How many times have you answered, “We’re doing good! Staying busy!” when someone asks you how you are? Maybe you haven’t ever done that, but I sure have (way more often than I’d like to admit… or basically anytime I’m asked that question.). When did it become the norm to be so busy?
While I was talking with my mom (Hi, mom!), she made the remark that she hopes I enjoy life and won’t be so busy all the time which really made me start thinking about my life and busyness in general.
I don’t really remember being busy growing up, nor do I remember my mom being that busy. She was a stay-at-home mom and I just remember being able to go and do things, but not feeling a sense of busyness. Yes, there was homework everyday and after school activities, but I enjoyed all of that and it didn’t feel like my life was busy at that point. I also didn’t have any responsibility to anyone but myself which was probably most of it.
Today, though, I just feel busy. I feel like I go from one thing to the next and some days, barely have time to breathe.
Our society places so much emphasis on what we do and how we fill our time. We’re encouraged to volunteer in our kids’ schools, we’re supposed to get at least thirty minutes of exercise each day, and we need to cook a balanced dinner every night. Don’t forget that we should be getting 7-8 hours of sleep each night, spending time outside, taking time for ourselves, staying up on the news, and keeping our homes tidy. We also have that big thing called a job to contend with every day which brings along with it a commute, childcare arrangements, and clothes that must be ironed. Most of us have children we want to spend quality time with as well as a spouse. And finally, there are those things that we really can’t not do like eat, shower, and sleep.
When did the equation that busyness equals success become true?
In my own life, I look back at movies and shows I watched along with books and magazines I read and in my mind, I thought doing it all well all the time was something to strive for. I marveled at successful women in corner offices who wore heels all day, played with their babies all night, and went on lavish vacations with their spouse all while looking like they stepped off of a runway. Busyness became a thing to strive for because if I’m busy with almost every minute booked, I must definitely be doing so much good — and have an incredibly full life. Right? Wrong.
Busyness does not equal success.
Busyness does not equal value.
Busyness does not give you worth.
Sadly, busyness seems to be the way so many of us signal our worth to others.
The myth that busyness means quality, worth, success, and value has to stop. So how do we stop it?
For a moment, picture your perfect life. What does it look like? My bet is you aren’t chained to a calendar or a to do list. You’re probably on a beach somewhere without a care in the world (What? Is that just my perfect life?). While what you immediately pictured may not be possible for you at this very moment (Hello, I have to work to provide for my family unless someone out there wants to send me an endless supply of cash!), the way that makes you feel is entirely possible. It’s just up to you to make it happen.
So how do we make it happen?
Let go of the idea that being busy is a virtue. It’s not. Being busy whether you’re busy doing good things or busy doing idle things isn’t that great. Yes, I understand there are some times in our lives where we truly are so busy that we can’t see straight because of circumstances around us, but for the most part, we control how busy we are.
Decide what’s most important to you. What things/people in your life are most important to you? What do you do just to say you do it or so you receive some type of recognition? What can you back out of? Before Kevin and I got married, I was really involved in my local Junior League. I enjoyed getting to see friends and volunteer in some neat places, but when Kevin and I met and eventually married, I decided to drop my membership. With meetings and volunteer hours, I knew I wouldn’t be able to devote the time I wanted to to my family and that commitment, so I did what was best for me.
Take charge of your time. There are 168 hours in a week. 40+ of those hours are spent working and 56 are spent sleeping (if you sleep 8 hours/night). That means you have 72 hours to do all the things. What things? The things that are important to you. Get a paper calendar if you don’t already have one. It can be fancy or plain; just get one. Look at each day and see where you have those 72 hours and let them work for you. Don’t become a slave to your time.
To start with, I encourage you to think about the things you know you waste time on. For me, that’s my phone. It’s so easy to say I’m just going to scroll through Instagram real quick and then 30 minutes later, I’m three months back on someone’s feed. There’s a great app I recently heard about (I can’t remember where) called Moment that tracks your screen time. It will blow your mind when you see how much time you spend on your screen.
