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Not Enough Time to be Busy?

I’m feeling quite ‘busy’ at the moment. Balancing work and obligations and family and friendships and planning and life. I’m sure you know the feeling…

And some of that other stuff that often accompanies busyness – a sense of rushing, checking, efficiency, expedience – is becoming more pronounced. So busy’s getting bigger, taking up more space. And the space left over is shrinking.

Yet in between all of that, life continues on. For life doesn’t seem to stop for ‘busy;’ or let you catch up with it later, when it might be more convenient somehow.

No, it seems that this is it when it comes to life.

And if, as that old saying goes, all we have is the present moment, then where does that leave us when we’re either too ‘busy’ to attend to that moment; or if we’ve already skipped on ahead of it, projecting and planning the future at today’s expense?

Where does it leave you?

When you’re busy doing things, does it leave you with less time for being?

And when your mind ‘races ahead,’ what gets left behind?

Are you sort of left here, still present in body, but not in mind or spirit? (Lights on but nobody home). And if so, how could you invite yourself back ‘home’ for a moment, to reconnect more consciously with this unfolding moment of your life?

If busyness feels like a fairly steady companion for you, then what sort of companion is it exactly? Does it share you with anyone else, or let you go to other more relaxing activities, too – or does it prefer to keep you all to itself wherever possible? Is it jealous of your time away from it?

And so – to ask another question from a narrative therapy perspective – what plan might busyness have for your life?

What does it want for you?

What sort of existence would it have you lead?

(And does that match up with your own vision and hopes?)

If not, then perhaps it’s worth taking another look at the things that have been prioritised on your to-do list. And to find out whether ‘living’ or ‘relaxing’ or ‘savouring’ might be given any space on there somewhere.

Busyness is often given a lot of kudos in the western world. It’s almost a badge of honour. It feels important. Even worthy, perhaps. But is that enough, considering what you might be exchanging it for?

To take this thought even further, using a challenging and quite somber existential perspective, see if you can imagine your whole life in retrospect for a moment.

As though you’re looking at it from a place where it’s already been lived.

As if you could even see what was written on your own gravestone…

And what if you read:

“She was always very busy”


“He got through a big to-do list”


“She was efficient”


“They worked hard”

What does it feel like to ponder that?

And if those imaginary epitaphs don’t sit too comfortably, then what would you like to be written there? What would you like your life to mean? How would you like it to have impacted your loved ones? Your community? Which qualities top the list?

How might you start making more time for that stuff amongst the busyness?

(And in light of all of that, how much time do you actually have to be ‘busy’…?)


Photo: Gabrielle Gawne-Kelnar

Gabrielle Gawne-Kelnar (Grad Dip Counselling & Psychotherapy) is a Sydney psychotherapist in private practice at One Life Counselling & Psychotherapy. Gabrielle also co-facilitates telephone support groups for people who are living with cancer, for their carers, and for people who have been bereaved through a cancer experience. She is the editor of a journal on counselling and psychotherapy and she provides regular therapeutic updates on facebook and Twitter @OneLifeTherapy.

Not Enough Time to be Busy?

Gabrielle Gawne-Kelnar

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APA Reference
Gawne-Kelnar, G. (2010). Not Enough Time to be Busy?. Psych Central. Retrieved on April 4, 2020, from


Last updated: 5 Nov 2010
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