23 Busy Idioms: A Look at Busy Idioms and Their Meanings

Have you ever found yourself as busy as a bee and wondered how to express that whirlwind of activity in a fun and quirky way? Our article, “Busy Idioms,” is like a treasure chest, overflowing with playful phrases that will add some pizzazz to your daily chatter.

Whether you’re running around like a chicken with its head cut off or you’re simply knee-deep in work, there’s an idiom for every hectic moment. So, take a tiny break from your bustling schedule, grab a cozy seat, and let’s dive into the whimsical world of “Busy Idioms.

What Are Busy Idioms?

In our language, idioms serve as an expressive way to convey thoughts and feelings figuratively. When we discuss busy idioms, we’re referring to those specific phrases that describe being extremely active or occupied. We use these idioms to add color to our conversations, especially when we want to express that we’re engulfed in work or personal commitments in a more vivid and often more relatable way. Let’s look at some characteristics of busy idioms:

Here’s a brief breakdown of commonly recognized busy idioms and what they mean:

Idiom Meaning
As busy as a beaver Engaged in hard work, continuously active
Up to one’s ears So busy that one is overwhelmed
Burn the candle at both ends Working late and starting early, often at the expense of rest
Swamped Overwhelmed with a large amount of work or tasks

23 Busy Idioms: A Look at Busy Idioms and Their Meanings Pin

Busy Idioms with Meaning and Example Sentences

Idioms Meanings with Example Sentences
As busy as a bee Extremely busy or active.

Example: She’s always as busy as a bee, volunteering at the school and attending every community event.

Burning the candle at both ends Working hard and staying up late to do so.

Example: He’s been burning the candle at both ends trying to finish the project on time.

Running around like a headless chicken Acting in a frenzied, chaotic manner.

Example: Before the deadline, we were all running around like headless chickens.

In over one’s head Taking on a task that is too difficult to handle.

Example: I realized I was in over my head when I saw the project requirements.

Snowed under Overwhelmed with work.

Example: We’re completely snowed under with orders this holiday season.

All work and no play Spending too much time on work and not enough on leisure.

Example: It’s all work and no play for Tom during tax season.

Chained to the desk Working long hours at a desk without a break.

Example: She’s been chained to the desk all week with the new product launch.

Flat out like a lizard drinking Very busy or working very hard.

Example: The team was flat out like a lizard drinking to meet the deadline.

Going at full tilt Working or moving at maximum speed.

Example: The factory has been going at full tilt to fulfill the large order.

Keeping one’s nose to the grindstone Working hard and steadily.

Example: He’s been keeping his nose to the grindstone to pay off his student loans.

Like a chicken with its head cut off Behaving hysterically or aimlessly.

Example: She’s been running around like a chicken with its head cut off all morning.

On the go Very busy; constantly moving or traveling.

Example: Our boss is always on the go, from meetings to conferences.

On the hop Busy and unprepared, often leading to a state of rush.

Example: The sudden inspection caught the staff on the hop.

Rushed off one’s feet Extremely busy, to the point of not being able to cope with the amount of work.

Example: The waiters were rushed off their feet during the dinner rush.

Slammed Very busy or overwhelmed with work.

Example: The team is slammed with client requests this week.

Busy Idioms in Different Contexts

Work and Professional Life

Busy as a bee

  • Meaning: Extremely busy or active
  • Example: “She’s been as busy as a bee organizing the company event.”

All hands on deck

  • Meaning: Everyone must help with a task because there is a lot of work to do.
  • Example: “We need to get this project finished by Friday, so it’s all hands on deck.”


  • Meaning: Overwhelmed with work to the point of struggling to cope
  • Example: “I’d love to help with the new project, but I’m swamped with work right now.”

General Busyness

Up to one’s ears

  • Meaning: Overwhelmed with something, typically work or responsibilities
  • Example: “I’d love to take a break, but I’m up to my ears in paperwork.”

Have a lot on one’s plate

  • Meaning: To have a lot of work or responsibilities to handle
  • Example: “She can’t commit to another project right now; she’s got a lot on her plate.”

Time Management

Time crunch

  • Meaning: A period when there’s not enough time to do everything that needs to be done
  • Example: “I’m in a time crunch to finish this project by the deadline.”

Against the clock

  • Meaning: Working with a limited amount of time to complete something
  • Example: “We were working against the clock to get the store set up before the grand opening.”

Race against time

  • Meaning: An attempt to do something as fast as possible, typically because there’s a very limited amount of time available
  • Example: “The rescue team is in a race against time to find the missing hikers before the storm hits.”

Related Idiom List: