Four reasons why small business owners get rewarded for being busy all the time, and how it doesn’t serve you

When I attended the One Woman Conference in October 2018, the founder asked us:

“Who here wears busy as a badge of honour?”

Awkwardness. A little silence. And then a lot of nodding and ‘uh-huh’ing.

Because you know what that means.

Busy as a badge of honour is

  • “I’ve just got so much on right now” said with a humble smile
  • “Oh, it’s exhausting having all these commitments” said with a hint of martyrdom
  • “I’ll help you with that – even though I’m up to my eyeballs” said with a smug look

Wearing busy as a badge of honour is when you take pride in how tired, rushed and over-committed you are. You take joy in completing your extensive to-do list, even though it’s now 4am. You’ll never turn down other people’s requests because you’re the sort of person who’s happy to do them a favour.

You secretly feel that you’re better than those people with just a few things happening in their lives. And you will always, always mention just how busy you are in conversation.

Lots of my clients come to me and they’re wearing busy as a badge of honour. They might not know it, but I can spot it a mile off. And guess what?

It does absolutely nothing to help their creativity. Nothing to help their business succeed. And definitely nothing to help them feel great running their business.

Here’s why you get rewarded for keeping busy … and why it’s definitely not what you truly need.


Being busy is better than not being busy.

Being busy is a badge of honour in this culture because ‘doing things’ is seen to be better than ‘not doing things’. Being productive is seen as better than being reflective – active better than being ‘passive’.

What you truly need is not constant productivity.

What you truly need is to listen to the rhythm of your natural energy which take you from moments of reflection to moments of production.


Being busy for other people is good (if you’re a woman).

For people who identify as women there’s an added benefit in wearing busy as a badge of honour.

This culture expects women to do work which cares for other people. Work like cleaning, cooking, looking after kids, organising lunches, raising money, supporting communities, caring for family.

For people wearing busy as a badge of honour, many of the tasks on their to-do list are for other people. Bake brownies for cake sale. Babysit for sister. Take suit to dry cleaners. Etc.

What you truly need is not to have your gender identity define how you should work.

What you truly need is to choose how you can most effectively use your energy: for you and for other people.


Being busy helps you avoid awkward feelings.

Some people can’t stand the sound of silence. Wherever they are, they have to sing along to the radio, turn on the TV or talk to themselves. The silence is deafening, because it forces them to listen.

It forces them to listen to themselves, to what’s going on inside, to their soul.

Being busy is the same. Doing nothing forces us to turn inwards and contemplate what’s there. Doing lots of things keeps our mind focused on what’s immediately in front of us, drowning out the sensations of deeper needs and desires.

What you truly need is not to stay constantly activated by noise.

What you truly need are times of doing nothing, where sitting, listening and accepting can guide you on a path that’s more in tune with who you are.


Being busy keeps you in control.

I’ll be blunt. Being busy is a form of control.

You cook all the meals. You design all your own business materials. You clean the house. You sort your own expenses. You organise the party. You look after the kids. You arrange the date night. You do it all.

And you control it all.

Wearing busy as a badge of honour is a way to control everything in your life. Keeping all those tasks to yourself means

no delegation = no need to trust = no need to communicate = no need to be vulnerable

What you truly need is not to hold on so tightly to your life that control restricts you.

What you truly need is to balance between holding and letting go, so you experience the benefits that both control and vulnerability bring.


Wearing busy as a badge of honour is a pervasive habit in this culture … and it doesn’t work.

It doesn’t make you happier.

It doesn’t make you more creative.

It doesn’t make your business more successful.

And it really doesn’t make running your business feel any better.

It’s time, I think, to give it up.

Let’s start today. No more putting ourselves second. No more not listening to our real desires. No more wearing busy as a badge of honour. Are you with me?

This post was originally sent to subscribers of my newsletter. Get this and more feel-good business advice direct to your inbox: subscribe here.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *