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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Nicki truesdell says
I absolutely agree. My “busiest” times are at home, trying to intentionally raise children, keep a peaceful home, and spend time with my husband. I hate it when “busy” takes me away from home!
amanda bixler says
Amen, amen, amen!
Sorry this comment doesn’t have a lot to do with this post, but I was thinking about your blog mentorship program. This is just a suggestion, but it would be really cool to see which blogs you are working with. That way we could see the process, the bloggers you are helping, and it would be like seeing “before and after” of an actual blog site. Just a thought. 🙂
This is wonderful! I am one of those people who thrives on, I guess we shall say “fullness” now, but I used to be one of those “BUSY” people, all day every day. My passions of theatre and writing take up a lot of my life, but I love every second! In the past, I was 100% terrible at creating boundaries for my time and it got me into trouble…Like, I put myself in the hospital with mono I had (accidentally) ignored for three months and was put on bedrest for six weeks because my organs were shutting down. Yikes.
Not my finest moment, that’s for sure.
Now, although I still spend a lot of time and energy on those activities, I have a MUCH better sense of how to keep myself in check and how to make sure I choose things because I have a genuine desire to do them, not because I feel obligated or socially pressured or even just if I want to – if it’s not ultimately going to serve me and my family well, then it’s not a good idea.
I actually relate that to this piece of scripture:
“Instead, let your message be ‘Yes’ for ‘Yes’ and ‘No’ for ‘No.’ Anything more than that comes from the evil one.” Matthew 5:37
If I’m giving a “yes” but it’s not from a true place, I don’t think I’m abiding by that in truth.
Anyway, sorry for a novel but you’re getting a big AMEN SISTER over here from someone who used to be fully caught in that trap and is very grateful to have much better boundaries now! My life is exponentially more abundant, even though it’s far less “busy.”
Oh my goodness I love this Blair. It is an epidemic!! More, more, more is just part of our culture. And it’s so true- if you don’t set boundaries on your time no one else will. And I know you will be able to continue this when you have kids. (That’s another thing that makes me cray cray- the “just wait till you have kids” like they are a burden/you won’t be able to handle it/diminishing the goals you’ve set for your family and achieved as less than because you don’t have kids yet). Great post!!
I love this! It it something I really believe in – productive living, yes, but quiet, simple living. I am so much happier and generally a better person to be around when I am not running around being crazy busy!
YES. I love this!
I’m slowly working my way out of the FOMO-filled, over-stretched, over-scheduled college lifestyle where having seemingly no time for anything is just “part of the college experience.” This semester I’ve decided that, since I’m in class/work from 9-6, I’m not going to schedule anything during the day. That extra hour here or there between classes is for me to refocus and work on me. I may meet up with someone for lunch occasionally, but having that time to myself has made me so much more productive and doesn’t leave me showing up to class with a scattered mind.
There are so many quotable phrases in this post, I just want to hang the whole thing on my wall<3
I love this! I feel like you are the only voice around me telling me to slow down and it is something we so desperately need and especially me! Thanks for sharing your life especially the concrete ways you slow down!
Blair Lamb says
And I will continue being that voice for you! 😉 Slow living is SO important!
Blair, thank you for sharing this post again. I am slowly making my way through your older blog posts and had not come upon this one yet.
I love this so much! I work a full-time job where I am salaried and work 45-50 hours a week and go to school on top of that, so I am in a season of life where things are typically very busy.
This post has brought forth a lot of things for me to contemplate, re-evaluate and pray on.
My husband also prefers to keep weekdays open and plan as little as possible on these days. This is something that I have struggled with and that has caused tension in our marriage in the past because I/we have had to say no to different events and engagements, that are during the week,over the years.
This post put that into a totally different perspective for me and has made me see the value in this philosophy.
Danielle m says
Thank you so much for sharing this today so I could read it! I hadn’t seen this one yet and it is perfect! Just yesterday I was talking to someone about how busy everyone is and life is so rushed, traffic is so chaotic because people just can’t slow down and just be calm! Everyone is so busy it affects everyone around them. I’m happy I’m not in that state and I can be full and not busy! This just reiterates exactly how I’ve been feeling into words!
I work full time plus some overtime and we also try not to have too many engagements during the week or weekends and cherish time at home together. As you say it’s productive but not busy!