After that, think about other things that are time suckers for you and determine whether or not you can automate them or at least, make them easier. I’ve shared before how Walmart’s Grocery App and pick up service has given me back at least an hour every week. My kids know to write what they need on the list on the fridge and it’ll get ordered. Amazon Subscription delivers diapers to my door once a month. My big kids pack their lunches most days which means they are not only developing responsibility and independence and getting what they want (within reason) for lunch, I’m also not having to decide what to pack and spending 15 minutes each night packing it. If cleaning your house sucks time out of you, see if your budget will allow for a housekeeper every so often.
Determine what things in your life aren’t negotiable. For me, I need some time with Jesus everyday (and just to lay it out there, when I’m superwoman busy, it doesn’t always happen), I want to spend quality time with my husband and kids, have time to run 4-5 days/week, and have some set aside time to read or do something else just for myself. Those things aren’t negotiable. Yes, there will be days when I have an event for work or the kids will be sick or I just won’t have the energy to run after my boys are all asleep, but as a general rule, these things are most important to me.
Make margin and begin to live your best life. Hold yourself accountable for your time. It’s your job to make sure you have time to live your best life. Daydream, swing in the hammock, go for shaved ice, have an impromptu date, walk around your neighborhood, watch the sunset. Do those things that make you happy. Work hard while you’re working, but enjoy life when you’re not. Prioritize those tasks that have to be done and do them now so that you are able to relax without a million things hanging over your head. Put your phone down and actually have a conversation with your spouse and kids. Sit around the table and eat together as a family. Bake some chocolate chip cookies. Curl up on the couch with a book. Just talk. Live.
While it’s overwhelming to think about slowing down sometimes, it really is the only way we’ll be able to live our best lives. You can’t be your best for yourself or your family if you’re not taking time out. Invest in yourself. Invest in your time. You won’t be sorry that you did.
Last week was a relaxing week. Seriously. I’m not prone to really sitting down and relaxing much, but last week was, and truthfully, looking back, it was much needed. It was the first week in my recent memory that we didn’t have anything we had to do. Sure, there were things that needed to be done around the house and things we did, but nothing we had to do. No places we had to be at certain times. It was great, and I really think I needed it after the busy holiday season.
During the last week, we watched more movies than we probably saw all of last year. We cooked dinner at home, I read some and I even got those things that I always want to do each week – things like menu planning – done.
Last night, as I was standing in the kitchen deboning chicken for some chicken and rice I’m making tonight and snapping the ends off of some butter beans, I was watching Kevin and the boys play basketball. In those totally not quiet moments, I just kept thinking “thank you.” I love my life – as chaotic as it sometimes is – and I’m so thankful for my sweet little family.
But sometimes, I can get overwhelmed. Mostly, this is my fault as a strong characteristic of mine is to try to do it all well, but mostly, I know I can’t. I can’t do everything for everyone and be everything for everyone – something I finally realized a few years ago.
When it comes down to it, there are a few things I really want to do well.
I want to be the best, loving wife I can be for my husband. I want to be tuned in to those things that matter to him, support him, listen to him and be there for him. I want to be the kind of wife he’s happy to come home to and I want him to always know how loved, cared for and really, cherished, he is by my actions.
As a mother, I want the boys to know that they are our most special gifts and spending time with them is the best thing in the world. I want them to know that I’m their biggest cheerleader, their best friend and love them more than anything in this world. I want them to know I’m all in whether we’re reading a book, building with blocks or cheering them on at practice.
I also want to be the best daughter, sister and friend that I can be. I want to know areas where I can serve and I want to do it joyfully. I want to do my best to share Jesus with those I come in contact with and I want to continue placing priority on running stronger and being healthier.
All these things are fine and good, but I realize that without a firm foundation, without rest and without renewal – I can’t be my best at these things.
This morning, my daily devotion had a reference to Isaiah 58:11. When I read this verse, I related.
Chaos will happen, toast will get burnt, mornings will be hectic and bedtime will sometimes be long, but with God as my source, He will strengthen me and give me rest when I’m weary. He will give me those things that I need to be my best for Him and for my people. And with His help, He won’t let me fail.
So to those of you who are reading: whether you try to do it all or be it all, are tired from stress or the everyday and for those of you who may be struggling to feel fully there and feel like you’re just getting by on a thread, hang in there and turn it over to Him. He’ll give you rest and on top of that, fill you with what you need. Just trust Him.