We certainly use the word "busy" a lot, don't we? I think we could go so far as to say we glorify busyness. After all, if you're not busy, what are you doing with your life? Are you slacking off? Are you shirking your responsibilities? Are you being lazy? Sometimes I think that's true-- that if I'm not keeping myself busy, then I'm being lazy. There are always things to be done, so if I'm not working as hard as I possibly can to knock them out 24/7, then I can feel like I'm wasting time.
We equate busyness with importance and value.
We think that if we stay busy enough, if we accomplish enough things, if we take part in enough activities, then we'll be somebody. Then we'll do great things. Then we'll be enough.
We wear "busy" as a badge of honor. We brag about all the things we got done in the course of our day. When someone else says they ran four errands, we feel the need to say we ran five errands just to keep up.
I know that when someone asks me how I'm doing, my knee-jerk reaction is often to say, "I've been busy doing x, trying to make time for y, juggling a, b, and c, and attempting to fit in some sleep." It's as if I can make myself and my life seem more important by adding more things to the list of activities I give people. Like my schedule and resume are the only things that matter.
But busyness can drain us. It can rob us of our energy, focus, and perspective.
It's not sustainable. When we fill our lives and calendars with too many things, we don't leave time to rest and refuel. We run and run until we're going on empty, and that's no way to live our lives. It's certainly no way to enjoy them!
Busyness distracts us.
When we spend our lives running from one thing to the next, keeping our heads down, we miss out on the things all around us. We don't see the people in our lives who need us. We miss out on opportunities to slow down and enjoy the world that's right under our noses. And we often waste our time on things that don't really matter in the end.
When we focus on busyness, we prioritize productivity over presence, tasks over people. It causes us to see results as the most important things, regardless of the process it takes us to reach them. It strips non-productive things of their value-- things like spending time with loved ones, taking a nap, pursuing our hobbies, and just sitting with our thoughts. In the light of the busyness-is-best mentality, those things lose their value and importance. They become pointless because they don't generate tangible results.
I've spent more time than I would like to admit simply surviving, working to cross things off my never-ending to-do list, without any regard for the relationships I could be building. It was only in looking back, wondering what I had done with my time, that I realized there was something I was missing out on-- a life in which I lived fully present, fully engaged life, prioritizing the right things and not striving for the badge of "busy."
When we pursue busyness above all else, we miss out on the best that life has to offer.
Some of the best, most precious moments are the little ones-- time spent catching up with friends on the porch, playing games with your kids (or nieces, nephews, or friends' kids, if you're like me), pausing to appreciate the beauty of the sunset or the blessing of a sunny day after a week of rain, or cherishing a quiet moment in the midst of a chaotic day. Of course, there are great big things, too-- things like graduations, weddings, and births. But those aren't the only things worth celebrating, the only things worth savoring. The little things make up the majority of our days. Let us fill them with the things we value most.
Maybe we're even hiding behind our busyness.
Chasing busyness can be a way to avoid facing our real fears. If we keep going, going, going, we're not forced to address our insecurities, problems, and obstacles. We think we can outrun them by never slowing down, never letting real life catch up to us.
But that kind of life-- a life of constant running, perpetual busyness-- isn't sustainable. It will inevitably lead to burnout when we reach the end of our ropes and still somehow have twelve things left on our plates.
Instead, we can choose to let go of our need to be busy, to prove that we're busy, and to find our worth in our busyness. There is more to life than being busy and getting our to-do list done!
So here's to the end of the busyness-is-best way of thinking. Here's to slowing down, savoring the small moments that have the ability to capture the biggest parts of our hearts, and living the lives we really want to live.
Do you get caught up in being busy? What helps you slow down and get off the hamster wheel? I'd love to hear from you in the comments!