The 4-Letter Word Everyone is Using


By Mark Timm, CEO Ziglar Family


There is a 4-letter word so pervasive in society today that nobody even seems to notice its use anymore.

Like all 4- letter words, it’s ugly and negative, and people tend to use it in frustration.  The word?


Busy has become an overused adjective that is dropped in so many situations it’s almost completely unnoticed.

Speaking to a friend you haven’t seen in a while who asks how you’re doing: Oh, I’m good, but I’ve been so busy!

Responding to someone who mentions they haven’t seen you at church, or at a social group lately:  I couldn’t make it; I’ve been too busy.

Working with a financial counselor who is suggesting a way to get your family finances back in order:  I don’t have time to do that work now; I’m too busy.

Families are too busy with activities to eat dinner together.

Professionals are too busy with work to get to the gym or to take a walk.

Moms are too busy running the kids everywhere to read a good book.

Everyone is too busy to undertake any continuing learning.

What if we eliminated the word busy from our vocabulary, and instead used vocabulary that more accurately reflects the situation:  I don’t choose to prioritize that at this time.  

I don’t choose to prioritize dinner time with my family.

I don’t choose to prioritize exercise or making healthy meals.

I don’t choose to prioritize church or prayer time.

I don’t choose to prioritize my continuing education.

I don’t choose to prioritize managing my finances.


That hurts a little bit, doesn’t it?

It hurts because it’s true.

Zig Ziglar said, “Lack of direction, not lack of time, is the problem.  We all have 24-hour days.”  And he’s exactly right!

Yes, we need sleep — although some people don’t give that much priority either — but we are 100% in control of how we spend our 16 – 18 waking hours.

One. Hundred. Percent.

If you can accept that premise, that the choice is yours, then you’re ready to make some changes to your busy life, and start taking control of how you choose to prioritize your time.

It’s not going to be as easy as just making the decision, though.  You’ve likely spent years getting yourself into your current chaotic situation, and you’re not going to make it better overnight.

My recommendation is to start by sitting down and listing what is most important to you in order of priority.  Be honest with yourself, and write down what is really important, not just what is currently filling your schedule.

Once you’ve got your list, you’ll want to keep it somewhere that you can see it every day.

Say, for example, someone from the PTA calls and asks you to make cookies for the bake sale, and you happen to notice that “bake cookies for the PTA” is not high on your priority list. You can be empowered by your list to just say no!

It’s ok!  N-O is not a 4-letter word!

Yes, you’re going to feel like you’re disappointing some people who are used to you doing all things for everyone.  You’re just going to have to get over it!

Unless what someone is asking of you aligns with YOUR priorities, you’ve got to be tough and keep it off your calendar.

If nothing else, think about the example you’re setting for your kids.  The reality is, you’re teaching them to use that 4-letter word like it’s some sort of badge of honor.  Is that really what you want to do? I don’t think so.

It’s time to clean up your vocabulary.  Kick out that “dirty” word, and don’t let it back in. It might be a radical change for you, but I promise, you’ll be so much better for it!

What do you think?  Can you re-frame your vocabulary to eliminate the busy excuse and call it what it is:  a priority problem?  Share your thoughts below!









  1. Cinnamon May 20, 2017 at 6:20 pm - Reply

    Good point. It’s relevant whether one is talking about family/children issues, or life in general. I guess, using the “busy” word, we avoid having to prioritize our time and efforts. It may have become an easy way out of making decisions; but in the long run, we miss out on so many valuable activities and choices we might have chosen. Thanks for the article.

  2. john hardy May 20, 2017 at 6:42 pm - Reply

    Love that it is a called a priority problem, This word very much describes my life, I will have to adopt this new word.

  3. Tim May 20, 2017 at 6:43 pm - Reply

    True points and as Jim Rohn says (sorta) if you don’t choose your priorities someone else will and their priorities very often will not help you thrive.

