Picture a teenager needing to study for a big history exam on Friday. It’s Monday and for the first time in a year, he cleans his room. On Tuesday, during homework hours, he takes the garbage out, does his household chores without being asked, and then, exhausted with this amazing two-day display of obedience, he plays video games the rest of the evening. 

Wednesday he spends most of the evening plinking in his history book and notes, but can’t keep his mind focused, so he sends text messages to his friends about the exam and how hard it is. He makes a dozen trips to the kitchen and pantry for little pick-me-up snacks. He hides behind being busy as a replacement for being productive. Thursday, he complains to his parents that he’s not ready for the exam because he’s been so busy cleaning his room, doing chores, and helping his classmates study.

Growing up introduced me to the adult version of being busy over being productive. When parents are too busy to spend quality time with their children, they send a message that their children are a low priority, and their offspring develop, over thousands of experiences, the internal belief that they are not lovable, and that they are not important. 

When the teenager graduates as an emerging adult (18 – 40 yrs old), his capacity to avoid productivity is manifested in playing the role of a victim. When something doesn’t get done, he explains that things are too hard, he’s too busy, too many things came up, and he fills his time with non-productive behavior. He feigns interest in the boss, her activities, other areas of the business that are unrelated to his role and responsibilities.

Being busy is a fear-driven behavior supported by false narratives, such as, “I’m not good enough,” “I don’t deserve…”, and “I’m not good enough.” 

When you’re ready to escape the trap of being busy, it’s time to find your purpose and prioritize your behavior.