6 Reasons you should never talk to your friends about how busy you are

1. Talking about how busy you are stresses you out.

Talking about your stress only makes it worse. So why do we do it? Because it is instant gratification.

When you pour your heart out to whoever you can find about how busy you are, you can trade time (you pouring your heart out about how buried in work you are) for instant gratification (the person you are talking to feels obligated to tell you how awesome you are). All things considered, it is pretty awesome instant gratification.

But it is also a waste of time.

Maybe I’m the only one – but telling people about what I have to do only adds to the stress.


This whole post spawned from a conversation I heard last week. I came back from work and was relaxing on the couches downstairs (playing Candy Crush Saga – because I have a problem); there was a group of five sophomores across the lounge, complaining about their work.

“Oh my gosh, I have to write a four page paper for Mizenko by next week!”

“Four pages? That’s horrible! Me too – I have so much Japanese homework tonight. It’s like three worksheets.”

“I can’t believe how much work we have. I have to study all day for a quiz!”

They went on and on, and I had to stifle a laugh because you’re sophomores. I remember what being a sophomore was like – you think you are so busy with work, but nothing compared to senior year (like me). 

And this is the problem.

  • Sophomores think freshmen are over-reacting when it comes to work, because reading two books for class isn’t a big deal.
  • Juniors think sophomores are over-reacting, because at least they aren’t taking any 300 level classes.
  • Seniors think juniors are over-reacting because we have to do a graduation thesis, apply to grad school, and deal with people asking (and judging) our life plans every day.
  • And “real word” people think college students are over-reacting because, hello, you sit around taking pictures of your coffee and text books, post drunk twitter updates, and complain all day long.

An hour later, as I passed the common room on the way to dinner, I heard them. They were still complaining. No joke. Same people, same problems. That same sophomore was complaining about the same worksheets, and I just wanted to call back through the door “you could have already finished them by now if you had done it, rather than just complaining.”

But I didn’t, because that would be bad form. I’m trying to be a nicer person.

Anyways, at dinner, my friends started talking about work and, I’m not even joking, we had the exact same complaints as those sophomores. Too much to study, too many worksheets, too many books to read, too many papers to write – we sounded exactly like them. I hope no one over-heard us because, looking from an outside perspective, we sounded rather pathetic.

So why is our first reaction under stress to tell everyone about it?


2. It is kind of like bragging

I get this feeling that when people get together and talk about their business, they expect (and hope) the next person will say “Wow, you really are so busy! You totally beat me! I don’t know how you do it!”

But no one actually says that.

Life is not a competition of who can do the most things in the least amount of time. It doesn’t matter if I am working on a five page paper due next week while you are drowning in six essays and two book reports due Friday. We’re both stressed.

Furthermore, the fact that you have to do “more” things than me doesn’t discount my ability to feel stressed. I am allowed to be stressed whenever I want; my stress is not conditional to the stress of those around me.

If you want to brag about how amazing you are because you work three jobs, are a full-time student, and coach a children’s soccer team, talk to your therapist, parents, or significant other. They kind of exist to inflate your ego.

But don’t talk to your friends about it.

We don’t exist just to make you feel better about yourself. Believe it or not, the people you are talking to have their own feelings, frustrations, and panic attacks that span from stress. They’ve just, you know, learned how to keep it to themselves.


3. Life is not a competition of who can do the most

A while back, before I reached that state of Nirvana and stopped talking to people about my work schedule, I was complaining with a friend about classwork. We were doing the usual:

“Oh my gosh, I have a paper due on Friday and I haven’t even started it yet.”

“Wow, that sucks. I know how you feel. I need to read 200 hundred pages of this before class tomorrow.”

“Ouch. Oh, did I mention I also have to work the late-night shift at campus safety? I don’t know how I’m going to get this paper done.”

“Oh well, at least you don’t have a hard major like mine!”

I nearly choked on my pumpkin spice coffee. Did she discount my entire college experience?

She continued, “I mean with your IR major, you can just kind of bullshit your way through a paper. But I have to legitimately study for my Bio quiz.”

I just kind of replied with a “Oh, sucks to be you” and a mental note to ignore her for the next month as I stressed about graduation.

See, that’s the problem with these conversations. It didn’t matter what I said. In her eyes, my stress level perpetually lived below hers, because I had one of those joke majors in humanities. I wasn’t doing hard science. Everyone knows hard science is, well, the hardest.

