The Difference Between Business and Busyness

Business refers to a professional activity while busyness can describe busy people or busy work. We'll look at both the definition of the words and also how we tend to confuse being busy as being successful in business.

The Difference Between Business and Busyness

Business and Busyness are two words mentioned often by entrepreneurs and hustlers. Business refers to a professional activity while busyness can describe busy people or busy work. We'll look at both the definition of the words and also how we tend to confuse being busy as being successful in business.

Homophones, words that sound the same, but have different spellings and meanings can be challenging to grasp, especially in the English language. Two such words are ‘business’ and ‘busyness,’ which both have very different meanings. What’s the difference between business and busyness?

Business refers to a person’s occupation or trade, while busyness refers to the state of being occupied with many things to do.

Understanding how business and busyness differ can drastically change the way we look at work in general – let's breakdown these two common workplace words.

Let's first take a look at the meaning of business.

What Is Business?

Business generally refers to a person’s occupation or trade. For example, a person might say, “Business is good” to indicate that their sales are increasing. The word business can also be used in several other contexts as well.

The definition of business (busi·ness/ˈbiznəs/)

  1. a person's regular occupation, profession, or trade."she had to do a lot of smiling in her business"
  2. the practice of making one's living by engaging in commerce."the jewelry business"

Business is also defined as making one’s living through commerce in a particular field. For example, you might have a friend or colleague in the insurance business. In this case, business refers to the trade in which the person makes a living. Lastly, business can be used in a negative context when referring to something scandalous or underhand.

In these examples, the word business doesn’t refer to a literal occupation, trade, or company; instead, it’s used to suggest a person’s involvement in something unethical.

  • “This blackmailing business has gone too far”
  • “She’s in the business of swindling money”

Does being successful in business require a person to always be busy? Someone who always has a lot of activities to accomplish must be successful in their business – right? I think this is a common misconception in the business world. While one person may never seem to have enough time – it often means they just need to improve how they utilize their time to better delegate tasks.

Let's take a look at the meaning of busyness.

What Is Busyness?

Busyness is an uncommon conjugation of the word ‘busy’ and means the state of being busy – or busy work. In this context, it quite simply means that the person being spoken about is very busy.

The definition of busyness (busy·ness/ˈbizēnəs/)

  1. 1.the state or condition of having a great deal to do."it's easy to get caught up in the busyness of life"
  2. 2.the quality of being excessively detailed or decorated."the busyness of the interior design"

Of course, busyness can be used in other contexts, too. Oftentimes, people will use the word busyness to indicate that something is full of activity. For example, the word would be used in this context here: “The busyness of a beehive continues to amaze entomologists.” As a noun, this meaning defines the state of something as being constantly active – or a lot of activity.

Busyness can have a third meaning depending on the context when referring to interior design. Generally, it is used in a negative context to imply that the interior or exterior of a structure has “too much going on.”

Someone observing this quality of a building might say, “The busyness of this painting distracts too much from the ornate furniture.” In this example, the speaker is expressing displeasure that some or all parts of a design element are distracting or ill-fitting because of too many conflicting colors, designs, or eye-catching details.

Someone might also conjugate this word as ‘busy’ and say, “This room is too busy. There’s way too much going on.” Similarly to the second meaning, wherein busyness refers to an abundance of activity, this third meaning suggests an abundance of objects that catch the eye, usually to the detriment of the design elements as a whole.

Ok– so you understand the definition of busyness – let's take a look at how busyness can be a roadblock for success in your business.  

How Are Business and Busyness Different?

First– there is the technical differences. Business and busyness differ first and foremost in their spelling. This is, of course, how the two are distinguished in writing. When spoken verbally, you’ll have to use the context of the conversation to determine the speaker’s meaning.

For example, if a person says, “We’ve had a lot of good business lately,” then they are probably referring to the first meaning ‘business’ and indicating that their occupation is going well.

On the other hand, if someone comments, “I’ve just been so caught up in the busyness of life that I haven’t had time to focus on myself,” then they are implying that their life is full of activity.

In addition to the difference in spelling and meaning, the two words are usually pronounced differently. ‘Business’ is generally pronounced with just two syllables [bizz-ness], while ‘busyness’ is usually more drawn out with three syllables [bizz-eeh-ness].

This distinction is usually a verbal clue to the listener to distinguish which word the speaker is using, although because the words have very different meanings, you can usually figure out which one the speaker is using by context alone.

Ok, so we know that business and busyness mean two different things – but even the most educational

The Business of Busyness

One common mistake many new founders and entrepreneurs make is to confuse business with busyness – not the just the meaning of the words – but also how as a society we feel being busy is how to find success in business.

Today we are completely consumed by media– commonly social media. It's a time suck on our lives and it is purposely designed that way. We have become a culture of busy people that are led to believe we don't have enough time– when in reality the amount of time we have each day has been one of the only things to never change.

We tell ourselves that we "don't have enough time" to do this, we "don't have much time" to complete that, or this other thing is just "a waste of time".

The most successful business people are those that are the best at managing their time. They create to-do lists, they delegate activities, they set priorities, and they know the best way to get a particular task done.