I don’t care who you are, or what your current life stage is, you know what it means to be too busy. When we crowd so many activities, people, and responsibilities into our lives, there is little time or energy left for any sort of joy. Even those things that started out as fun, can choke the enjoyment out of life if we allow them.
My beautiful tween daughter, at the precipice of independence and maturity, begged me to write this post as she has already been introduced to the craziness that busy schedules can bring. Though already immersed in homeschool, karate, piano and our church’s youth group, she had recently considered adding soccer to her routine. That is, until she realized the insanity that she would be introducing to her currently manageable life. (Honestly, this mama was relieved, and might have subtly “encouraged” her toward a desired outcome, to not have to juggle two traveling teams this soccer season!)
As simple as her example is, it is something to which we can all relate. The problem comes though, when our blocks of time no longer consist of fun activities that are easily expendable, but instead, of loved ones and weighted responsibilities.
Is staying busy a good coping mechanism?
So what if our busyness isn’t imposed upon us, but is self-imposed? We might not even realize that we’ve done this until someone points it out. You might need to ask yourself if you are addicted to being busy, or are you staying busy to avoid feelings?
This last question hits home. Personally, I do not like the feeling that strong emotions bring. When there is something major going on in my life, I usually find myself operating in one of the extremes: holing away in my cave of seclusion, or packing myself so full that I don’t have time to stop and feel.
An addiction to busyness can be a mask for insecurity by trying to bring a sense of importance to your everyday life. In the corporate world, where I have spent a good majority of my adulthood, a busy schedule was most definitely interpreted as a badge of importance and status. If you were a working mom, juggling the crazy schedules of your family while maintaining a packed calendar in the office, you were seen as a wonder woman. And we would (often) drop subtle hints to the other men and women in the office, just so they would know how far up the busy status ladder you were.
But this is not a healthy approach to life. Whatever your drive is toward busyness, if it is self-imposed, it is wrong.
“Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.” Matthew 7:24-27
If you are attempting to avoid feelings, cover an insecurity, or using any other form busyness as a coping mechanism, you are not seeking God as your foundation. He is firm and solid and reliable, and building yourself up on any other foundation is just not sustainable. Your time will run out. Your energy will fade. And your joy will disappear.
What are the effects of being too busy?
There are so many negative side effects to being too busy, but most of them can be narrowed down to one of two categories:
This is the one that most are familiar with. This is the one that we feel deep down in our toes, the one that makes us grumpy. When we pack our days so full that we forget to rest, our bodies begin to shut down and our brains cease to function.
If our busy schedules are full of appointments and activities that haven’t been placed there by the Lord, we can become weary of pointless work.
Unless the Lord builds the house, the builders labor in vain. Unless the Lord watches over the city, the guards stand watch in vain. In vain you rise early and stay up late, toiling for food to eat— for he grants sleep to those he loves. Psalm 127:1-2
Separation from God
This side effect to over-busyness is the one that nobody thinks about, but really is the most important. For most of us, when our schedules become too much, our quiet time with the Lord is the first thing to go. Either it is squeezed out because of a lack of time, or it is slept through because of exhaustion.
I personally have experienced this time and time again. When I went back to work, I arrogantly thought that I had it under control, but after only a few short months, I was pressing snooze on my alarm and found myself too busy at lunch to make the time.
When we do this, we lose touch with who God is. Think about those friendships that were once super close, but over time and distance have faded into something almost unrecognizable. The same thing happens when we stop spending time with the Lord. You cannot maintain a relationship with someone you don’t spend time with.
“You expected much, but see, it turned out to be little. What you brought home, I blew away. Why?” declares the Lord Almighty. “Because of my house, which remains a ruin, while each of you is busy with your own house.” Haggai 1:9
Don’t find yourself so busy building your own life that you forget to build what is most important.
How can I stop being so busy in life?
So, all is not lost. There is hope in this insanely busy culture we live in. Please know that unless you are purposefully inflicting this lifestyle on yourself, you can pair down your calendar and enjoy life again. Here’s how:
1. Pray for help and direction
If you’ve read any of my other posts, this suggestion is not new. Seeking God’s help should be the first step through any process in life, and the Bible is clear that God is the answer to a life that’s too busy.
Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Matthew 11:28
Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. Philippians 4:6
When I first went back to work, I was overwhelmed by my two worlds overlapping. During the couple of years that I had been laid off, I had built for myself a circle of friends, a church community, and had added volunteering responsibilities. Life was different than before as my kids now were in school and I had rededicated my life to following the Lord and was trying to make Him a priority. I had the added stress of my husband and I both commuting out of town to work while our children went to school locally and needed to be somehow transported to after-school care. Daily, I had the overwhelming sense of being of a circus clown spinning too many plates to count, and I didn’t know what to do about it. So, I prayed. I asked God to work it out for me. And you know what? He did!
