My life is full, but not busy.
When someone says, “I know you’re so busy,” or something similar, I’ve taken to responding graciously, “Oh, I’m really not.” Don’t get me wrong, I’m certainly not sitting around twiddling my thumbs all day. I’m productive, but I don’t ever want to be known for how “busy” I am.
Busyness is not next to holiness. It’s not a badge of honor, it’s nothing to be proud of. If you ask me, it’s an epidemic.
The word “busy” isn’t the enemy, of course–the problem, in my opinion, is what it stands for. Busyness is literally the embodiment of everything I can’t stand–it’s rushed, chaotic living, little to no margin, and not enough time to recharge spiritually, emotionally, or relationally. It’s making others feel like they’re inconveniencing you when they call to ask for something, or worse yet, feeling like a burden when they just want to chat.
Never be so busy so as to not think of others. -Mother Teresa
I don’t need for people to think I’m busy to feel worthy or important or loved. I know I’m all of those things because I’m a child of God, loved wife, and valuable family member and friend. A busy life or overflowing calendar do not a worthy person make. I have worth whether I ever accomplish another thing in my life, and the same goes for you. (This is not a cry for laziness or complacency, don’t be confused.)
I believe that most of the time, we weave an incredibly busy web to live in, and then loathe our lack of metaphorical white space, but relish in being perceived as busy and important.
What kind of way to live is that? Running on a crazed hamster wheel for the sake of appearances but then secretly hating the out-of-control pace? Why?
Not everyone lives this way, of course. There are entire countries where it’s still largely counter-cultural to be frantically busy. It seems to me that parts of the “American Dream” mentality are really more like a nightmare, where stress and anxiety reign, and the meaningful parts of life are cast aside.
Those who are wise won’t be busy, and those who are too busy can’t be wise. -Lin Yutang
I realize that jobs and children and marriages and other important responsibilities will fill up schedules whether they’re welcomed or not. This isn’t some out-of-touch battle cry to quit everything and withdraw from society. I’m not throwing stones, either, because I’ve spent most of my adult life relishing in being busy–it’s only this year that I’m really thinking about my time with intentionality.
Concrete responsibilities aside, we have to get better at prioritization. We have to get better at saying no, full stop. More than anything, we have to get better at removing guilt, shame, and the desire to keep up appearances from the equation.
Just the other day, after church, someone came up to me and asked if my husband and I were going to a recurring church event on Wednesdays. I said gently, “No, we’re not. We already go to Bible Study on Thursday nights, and we don’t like to plan too much on weekdays.” I’m not exaggerating when I say that the question-asker tilted his head, completely confused and bewildered. He was literally speechless.
No one says no, so no one knows how to say no, so no one knows how to take nos. What a terrible, terrible cycle to be in.Riley and I have a personal conviction to plan as little as possible on weekday evenings. This is something we discussed when we were engaged in premarital counseling, and something we’ve respected and upheld throughout our marriage. We cherish our weeknights, eating dinner around the table, taking walks, and spending quality time together. We believe that after our personal relationships with Christ, the top priority is our marriage. And marriages aren’t made in big moments only, they’re made in little ones strung together, like weeknights at home.
All that to say, only things that fall at the tippy-top of our priority list are put on our calendar Monday-Thursday. The community, friendships, and teaching that come out of Thursday night Bible Study earn it a weeknight spot. We are open to adding other engagements if we feel led to do so in the future, but we won’t add anything without meaningfully praying it over and thinking it through first.
Both Riley and I are making progress in our individual pursuits, our marriage is solid (but not perfect–I’m not trying to paint an unrealistic picture), and we have ample margin in our days. We’re productive, but not busy, and those are two different things.
Our lives are full. Full of good things, hard work, exciting new pursuits, a great church community, family time, delicious meals (a top priority), and a little travel here and there. We have full lives; they’re far from perfect, but they’re full and blessed. We like having things going on, engagements to look forward to, etc., but there’s margin to rest and breathe.
If you’re thinking that it’s easy for our lives to be un-busy since we are childless, I agree–it’s objectively easier. But this mentality and way of thinking will be carried into our season of parenthood as much as possible, if we have a choice. Just the other day I was chatting with a mom of three who was describing last school year as a chaotic and disorderly mess, so this year, she pulled her kids out of every single extracurricular activity and deemed it the year of being at home. She shared that all three of her children are happier and more well rested, and their family relationships are flourishing in a way they haven’t in the past. It’s possible to curb the busy in every season of life to the degree that you can; not easy, not popular, not common, but possible. I know another family with several children who doesn’t commit to anything that takes place on Saturdays or Sundays. Boundaries around our time are so necessary–and no one will draw them for us.
Maybe we should think about describing ourselves and others as “busy” less.
Not because we want to die on petty hills, but because life is about much more than dozens of calendar engagements. People who have white space in their lives should talk about it, they should enthusiastically share how having margin and free time and rest make them better, both for themselves and for the people they love.
The battle for our hearts are fought on the pages of our calendars. -Bob Goff
Let’s be the kind of women who both describe ourselves as and feel full, instead of busy. Full of life, energy, and time for what matters. Full of joy, the ability for spontaneity, adventure. Full of strength and commitment to execute our non-negotiables. Let’s choose fullness. Sometimes, fullness will pile up too high and turn into busyness. That’s an indication to take a step back and reevaluate; hold your commitments against your priorities, and get rid of what doesn’t line up.
It’s fall now, and the next three months are arguably the busiest of the year. Now’s the time to draw a line in the sand and decide against busy. Say no to things, lots of things, even good ones. (We live by the say no to the good things so you can say yes to the best things mantra.) Gracefully quit things that aren’t a top priority right now if you can. Listen, I’m not saying blow off all commitments selfishly–I’m encouraging you to take care of yourself, which includes mindfully curating your schedule, so that you can take care of the people you love the most in an intentional way.
As time passes, I am becoming acutely aware that I don’t have to be busy, I don’t want to be busy, and I don’t need to be busy for outside approval. What about you?
// What’s your take on busy? Where do you draw the line between busyness and fullness?
Related reading: Why I Removed Busy From My Vocabulary via Amanda Bixler
Related resource: Boundaries: When to Say Yes, How to Say No to Take Control of Your Life (this book changed my life, affiliate link)
Related: How to Simplify Your Schedule (EP04 Simplify Everything) + Why and How I Created My Own Planner + Why I Decided to Be a Stay-At-Home-Wife + Practical Ways to Practice Valuing Others + Here’s to Not Making a New Year’s Resolution This Year
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