The modern world is a cauldron of busyness—in fact if we allow ourselves to run on auto pilot, busy is what we’ll be. There’s always an errand to run, a phone call that needs to be made, a meeting to attend, a “must see” sporting event or TV program. We’re consumed with a life in which we’re “busy being busy”.
What are we getting out of all of that? Plenty, and none of it is good for us. Busyness causes stress and a sense of a lack of control over our lives—we want to do better, but there just isn’t time. Busyness can seem benign, perhaps because it isn’t a single catastrophic event, but rather a daily onslaught of much lesser occurrences. But rest assured it can be every bit as damaging to our lives as cigarette smoking, over-eating or spending money we don’t have.
How Busyness Causes Damage
What are some ways that busyness damages our lives?
It damages our relationship with God
One of Satan’s favorite ways to keep us either from coming to God or from deepening our relationship with Him is through distraction. Busyness is the best kind of distraction at least in part because it doesn’t seem like one.
One of the first things to go when we get busy is prayer (“I’ll do it later”), and once that starts to go the dominoes begin to fall. Church attendance becomes infrequent, as do fellowship and Bible study. All of these represent our relationship with God and as they begin to disappear, so does our relationship with Him.
At the time it happens we may not even realize what’s taking place—after all, we’re taking care of matters that need to be dealt with and isn’t that what God wants us to do?
Not exactly. In Luke 10 we have Jesus visiting the home of Mary and Martha, and Martha finds herself “distracted by all the preparations that had to be made”. While Martha runs to and fro, making sure all is just right, her sister Mary sits at the feet of Jesus and just listens. When Martha implores Jesus to make Mary help her, he gives an astonishing reply:
“Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed—or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.”—Luke 10:41-42
The Savior of the Universe was in her home, and all Martha had to do was to relax and enjoy him, but she chose the route of busyness. We can we fall into the same trap. Our relationship with God is built on quiet, undistracted time with Him; we have to be purposeful about making that happen in a world that’s desperate to pull us in the opposite direction.
It damages our relationships with family and friends
Just as in our relationship with God, we need to spend time with family and friends in order to nurture and grow the bonds. But the time we would spend doing this can easily disappear into a routine of perpetual busyness.
It’s often when we become really busy—and “something has to give”—that what gives is our relationships with the people who are closest to us. That can happen without ever making a conscious decision to do so. Often, we do it under the assumption that our loved ones will “understand”. We should never count on that. It’s not an exaggeration to say that this kind of distance can ruin marriages, sour a parent/child relationship and turn friends into non-friends.
Our schedules are never more important than the people closest to us.
It damages our health
Have you ever gotten off the bathroom scale and sworn to yourself, “I’ll (go on a diet, start exercising, get a physical, etc) tomorrow?” Does tomorrow ever come? When we’re wrapped up in a series of minor “must do’s” the commitment quickly goes into the dustbin with others that we’ve broken with ourselves.
Health is one of those areas where the clock is ticking even though we choose to do nothing. Once health is lost, it may be gone for good—is that worth clearing away some extra time out of your busy schedule?
It damages work and business
Back in high school I had a part-time job in a local grocery store. One night I was commenting on how another worker always seemed so busy, and the assistant manager turned my observation around completely. The co-worker, he said, was a master of “keeping his hands busy to look like he was working” but in reality he accomplished little of any real value. That was a lesson well learned.
When it comes to work, most of us have a great deal of responsibilities, but there are usually one, two—maybe three—that define our success or failure. This is true on just about every job imaginable, and even more so if you’re self-employed. What are those functions that are most critical to what we do?
With work, it’s often tempting to “major on the minors”—working first (or mostly) on what is least essential. A job loss, being passed over for promotion or a business failure are often the result of busying ourselves with what is least important.
Identify your most important function(s), then commit to spending the majority of your time working on them. People who know this and pursue it relentlessly are the success stories. It’s the only way forward.
How to Regain Control of Our Lives
How do we cut back on busyness and get control of our lives and escape?
As we discussed above with work, even though we have dozens – maybe hundreds – of responsibilities and events in life, our success or failure in any one arena will depend on our ability to identify the MOST important ones and to spend the first, best, and largest amount of time on them. You can even put them in numeric order.
A good friend of mine used to say (frequently!) “do your best and let others do the rest”. He was one of the most successful salesmen I ever knew, at least in part because he followed that saying to the letter. Sometimes we think we have more control over our lives by handling every detail ourselves, but the opposite is much closer to the truth. Not every job or function in your life needs to be done perfectly or even specifically the way you want. Let go of as much as you can, and free your time up for what’s most important.
It often seems that there aren’t enough hours in a day to do all that we need to do. As much as I hate multi-tasking, it does have its place. If you have several errands to run, try to do them in one trip. I know it isn’t good to talk on the phone while driving, but I’ll often return a phone call when I’m on the way to pick up my son at school. I’ll also put my phone on speaker when I’m cooking or doing some other function at home; I can do my work and still chat with a friend.
Where ever possible, try to create an assembly line to handle similar responsibilities. For example, block out a time to pay all your bills, time to call several friends, or time to deal with disputes (medical bills, credit card issues, regulatory compliance, etc). The idea is to handle similar functions in time blocks that free up the rest of your time to do what is most important. It creates greater focus on the job at hand but also minimizes the distraction that comes from trying to handle issues on a piecemeal basis.
Let go of a few things
Most of us tend to carry too much baggage in life. It could be habits, hobbies, obsessions, stuff—you name it. But everything we take on in life takes at least some time and effort. Think about all you have—can you get rid of some of it? Think about all that you do—do you really need to do all of it? Can you pass it on to someone else? Think about all that you worry about—will the world implode if you just let it go? You already know the answer to that one.
Do you ever find that you’re too busy with everything to accomplish your goals or to have better relationships? What are you doing to get control of it? Meet us in the comments!