In peace I will lie down and sleep, for you alone, Lord, make me dwell in safety. Psalm 4:8
Once I gave it to God, He took over and worked out all of those details. He brought me so much peace and helped me sift out the things that were important from those which needed to be let go.
2. Say no – to others and to yourself
As women, this is a hard one for us. We want people to like us after all. My problem is in wanting people to think that I am a team player and willing to carry my part. Or maybe your problem isn’t in the approval of others, but in that fear of missing out. But you know what? Those are not good reasons to do something!!
We should not allow our fear of other’s opinions, or our fear of missing out on all the fun, dictate how much we take on. If we are allowing the Holy Spirit to live with in us, He will not direct you toward doing too much. And He has already provided you with the tools to say no.
For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline. 2 Timothy 1:7
When asked to take on a new task or activity, it is okay to say with confidence, that you need to take some time to pray about it first. Give yourself a reasonable amount of time to go back up to step 1 and seek God’s direction. Separate yourself from those stares anxiously awaiting an answer. Ask yourself if you would be doing this for the Lord, or for the approval and acceptance of others. Maybe it’s a fun thing, but is it a fun thing that you can honestly take on right now?
It is okay to say no. Even when you know that there is a great need. Last season I helped coach my son’s soccer team. (You can read about it in this post.) Since then, I have taken on a lot of other responsibilities and do not have the time to help out again. But they are in desperate need of coaches, so of course they reached out. I felt great guilt in doing so, but I had to say no. Even though it was hard, I know that God gave me the strength to stand up for all that I have going on.
So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. Isaiah 41:10
3. Prioritize your schedule
First and foremost, if God does not come first in your day, you’re going to have a hard time putting him first in your heart.
For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. Matthew 6:21
The treasure mentioned in this verse is usually referred to as something physical in your life…..the things you spend your money on, the people you love, your career; but your treasure can also be your time. The things we choose to fill our time with can be a good indication of what is the most important to us. The people we choose to fill our time with are also a good indication of who is the most important to us. Is God a part of that?
What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? Mark 8:36
The things of this world will not bring you anything that lasts. Whether it’s the fun chasing, or the killing yourself to leave a good impression, no busy schedule will satisfy your eternal need. No sort of calendar stacking will bring the true joy you might have been seeking to begin with. True joy can only be brought by drawing closer to the Lord, and you can only draw closer to the Lord if you are making Him the priority in your life.
You make known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand. Psalm 16:11
Once you’ve established Who is the most important part of your day, all else will fall into place. You’ll begin to know Him more intimately and the things that are important to Him will become important to you. All else will fall away.
4. Create moments of rest
If your schedule is packed full of things that are out of your control, things that fall into the “weighted responsibility” category, you might need to make yourself a priority and create your own moment of rest. This is something that even Jesus had to do for Himself and His disciples.
Then, because so many people were coming and going that they did not even have a chance to eat, he said to them, “Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.” Mark 6:31
I have a friend that just got back from a weekend away that she scheduled for herself, by herself. This is one of the busiest moms I know. She has four homeschooled children, she teaches music and dance lessons, and has managed the bookkeeping for various businesses. She has no time for herself throughout her week, let alone throughout her day. So she scheduled a 3-night weekend away by herself. Sometimes we just gotta.
5. Don’t be quick to fill emptiness
I am notorious for this. As much as I really do love a down day, and a chance to recuperate after a long, busy week, too much of that and I start to go stir crazy. Last year was the second year of homeschooling my kiddos. Year one was spent trying to figure it all out and honestly, it took the whole year to stop expecting to wake up and have to go back to work. But year two I had it dialed in. I lasted four months before I started filling in all that extra time. We added piano for my daughter, I joined the board of our local pregnancy center, I began making products to sell on Etsy, I started teaching a monthly women’s Bible study…and when all of that wasn’t enough, I began this blog. I might have overdone it a bit!!
But really, we shouldn’t do this. Just because we have empty time, doesn’t mean that we should fill it! When we have an open calendar, we are more available for relationship building or service opportunities….or for rest. We can live a more balanced life.
A fantastic example of this is found in a well-known Biblical family.
As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him. She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said. But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!” “Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed—or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.” Luke 10:38-42
Poor Martha felt the weighted responsibility of preparing her home and providing a meal for Jesus and His entourage. Without the help she felt she needed, she found herself too busy and without joy. But Mary had taken the opportunity to be still before the Lord. She did not fill her time and energy with a responsibility that was not necessary. She rested and drew close to Jesus and took advantage of being in His presence. And with that came great joy.