On weekends, if I'm not stepping out for anything specific, I usually spend the day ‘pottering around.' That is, I walk around the house with no specific agenda, taking care of minor tasks such as dusting or cleaning things, rearranging and sorting books or magazines, and so on. These are all small, trivial tasks, and they usually involve some amount of walking around--you have to pick up things from one place, then put them somewhere else, and so on. ‘Potter around' is the perfect expression to describe such activity, where you are doing no specific work, yet are busy getting little things done. The expression can be used for the routine work we all need to do from time to time. It cannot be used to refer to specific things such as when you are trying to finish a college assignment, or getting ready to attend a birthday party. Nevertheless, a valid use of the expression would be when you are taking a long time to get ready for the party, going back and forth between the mirror and the washbasin, or trying on a variety of clothes one by one--in such a case your friend could tell you to ‘quit pottering around and get ready quickly.'
I like this expression because it combines movement with working. If you are sitting in one place, you cannot be pottering around, no matter how trivial the work you are doing. On the other hand, if you are running around the house, packing three suitcases for a long vacation, you are busy working, not pottering around. The expression ‘pottering around' combines a sense of idle, unhurried activity, with the need to move around in the process.
An expression that contrasts slightly with ‘potter around' is ‘scurry.' When I visualize scurrying, I mostly think of ants, moving about in a hurry, their natural movement itself being the equivalent of running. Unlike our previous expression, ‘scurry' refers only to movement, and not to working in any way. ‘Scurrying' isn't just about moving quickly though. When you scurry, you move with quick, short steps--similar again to ants or other insects.
The meaning of ‘scurry' depends greatly on the visual impression that one's movement creates. An athlete doing a 100 meter sprint cannot be described as ‘scurrying' no matter how fast she moves. But someone TRYING to move fast by moving their legs quickly creates the impression of hurry, and this is the type of movement that is best described as scurrying.
We'll continue this theme next week too.