Busyness Almost Always Lies

Whether it’s written, electronic, or mental, you’ve got one. If you’re like most American’s it’s overflowing. Likely with good things. Really good things. But if your next open spot on the calendar is four weeks from Tuesday, we might have a problem. The rush, hurry, and pressure just feel normal after a while.

Why do we wear stress, busyness, and anxiety like badges of honor? People ask, “How are you?” and we proudly sigh, “Busy!”

Is this really the vibe we want to give off? Is this really the phrase we want our children to repeat? (They eventually repeat everything we say. Everything.) In my life, right now, as I live and breath, and as my fingers go to town on this keyboard, it’s not. Not any more.

The Lies of Busyness

A while back, I came to the conclusion busyness almost always lies. It tries to convince me of things like:

  • A full calendar means I’m productive
  • Being busy means I’m valuable and needed
  • People will be upset if I say no
  • If I pass on this opportunity it may never come again
  • I can sleep when I’m dead

It all seems so ridiculous when written in black and white. If we were sitting together over coffee and you confessed to believing all those things, I’d have a quick answer to refute every one. Yet I’ve clung to them with white knuckles.

Does life really have to be this way? Go ahead and turn up the volume for this answer: NO.

It’s not so much what’s consuming our calendars, it’s more about what’s consuming our hearts. What’s consuming our hearts overflows onto our calendars. Most of my busyness justifications are rooted in fear: fear of disapproval, fear of missing out, fear of not being important.

Unfortunately, these distractions can lead to missing what Jesus modeled as being most important: alone time with the Father, loving our neighbors, making disciples, championing justice and caring for the widow, orphan, immigrant, and the poor. When these come up in conversation or in quiet whispers inside, we dismiss them because we are already so busy. One more thing just can’t fit.

Months ago life came to a screeching halt when my body sent a clear message: “Enough is enough.” I’ll spare you all the details and summarize by saying things had to change. I zeroed out the calendar. Sleep became the number one priority out of pure necessity (7pm bedtime anyone?), and “No” became my most frequent response to invitations and scheduling requests. You know what? My identity didn’t fall apart, people didn’t seem too disappointed, and while those exact opportunities may never come again, there’s more where they came from.

Everything seems so nonnegotiable until it’s not. Months later, when I started adding to my routine, a lot didn’t make the cut. I didn't quit my job, sell all of my possessions, or run away. But rather than spending “yeses” as if they were in endless supply, I spent my precious few carefully, embracing the simple economic principle of opportunity cost: saying “yes” means “no” to something else. No more piling a bunch of yeses on top of each other.

If you look at my calendar today, it’s almost completely full, but it’s not what you think. I’ve given almost every minute a name, even if the name is “Rest” or “No Appointments.”

I’ve had front yard conversations with my sweet neighbor from across the street. I’ve snuggled longer with my kiddos. I’ve hosted people for dinner, and I’ve stopped by to have coffee with my parents. I’ve had time for impromptu prayer times and phone calls. I’ve said unapologetic noes and some really fun yeses.

If we see each other soon and you ask me how I’m doing, I’m certain you’ll get more than a one-word answer.

Join the conversation by commenting below: What's the lie you've believed about being busy? What's one thing you can cross off your list to open up room for something more important?