Do You Feel Too Busy? What’s Really Going On

By Jimmy Turner, MD
The Physician Philosopher

Sometimes what we need to hear and what we want to hear are two different things.  That’s certainly the case with today’s post, which involves a conversation I commonly have with people.  Stop saying you are too busy, and just be honest.  And, when you stop being busy, maybe you’ll find that you can be productive on what matters most.  

This post was first published by the notorious PIMD over at Passive Income MD.  It is featured here today as a Saturday Selection.

Don’t Be Busy, Be Productive

Quick! How many times this past week have you used the word “busy?”

I’m too busy, I’m so busy, I’ve been busy.

People seem to just love using the word and carry it around like a badge of honor.

I know I do at times.

When I talk to people about my different roles as a physician, husband, father, entrepreneur, blogger, people tend to respond with, “you must be so busy.”

Who Isn’t Busy?

The truth is though, which physician isn’t busy?

If you’re working 50-60 hours a week seeing patients, running back and forth from the clinic to the operating room, rushing through a 5-10 minute lunch (or skipping it altogether), you’re busy.

If you have a significant other, and you’re trying to devote time to your relationship on top of your professional life, you’re busy.

If you’re a parent and are trying to carve time out to be present with your kids, taking care of them, going to soccer games, trying to help them with homework, or just being a human rock wall (like I am these days), you’re busy.

If you have other side hustles and are pursuing them to try to gain financial freedom, then you’re busy.

If you have other things you’re passionate about like music, art, or gardening, and are trying to hone your craft and expand your mind outside medicine, then you’re busy.

The funny thing, I’ve stopped trying to use that word when describing myself.

“I’m Busy” Is An Excuse

Busy carries a certain connotation, almost a mindset. And, for the most part, I don’t think it’s positive. In fact, not only have I used it as a badge of honor, it has been used as an excuse – an excuse not to be excellent in all aspects of my life.

Why did I not follow through on that thing for my wife?

“Things got really busy.”

Why can I not spend that much time with a close friend who happened to visit?

Well, I’m busy.”

Why did it take me extra long to complete that project for my business?

“I’m just so busy.”

I’m kinda tired of being busy.

What would I rather be? I’d rather be productive and my focus is on that.

I don’t know about you, but I have certain people in my life who help push me to be better. Of course, my wife is one of them. But I’ve spent a lot of my time with people lately who I’ve seen are working on themselves in the same way I’m working on myself.

They’re trying to be better and more productive doctors, entrepreneurs, partners, parents, and every role in between.

Being Busy Vs. Being Productive

Busy means the focus is on how much time I’m spending on something. Productive means making the results the priority.

No longer do I just say I’m going to spend the next hour working on something. I now say I’m going to get these things done now.

Have you noticed that if you have to devote a certain time to something, it typically takes that entire time? Why? Because you’ll get distracted in the middle, you’ll focus more on how much time you have versus what needs to get done.

I create a checklist of things to do and get it done.

Busy means multitasking. Productive means focusing on one thing at a time.

Now, this is a struggle for me. At any given time, I feel like I’m juggling a million things. I’m sure everyone feels the same.

So I jump back and forth between tasks getting little bits and pieces done and often, everything is half-complete. I don’t feel that “win” of being totally productive and all I’ve spent is time to finish nothing.

The goal is to stop multitasking so much. They say that when you switch back and forth between tasks, it wastes a ton of mental energy.

To change gears, it takes a few minutes to switch to something new. So when I try to write a blog post, then answer a phone call, then check sports, then back to my other side hustles, the switching is wasting a ton of mental energy and effectiveness.

Busy means not having time for anything. Productivity means having time for things that are a priority.

Again, I use that word busy as an excuse all the time. When my kid asks me to take her to the playground and I tell her I’m busy, it just means I have something more important to do at the time.

When I tell people I’m too busy to help them with something but find time to binge watch a favorite show, it just means that it’s not a priority.

When it’s a priority and you’re focused on being productive, you’ll find the time, energy, and effort needed to do something.

But is there a way to pursue all the things you want to do and not be busy?

As someone who is working on this now, I figure it’s a matter of using our time more wisely so we can be more efficient.

Make It Happen

My goal is to be action-oriented and focus on results. I have to be better at setting goals and making sure I accomplish them, not have a long list of unfinished tasks.

At the end of the day, I don’t want to be too busy for my family, friends, and to do the things I love. That’s the whole point of financial freedom anyways.

To have the choice to do what I want, I just have to choose not to be busy so I can have the time to pursue what I want.


  1. Brent Lacey

    Building margin into our lives is critical to maintaining sanity, let alone thriving in our non-work activities. This has always been one of the hardest things for me to do. Your “Heck, yes” policy is a great tool for helping maintain margin in our lives. Great article!

  2. Physician, Heal Thyself

    Couldn’t agree more. Everyone in medicine is “busy”, but are we busy for the sake of being busy or are we getting ourselves to where we want to be?
    I find that a good way to evaluate if I’m putting quality time in the right places. Thanks for the writeup!

  3. Max @ Max Out of Pocket

    I can certainly agree with the goal of not multitasking so much. I have been turning off my corporate email these days to work on a specific project since I tend to deviate from the “productive” task at hand for a “busy” task. The real value is usually in a productive task, but something tends to pull me into the busywork.

    Take care,



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