In today’s society—particularly among college students—the phrase, “sorry, I’m really busy this week,” has become the instinctive response when confronted with a commitment we had previously agreed to, but can no longer fulfill. Being “busy” has become a catchall excuse to relieve us of any obligation we’ve made in the past. The truth of the matter is that we live overextended lives, we overcommit and it is time we are honest about the realities of our hectic schedules in order to lead more productive and fulfilling lives.
The very term “busy” is rather perplexing and nuanced. Its meaning has transformed over time, to the point where it has become impossible to distinguish what is considered “busy” and what is not. Some people say they’re busy for the sake of saying it, and others say it with the true intent of conveying their active and overloaded schedules. Furthermore, the context in which this phrase is used, as well as the person who says it, alters our perception of busyness. The extent of one’s busyness may be contingent upon the occupation, income, age or gender of a person, thus making it difficult to define this term with a universal translation. The irony here is that the very definition of the term presupposes that we have many things to do, and yet, we use the term as a means of avoiding these commitments.
Being “busy” is not exclusive to the Boston College student body. It affects everyone, across all ages and professions. However, college students are undoubtedly the most susceptible victims, and this is why:
Before arriving to BC, my Dad told me, “take advantage of all the opportunities you will have, try out lots of different clubs; this is the only time you are going to have all of these things available at your fingertips.” In my serious attempt to put his advice into action, I’ve joined lots of different clubs, pursued many varying interests, and have attempted to utilize as many of the resources available to me as I sanely can. While this advice is incredibly valuable, it can also be potentially perilous in the way that we interpret it as college students.
While it is essential to take full advantage of the college experience, we often misconstrue this advice to imply that we ought to seize the opportunity to get involved in everything we possibly can—eventually overcommitting ourselves. We are bombarded day one with all the different opportunities available to us. The ability to walk through BC’s Student Activities Fair without being submerged into a state of paralysis by the abundance of clubs and organizations is a feat in itself.
Our experience as college students is analogous to that of being kids in a candy store—we are excited, we want to try everything we see, and touch everything within our grasp. The difference is that this time, we don’t have Mom or Dad cutting us off—that we have to do on our own.
The fact that being busy has become habitual makes it progressively harder for us to say no to commitments and be honest with ourselves and others about what we can realistically handle. We make the assumption that because it is habitual, it is the norm. In a way, to be busy is to fulfill the ‘normal’ role of being a good college student; at least that is what I felt in respects to my father’s advice.
We are so overwhelmed by the opportunities available to us that we overcommit. Our busyness is purely self-imposed: we volunteer ourselves for classes, activities and sports, often with the misguided impression that we can handle an infinite number of these commitments.
Perhaps it is difficult for us to say no in fear of what we might have to face in the absence of busyness—the inevitable challenges that we are presented with on a daily basis. In this sense, we like to use busyness as a means of distraction. What we fail to realize, however, is that we are casting a blind eye to the deleterious effects overcommitting has, not only on our own well-beings, but the on well-beings of those depending on us.
Often doing fewer things, and following through with those commitments with your full and utmost attention, fervor and dedication is more valuable than doing a larger quantity of different things, and only being partially committed. Not only will this increase productivity in our lives, but it will also allow us to take away a more meaningful experience from the things to which we commit.
I am not advocating that we all drop our commitments to pursue a life of abnegation—it is important that we take initiative in our lives and stay involved. However, we must recognize that we have an obligation, to ourselves and to those depending on us, to be cognizant of what we can manage and what we cannot.
We all have busy schedules; the struggle is prioritizing our responsibilities. So the next time you want to make the claim that you are “too busy,” stop and take a second to think about why, and whether your busyness is the product of something that truly adds meaning to your experience.