The Disease of Being Busy (Upper-Intermediate Reading Lesson)

ESL Level: Upper-Intermediate and advanced

Skill Focus: Reading comprehension, vocabulary, speaking via discussion

Topics: Work-life balance, wellbeing, philosophy

Material Downloaddisease-being-busy-upperintermediate-10272016.docx

Foreword: The Disease of Being Busy is an article written by Omid Safi for The article can be accessed freely here and printed in 2.5 pages. I have not provided the text in my lesson plan because I do not hold the copyright.

The below questions go with the article. I have used this lesson as weekend reading homework for my upper-intermediate adult students.

Note: if you use the vocabulary questions below, you might want to highlight the words in the article (by underlining them) to make it easier for students to find them.

Below is a preview of the comprehension, vocabulary, and discussion questions I have made.

The Disease of Being Busy – Comprehension Questions

  1. What surprised the author when he visited his neighbor?


  1. Explain the author’s distinction between human doings and human beings.



  1. What is the author’s opinion of the technological improvements we have seen in recent decades?


  1. What does the author see in his students?



  1. In your own words, what is the main message the author wants to share?


Making Time Starts Now –  First, make a list of things you would do if you had more time.






Next, write down what you can do to make more time to do these activities.



Finally, circle two items on your list that you will do today or in the next week.


Vocabulary — Write down definitions of the following key words.


to whimper (v)


overwhelmed (adj)


thrilled (adj)


to settle in (v)


wellbeing (n)


to crave (v)


blurred (adj)


in poverty (adv)


state (n)


The Disease of Being Busy – Discussion Questions

  1. What’s your opinion of the article?


  1. How is your heart doing?


  1. Do you feel that people often complain about being busy? Is this more common here compared to where you lived before?


  1. Are you happier or unhappier when you are busy?


  1. When a friend says that (s)he is “too busy” to do something with you, is this a legitimate excuse? Or can people always make time for their friends and loved ones?


  1. Discuss the meaning of the below quotations and whether you agree with them.
    1. “It takes more courage to examine the dark corners of your own soul than it does for a solder to fight on a battlefield.” – Yeats
    2. The unexamined life is not worth living.” — Socrates


  1. Philosopher Blaise Pascal argued that we make ourselves busy in life to avoid thinking about some of life’s deepest and scariest questions, such as “Why am I here? Does my life have meaning? Am I really going to die?” Do you agree or disagree with Pascal?


  1. For homework, you spent an hour (or more) reading this article. Could you have used your time more wisely? If you didn’t read it, why didn’t you?


— Supplementary questions created by Matthew Barton of

English Current recommends Grammarly as a learning tool to reduce English mistakes. If you found this page helpful, consider a donation to our hosting bill to show your support!

8 comments on “The Disease of Being Busy (Upper-Intermediate Reading Lesson)

  1. kathy (Posted on 3-9-2017 at 10:24) Reply

    Hi, just wondering where is the article

    1. mb Post author (Posted on 3-9-2017 at 11:42) Reply

      The link is in the foreword.

  2. Anonymous (Posted on 10-8-2017 at 06:24) Reply

    thanks for sharing it’s so helpful and insightful keep up the good work!

  3. Ameen (Posted on 12-20-2017 at 07:39) Reply

    Thank you!!!

  4. Anonymous (Posted on 7-6-2018 at 09:33) Reply

    I went to the website but it did not load the article. It just says page not found.

    1. mb Post author (Posted on 7-6-2018 at 23:59) Reply

      I’ve updated the link. Thank you.

  5. Natasha Huff (Posted on 1-21-2020 at 14:48) Reply

    Thank you for this inspiring article and lesson.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.