Each of us wanted to win. Each of us wanted to be the “busiest” and earn the respect of the other. But when both people are talking and neither one is listening… how can you expect change?


4. Everyone handles stress differently

As we grow, so does our capacity to handle stress, assignments, and projects. That is why (most) high school students don’t have the drive or ability to found their own magazine or crank out papers on long-lasting effects of the secular religious nature of France. But that doesn’t mean they are not working their hardest. They probably are.

Do you know what I do when I’m stress? I lock myself in the library (figuratively) or my office (literally) until I finish. During high school, I actually spent the night once or twice in the library before a Bio exam (before you think that my parents were horrible, irresponsible people – this was a boarding school).

Other people go running. Or binge eating. Or do Netflix marathons in between study sessions. Or talk to literally every single person in sight about how busy they are – so they can get instant gratification.

I’m not judging you for your stress-coping strategy (unless you are the fourth option, then I am totally judging you).

So don’t judge other’s stress by what they say. Some people (enlightened people) don’t feel comfortable bragging and comparing their achievements to others. That doesn’t mean they don’t have problems. And, you know, they might get tired of you always talking about how hard your life is.


5. You’re not actually THAT busy

Face it, you’re not. I know you think you are busy beyond belief. And you probably are. But you’re never THAT busy. There is always time to sleep, always time to sleep, and always time to take a short break. If you tell me that you haven’t slept in two days because you’ve been so busy, I automatically assume you have poor time management skills.

Because if you’re cornering me after class to tell me how busy you are, how you haven’t slept in days, and how you have been working non-stop all week to finish this application, I automatically assume you are either a liar or have awful time management skills. Because, you know, you’re wasting time talking to me.

There are 24 hours in a day. A surprising amount can be done in a couple caffeine laced hours.

The easiest way to tell if I am busy or not is to check my room. If I’m in it, I’m not busy. If you haven’t seen me in weeks and are beginning to wonder if I finally gave in and just ran back to Japan, I’m probably dealing with a lot of stress right now and am buried somewhere on the fourth floor of the library.

And if I am, do me a favor, and don’t come find me. Let me work through it on my own. When I’m better, less busy, and less judgmental/generally angry at everyone and everything, I will catch up with you over dinner.


6. Talking about how busy you are wastes time

Complaining about your stress is trading time for instant gratification in the form of compliments from your friends (or random strangers you cornered in line at Starbucks). And it wastes time.

As Nike says: “Just do it.”

Don’t talk about it. Don’t brag about it. Don’t complain about it. Just do it.

If you were actually THAT busy, you wouldn’t be wasting time talking to me.

[Add me on Google Plus: +Grace Buchele]

About Grace Buchele Mineta

I got into the writing business by accident. Now I live in the countryside near Tokyo with my husband, Ryosuke, where I draw comics, blog, and make videos about our daily life. Contact: Website | More Posts

12 Comments on 6 Reasons you should never talk to your friends about how busy you are

  1. I agree. I don’t like feeling “I’m busy” , saying “I’m busy”, and I don’t like the kanji of busy 忙しい either. 忙, the left radical might look like 小(small), but it was actually derived from 心(heart). The right radical is 亡. 亡くなる is an euphemistic expression of “die/pass away”. So, saying/writing “I’m busy”sounds/looks like “My heart is dead”. 恨=Grudge, 悔=Regret etc, many “emotion/heart” based kanji have the radical on their left.(Sorry, I can’t think up positive kanji with the radical now:P).

    Come to think of it, the kanji of forget(忘れる) also consist of “心(heart) and 亡(pass away)”. Yeah, I hate forgetting new English words that I memorized:P. but, somehow, I don’t hate the kanji of forget as much as the kanji of busy.

  2. Anonymous // 15 March, 2014 at 8:03 am //

    I totally agree on what you are saying the stress of being to busy when we actually have time to eat ad sleep and talk to others about.

    • Right? That’s one of my biggest pet peeves.
      But, you know, being busy is pretty glorified in most cultures. So I understand why people always want to talk about it.

