Everyone is busy. This thread of conversation -- how there aren't enough hours in the day, how we're running behind, how we're waiting for our schedules to lighten up or slow down -- weaves its way through many discussions that I have with my colleagues, my students, my neighbors, my friends, and the fellow moms on the sidelines at soccer practice and in the lobby at dance class.
Busyness is chronic, uncomfortable, and pervasive, yet oddly, we're occasionally pleased with it. Sometimes, constant hustle makes our lives feel full and connected. Sometimes, we equate busyness with importance. Sometimes, we have no idea how we've fallen into our hectic lifestyles -- as if we've simply tripped into an overly packed daily schedule, and we're equally unsure of how to extract ourselves. Sometimes, we think that busyness is the norm, something inevitable, something we ought to be experiencing.
Right now, I can say this: I'm busy, and I'm not proud of it.
Of course, some seasons of life (say, the years with young children underfoot) will be busier than others, but I don't want my entire life to frenetically whirl as if I'm running on a hamster wheel, exerting great energy but going nowhere.
Clearly, as someone speaking from the trenches, I don't have all the answers, but here are three tips I'm implementing to regain balance.
1) Determine what you need to cut back. I'm taking inventory of my schedule and identifying triggers. For example, taking my daughter to dance class directly after school on Mondays proved to be more hectic than fun, more draining than beneficial. I was harried, she was stressed, and the logistics were ugly. It simply didn't work. After coming to this realization, I did something I've rarely done: I quit.
This past Monday was easier on the whole family.
This, of course, is an easy example. Some situations are complex and weighty, like my recent discussions with my husband regarding my current teaching load. Do I continue teaching four courses per semester at a higher salary next year, or could we afford for me to revert to teaching three classes until our youngest is in school? How do we quantify the benefits of time versus income?
I don't yet have the answers to those questions (they're doozies), but bringing questions to the table is part of the process. Banishing busyness starts by determining what we need to cut back.
2) Determine what you need to add. It sounds counterintuitive, doesn't it? If we're busy, why add anything else into the mix? With this mindset, though, it's easy to cut out good things -- daresay, necessary things -- that essentially could help us to cope with the pressing demands.
We might forget to exercise, talk with friends, connect with our spouse, or have regular quiet time with the Lord. I've fallen prey to all of these, which is why I'm taking small steps to keep myself physically, emotionally, and spiritually strong.
Coping with busyness demands that we fight for the relationships and healthy outlets that we need to thrive.
3) Think beyond yourself. When I'm trapped in the throes of busyness, I primarily think about one person: me. Life becomes more about survival than about purpose, and generally, I'm miserable.
This is when I must remember that my burdens are not solely mine to bear, that I must ask God to organize my hours on this earth, and that I can pray, like David in Psalm 90:12: Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.
Overcoming busyness requires that we don't get bogged down in mundane details, but rather that we seek God's perspective for our purpose in this life. (After all, how the bulk of our individual days unfold eventually will dictate how our entire lives unfold.)
If you're reading this post and find yourself hanging on by a thread, certain that you have more to do than time to do it in, know that you're not alone. (In fact, I'm right here with you.) Today, my prayer is that God will grant us wisdom to practically discern what elements -- if any -- that we need to add or subtract from our lives to make them fuller and richer.
Fuller, not more crammed. Richer, not more cluttered.
Being busy for the sake of being busy is nothing to be proud of. Let's toss out that lie once for all and take strides toward less busy, but more rewarding, days.
Are you with me?
Then I Became a Mother: humor, hope, and encouragement for moms. Available in both Kindle and paperback editions.