Many wear busyness like a badge of honor, but what is the cost of living a chronically busy lifestyle?
Do you ever envy that guy or gal who does everything in hyper-speed? She always has that Venti-size latte in one hand and balances the world on the other? She seems like she has a million little adventures all happening at once- life on steroids.
Busyness seduces us with a sense of accomplishment. It's the kind of drug that society celebrates. It lifts you to a higher place, where significance and status hang out.
I used to think I thrived in a stress-filled, overly busy lifestyle. In reality, I was riding an extended high of adrenaline and caffeine while sacrificing the things that mattered most in life.
There was a time in my career that I managed six stores which were all newly opened. The locations spread throughout half of the state of Idaho. Each night, I lived in a different hotel because the company I worked for didn’t want to relocate me. I spent all of my time in my stores, or driving to them, six days a week. Though, ninety percent of the work I did was fielding questions on the phone from all of my brand new employees. They joked that they had more of my attention when they called me than when I was physically in the store with them.
I would pace back and forth in a frenzy while I talked on the phone as if my physical movement would somehow speed up the conversation so I could return the next call. One day, I was talking and pacing, and I tripped on the carpet. I tucked my shoulder and rolled, and was back on my feet, seamlessly moving into the next step without missing a beat in my sentence.
At the time, I felt like I was on top of the world. Busyness made me feel needed and important. That world was unsustainable.
There were times at night in my hotel room that I had panic attacks. Soon, they started happening during the day while I was driving to a store. Once it happened in front of employees.
I had accepted a position that effectively left me homeless. Sure, I had a roof over my head and an expense account that paid for my quadruple shot lattes but I lacked community. I didn’t have anybody that I could share that latte with- no one to tell me it would be okay when the panic attacks became so severe that I thought I was dying.
Our culture often values being important over being loved, creating wealth over creating relationship.
There are seasons for everything. There are seasons for busyness and seasons for rest. When we make busyness a lifestyle, we sacrifice the things that allow us to live fully.
We sacrifice relationships.
Matthew 22:36-40 “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” Jesus replied: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”
When we stare at our long to-do list and know that something has to give to make it all work out, it’s often our time with God that we give up first. God never leaves us but we can lose that feeling of intimacy when we don’t spend quality time together. Our relationship with God is just like any other relationship- we have to nurture it to keep that connection. You can be in the same room as your spouse but feel as though you’re a million miles away. This can happen to our relationship with God when we replace our time with Him with a task.
Spending time near somebody while we work is not spending time with that person. My husband and I have an agreement that when we’re together, we must be present. Even watching TV together means cell phones are down. If we don’t value our time together, we’ll lose connection.
A lifestyle of busyness convinces us to spend less time with friends. If we do that enough, we’ll wake up one day and realize that we’ve lost them.
It causes us to rush by, missing those micro-expressions that tell us someone is struggling. We miss the benefit of really seeing the people who need someone to reach out to them.
Chronic busyness convinces us that we don’t have time to cultivate new relationships. One of the ways we keep life exciting is by getting to know new people. New relationships introduce us to new adventures, knowledge, and perspective.
We sacrifice creativity.
I loved writing fiction when I was a kid. Yet, for a good part of my life, I didn’t believe that God had gifted me with any kind of creativity. It was as though I wore blinders that kept me from seeing who I really was.
I believe that all of us have been created to be like our Holy Father and have been given some type of creativity. Some just aren’t aware of what it is. This doesn’t mean that we are all capable of painting masterpieces. Our masterpiece is revealed in the way that we use our creativity to love others and bring them joy.
Ephesians 2:10 (NLT) For we are God's masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.
Working in our creativity helps us feel closer to God. It’s fun, and fun is more important than we know.
Play Researcher and Psychiatrist, Stuart Brown, found that playing- doing something that’s fun without purpose- is not only enjoyable and rejuvenating but is essential to human development and intelligence. He studied the childhood of murderers and realized that there was a common thread: they weren’t allowed to play and explore as a child. He says that people with dementia require less medication and do better when they play regularly. Dr. Brown believes that life without play is not work, but depression.
Creativity requires time. It can’t be rushed. I split my time between writing content and completing tasks. I can rush through those tasks and finish them more quickly. To write well, I need to allow my creativity to move in its own timing. It can’t be rushed. When I’m feeling stuck, the best way to move through writer’s block is actually by sitting in the stillness and clearing my mind, focusing only on my breathing. This is where God meets me in the creative process- by slowing down.
Busyness is the enemy of creativity.
Creativity sparks the innovation and revelation that helps us be more effective in everything we do, especially work.
We sacrifice growth.
Personal growth and faith growth require time and space in our day to learn and observe. Listening to podcasts or reading books are great ways to gain knowledge and perspective on ourselves and God. For that knowledge to take root and move us toward maturity in Christ, we need to make space in our day to observe ourselves and apply our new-found knowledge to our behavior in each circumstance. Without taking time to observe and think deeply, most of what we learn as adults just won’t stick.
Luke 8:14-15 (NIV) The seed that fell among thorns stands for those who hear, but as they go on their way they are choked by life’s worries, riches and pleasures, and they do not mature. But the seed on good soil stands for those with a noble and good heart, who hear the word, retain it, and by persevering produce a crop.
Relationships, creativity, and growth are key to living a full life.
It may seem like the tasks on your to-do list can't wait but ask yourself if that task will be meaningful a month from now. Love, development, joy, faith, and self-awareness will still have meant something. Make sure you leave room for the things that have lasting value.
Make time for relationships, creativity, and growth by scheduling time in your calendar and committing to keeping those appointments.
Monthly- Make monthly lunches with your friends and weekly date nights with your spouse.
Weekly- List three things that you can do to play and create. Make sure you do one of them once a week.
Daily- Schedule time each morning to spend with God. Listen to a faith-based or growth-based podcast or audiobook on your way to work. Take time to observe yourself throughout your day and look for what God is doing. Drive home in silence and think about what you’ve learned from your podcast or book and how it applies to your life.
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