban dwellers. Workplaces aim policies at time-poor working parents.

Time-poor is just one term of many that has become part of our vernacular when describing the pace of modern society. Over recent years, the equally ubiquitous term “work-life balance” has emerged as THE buzz phrase to describe the increased pressure on time-poor workers. Who decided anyway that “work” comes before “life”?

As well as being time-poor we’re also “juggling”. We’re juggling busy schedules and lifestyles. We’re juggling work and family. We’re juggling “competing roles”. We’re so busy juggling we don’t take annual leave, as a recent report suggested. Juggle, juggle, juggle.

But best of all is the trend of how we love talking about how busy we are! Don’t on any account ask someone how he or she is. The response will probably be along the lines of “I’m so busy”, “I’ve had such a busy day”, “I’ve got so much going on”.

I’m now tempted when people say this to respond with, “Let me save you time then if you’re so busy, just cut out the %&##@ and get to the point.”

Don’t believe me? Conduct your own survey when you go to work today. Gone are the days when the same question would have elicited a response of “not bad, mate” or “all right, and you?” Notice at work how many emails you receive that start with “Sorry I didn’t reply earlier, I’ve had a lot going on …”


Be entertained on the bus eavesdropping on several scintillating conversations along the lines of “I’m on the bus, I maybe a bit late, I’ve been so busy …” Lucky we now have mobile phones. How else could we possibly boast how busy we all are?

There is no apologetic tone when someone is late or misses a deadline because they’re busy - it’s all said with a healthy dose of smugness! When did it become such a competition? A competition to see who is the busiest and best juggler. Perhaps we’re all busy because we’re telling each other how busy we are!

We used to say, “I’m so busy” with a tired, weary woe-is-me bleat. Now we say it proudly, chest out. The busier we are the better.

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About the Author

Alison Sweeney is a freelance communications professional. Her personal blog is The Instant Coffee.

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