If time is money, then I’m broke. I think a lot of us are.” — Jeff Shinabarger
In the current economy, we put tremendous value on our time, but are we good stewards of the hours in the day? I used to believe the busier I was, the more I was accomplishing. Slowing down meant I was falling behind the strict expectations I set for myself. We’ve all heard variations of the following:
- Put in the hours to get the promotion
- Invest the time to get the body
- Do the work to get an A
After all, Shia Labeouf told us all how to achieve our dreams – just do it! But what if the assumption – movement equals progress – is incorrect? As Stephen Covey, author of The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People said: “If the ladder is not leaning against the right wall, every step we take just gets us to the wrong place faster.”
So, busyness is bad?
I don’t think there is anything wrong with a full schedule. The question is whether the things we fill our life with bring us contentment and joy, or do we only do more because we can?
I use the term busyness similarly to busywork – occupying our time with anything that does not help us grow, learn, connect, or reach our goals.
- Does my schedule reflect that enjoying and glorifying God is my top priority?
- Do I feel filled and content at the end of the day, or empty and searching?
- Am I living a fruitful life, or have I stopped growing and learning?
I think if we are completely honest, busyness is often a product of our desires, fears, and motivations. We want to look important, feel needed, please others, and prove ourselves through our busy schedules.
The problem is we are so focused on getting “everything” done that we lose sight of what really matters to us. We’re too busy to listen to our colleagues, not answer emails, grab coffee with a friend, or pray with our spouse. The only moment we have to stop and think is as our head hits the pillow.
How can I unbusy myself? (I know unbusy is not a word)
“There are no solutions; there are only trade-offs” – Thomas Sowell
Productivity hacks and time management tips can help us get more done, but they don’t address the root cause of our busyness. This guide was written to help you eliminate busyness by prioritizing what really matters to you. As Elizabeth Gilbert, author of eat-pray-love, puts it, “learn how to say no to things you want to do – so you can do a handful of things that really matter.”
- Think like a minimalist. When our lives are too busy, it’s difficult to decide on what we can cut out of our schedule. Instead, start with a blank slate and determine the most meaningful ways to spend your life. Schedule time for those select items and everything else has to fit around them – or not.
- Create margins in your schedule. Leave empty space in your calendar to avoid feeling the need to rush through one task and move onto the next. LinkedIn CEO, Jeff Weiner, schedules blocks of time that are free periods for him to think, strategize, and refocus.
- Slow down. The goal is to enjoy the journey. A lot of times I’ll hurry through something just to get it done, but what if we took the time to look for God’s creativity, wisdom, or power in everything we did? Also, I find it easier to sense the Lord leading me to speak into certain situations when I am not rushing from one thing to the next.
- To-do lists are never-ending. Intentional to-do lists are possible. Cap your list at 3-5 items, so you’re forced to complete (or consciously abandon) a task before adding another.
- Develop a morning routine. As often as I can, I keep a morning routine that leaves me feeling refreshed and encouraged. This habit allows me time to prepare for the day instead of feeling frantic as soon as I get up. My routine has evolved over time but involves activities to develop my mind, body, and soul.
- Set healthy boundaries. I’m not suggesting building a wall to keep people at a distance. Instead, provide a structure to help cultivate sustainable relationships. Let others know when you need time to rest in solitude. As the bestselling author, Rachel Macy Stafford said: “I stopped being accessible to the world so I could be accessible to those who were my world.”
Purpose and meaning aren’t found in busyness. I don’t think at the end of my life I’ll wish I’d spent more time chasing status, possessions, or prestige. I take joy in having enough and doing what matters to me.