  3. There certainly is a culture of business that I think borderlines on mental illness. The feeling that in order to be successful or feel accomplished, every second of the day need to be crammed with some kind of business whether it’s work or recreation. Relaxation gets overlooked because perhaps it seems like nothing is being accomplished. Business isn’t always bad (being busy doing something you enjoy, helping people, etc.), but I think you’re right that nobody should be complaining about it because 99% of the time people are busy because they’ve chosen to be, which includes not making wise choices with one’s time. Take me for instance; I have a couple hours to finish developing an application (that I haven’t started), but instead I’m writing this comment about people complaining about being busy, which intensifies my own feelings of being busy. But you won’t see me complaining about it to anyone! I own my irresponsibility and I know that this [poor] choice is my own and no one else is to blame.

    The problem I have with business is that I think every time in a person’s life is precious. When you’re chronically busy, there isn’t enough time to appreciate the chapter of your life that you’re going through. Years disappear in the blink of an eye. If we give in to the busy culture, I fear that we’ll suddenly be at the end of our life feeling like we just did a bunch of stuff without considering what it all meant – without making a serious effort to ponder our own experiences and be thankful for our chance to be alive and part of the world.

    I think the moral that I’m trying to get at is – people should meditate…like, a lot. Anyway, I’m busy, so I’m going to finish that application. Your blog is awesome Grace!

    • Oh no, I’ve been saying business instead of busyness – NOOO!

      • That’s ok! I know what you meant :)

        (and I kind assumed that business is the same as busyness. Busyness just looks awkward)

    • At the risk of sounding hypocritical, I’m only now replying to comments because I’ve been overwhelmed. I guess it is the issue with priorities.

      I hope you got to finish your application on time!

      But I definitely do agree with your first point – we have all been drilled to believe that if we are not busy, we are not utilizing our full talent. “Free time” means “not working hard enough.”I don’t like that thought. I think people should be allowed to do whatever we want, whenever we want, for however much money they choose to make. You don’t have to be rich and “successful” to be happy.

      Unfortunately, most people in college/grad school don’t necessarily think that way.

  4. Exactly! Thanks for wording it so well. I dislike doing homework in a group setting- it wastes too much time. I’d rather finish my homework in a quarter of the time, then watch Netflix/learn for fun/read something. People think I barely have any homework, when I really just get things done.

    • Me too. I had a friend complaining to me a while back “Grace, you don’t understand what it’s like to be busy all the time. I’m taking four classes this semester.”
      And I bit my tongue. I was taking 5 classes and working twenty hours a week to save up for study abroad.

      People shouldn’t punish us for getting things done in a timely manner :/

  5. hacknoodle // 20 October, 2013 at 9:14 pm //

    This is a fantastic piece. In my current experience, I meet a lot of non-traditional students that are trying to make a step into a new career, or trying to manage work with studying and how adjust their social life around that. Some are completing their degree early, others are working FT or PT. Some are single and others are married. One quality that I notice in these interactions is that what makes someone stand out in a crowd (at least, that’s how it appears) is how vividly they announce the physical and mental sacrifices they underwent in producing the highest quality work. It becomes a competition for who can fabricate a more compelling, sympathetic narrative that ultimately feeds one’s ego. This is a shame, because although a university classroom is a space for open discussions of problems and solutions, it also is a forum for this type of self-serving instant gratification you so excellently illuminated upon. What is perhaps most troubling, perhaps, is that in some classes (especially my math classes) the professors are complicit in the self-congratulatory ritual, often wasting time in the beginning of class to share opinions about a student’s herculean efforts to study for a test and then go work a night shift. And then cure cancer. And then tame an ice dragon.

    And who can blame them, as professors themselves were once university students who had to experience the same challenges. In my classrooms, almost 90% of all students are male, and the feeling I have when we start to start to complain about work is abysmal and irritating. Not only does it activate a series of self-deprecating thought processes and distract me, but it only thickens the already toxic and negative atmosphere that you could cut it with a knife. The competition is fierce and the passive aggressive complaining is stultifying.

    It also hits home because I noticed after reading this post that I myself am 100% guilty of complaining about my work and how I need to manage it in a certain amount of time. I can even sense in the memory of self-gratification that a portion of the complaint made me feel good about myself. But at the same time, I feel, I complained as a way of expressing solidarity with my fellow classmates, and in some of my classes complaining about work evoked nostalgic feelings of times when we were freshman and sophomores with the same professors, in the same classrooms, but dealing with lower-level work that seemed so impossible back then.

    Sometimes the best articles are those that appear concordantly with certain life moments that really change the way you wake up the next day and face your friends and family. I for one come away feeling refreshed after reading this. Well done! :)

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