#194: 14 Better Ways to Say ‘I’m Busy’ [Advanced English Vocabulary]

by | Dec 16, 2020 | 30 comments

Of course, at any time of year, we can feel busy or overwhelmed. An unexpected deadline at work. A last-minute meeting. A sick family member who needs extra help. A flat tire that holds up everything else in our day.

But as we get toward the end of the year, that feeling of being busy only increases. There are holiday gifts to shop for and meals to prepare. End of year deadlines and projects to finish. Right now, many of my students are using the word ‘busy.’ But there are better ways to say I’m busy in English.

My goal is always to help you express yourself precisely and effortlessly in English.

The best way to do that is to build your vocabulary strategically with powerful adjectives, collocations, idioms, and phrasal verbs in English.

In today’s lesson, you’ll learn 14 better ways to say “I’m busy” in English plus have the opportunity to practice.

14 Better Ways to Say “I’m Busy” in English

Lesson Summary

Powerful Adjectives & Collocations to Say “I’m Busy” in English

  • To be slammed (at work) – extremely busy/overwhelmed
    • This week we’re slammed trying to meet the deadline.
  • To be swamped/snowed under – extremely busy/overwhelmed
    • I’m really swamped at work right now.
    • Our office is snowed under with a mountain of paperwork during tax season.
  • To keep someone/oneself busy – to keep someone (or yourself) occupied
    • If you have some extra time, let me know. I’ve got plenty of tasks to keep you busy

Idioms to Say “I’m Busy” in English

  • to burn the candle at both ends – to work extremely or excessively hard; to work too hard for good health or peace of mind
    • I’ll be burning the candle at both ends this weekend to get this project finished.
  • to have a full plate/to have a lot on one’s plate/to have one’s hands full – too much to do or a lot to deal with right now, which leads to feeling stressed; unable to take on more responsibility
    • She’s got her hands full right now with 3 kids under the age of 5 and a sick husband at home.
  • To be at maximum capacity – to be unable to take on more responsibilities
    • I’m at maximum capacity at work. I can’t handle one more to do request.
  • To be at full bandwidth – to have no more mental or emotional energy 
    • Lara’s at full bandwidth right now so why don’t we ask Suzanne to do this.
  • to be up to one’s eyeballs/neck in something – to have an excessive amount of work or too much of something
    • Accountants are usually up to their eyeballs in paperwork during tax season.
  • To bite off more than you can chew – to take on more work/responsibilities than you are capable of doing
    • I said ‘yes’ to too many things this month and now I’m overwhelmed. I think I bit off more than I can chew.
  • To have a lot of irons in the fire – to have multiple projects or multiple, unrelated tasks
    • We have 3 major projects with deadlines coming soon, so I have a lot of irons in the fire at work right now. I have very little time to concentrate on just one thing.

Phrasal Verbs to Say “I’m Busy” in English

  • To be tied up (at the moment) – to be too busy at the moment and unavailable or unable to do something else
    • I’m sorry, I’m going to be late coming home because I’m tied up at work.

Related Lessons

If you’ve bitten off more than you can chew, learn how to say no politely in English.

Feeling overwhelmed? Learn how to simplify your life or create better work-from-home strategies.

As always, the best way to learn and remember new vocabulary is to get consistent, repeated practice. And here’s your chance!

Choose 2-3 of your favorite new expressions from today’s lesson.

Then use them in your own example sentences. Think of your life right now. What makes you feel busy? What is making you feel overwhelmed or stressed? 

As always, you can share with me in the comments below. It’s the best way to practice, get feedback, and learn from others in the Confident English Community.

~ Annemarie

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