    • Jen May 21, 2017 at 8:02 pm - Reply

      I love that, Tim!

  4. Gary D. Collier May 20, 2017 at 6:49 pm - Reply

    Fully agree, great point! Mark I remember my parents and grandparents being busy all the time, too. But actually, they kept their priorities up front. Family and church were two of the most important for them. Sometimes I get harried. But I tend to always find time to do what I really want to do. Thanks for the reminder.

  5. Ashira Malka May 20, 2017 at 9:52 pm - Reply

    This is perfect.
    It exactly reflects, condenses, and articulates how I feel —
    about the too-often used (without thought) word that I now know to call a four-letter one!
    Thank you. 🙂

  6. Francesco May 20, 2017 at 10:30 pm - Reply

    Yeah it’s really amazing to have a good time with your spouse and your family.But nowadays most of the people use this magic word “Busy”, they are busy and always busy.Until they realize that spent more time with your spouse and your family is the precious thing you ever had in your life most precious than money and everything in your life. The quality time with your family is the most vulnerable than other things.

  7. Cathy Jimenez May 20, 2017 at 10:34 pm - Reply

    Spot on! I love this article! You are absolutely right. No excuses! I have noticed as I make commitments and make myself follow through on commitments, things do change. It does get better. And easier. I wish I could improve in all areas at the same time! Lol

    • Jen May 21, 2017 at 8:01 pm - Reply

      One spoke at a time, Cathy! 🙂 .

  8. Carmel May 21, 2017 at 12:17 am - Reply

    I agree, busy is an overused word with negative connotations, but isn’t “don’t” as well?
    I am one who is guilty of not saying no often enough, especially when it comes to prioritizing my children. But for my children’s sake, I have to think hard before I say don’t as well. Rethink, rephrase, and explain why the request is being denied, so they do not feel I am rejecting their requests outright.
    Busy and don’t are both on my four letter word hit-list. 🙂

    • Jen May 21, 2017 at 7:56 pm - Reply

      Love it, Carmel!

  9. Ita May 21, 2017 at 5:55 am - Reply

    So appreciated, so sensible, so true, and SOOO thought provoking ….I’m working on seizing the moments to prioritize & upgrade those steps towards my life’s mission. Thanks for the most necessary reminder. I’m no longer busy…but that’s a tough habit to undo cold turkey…

    • Jen May 21, 2017 at 7:55 pm - Reply

      It is, Ita! I am trying hard to drop that word and I’m so surprised by how often I actually do use it!

  10. Nikki May 21, 2017 at 8:00 am - Reply

    That was a punch to the heart. I use that word for too much. Yes you’re right we need to ditch that word and prioritize. Thanks for this confirmation, this has been my prayer for my life that God would help me to prioritize things in my life and be a better example to my children. Learning how to say NO is hard but when you dont put things on your plate just to be appart of everything, its freeing. Im going to practice not using the word BUSY and replace a new word PRIORITIES. THANKS

  11. Stacy May 21, 2017 at 3:08 pm - Reply

    It’s so very true. Thanks for the reminder.

  12. Pam May 22, 2017 at 10:53 am - Reply

    Very true, however I have another 4-letter word that I thought you were going to comment about.
    CAN’T stops you in your tracks, keeps you from going forward, limits you.

  13. Kylie July 1, 2017 at 2:46 am - Reply

    I’m not a fan of the we all have 24 hours in a day statement. I have a cronic debilitating illness. I often need 12 to 16 hrs sleep to survive. I often have only 2hrs a day that I can do anything physical (like the dishes) and I work more slowly than others. Yes we all have 24 hours but sometimes what we can do in those hours is beyond our control.

    • Merry October 26, 2017 at 1:49 am - Reply

      Right Kylie. While prioritazation may often be the reason people are “busy,” there are emergencies and unusual circumstances some people face. I prefer not to be judgmental. I used to be chronically disabled with pain, so I understand your situation.

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