Just stop and ponder this question for a moment.
Is busyness a choice?
What if we make it personal:
Is how busy I AM a choice?
Or is it an unchangeable fact of my life?
I have been thinking about writing about busyness for a while. At first I thought about adding it to my ‘Breaking Free!’ series and yet the more I thought about it, the more I kept coming back to these questions:
Is busyness actually choice?
How much control do we have over it?
Can I really ‘break free’ from it?
Do I want or need to ‘break free’ from it?
These are the type of questions I have been pondering and have asked myself on numerous occasions, especially since having kids.
Will this overwhelming, exhausting busyness ever stop?
The relentless do, do, do, go, go, go of life.
For years I have both thrived and have been exhausted by busyness.
My husband Matt and I are very driven and passionate about life. We live life with purpose, get involved with a lot of things, connect meaningfully with a lot of people and do not shy away from responsibility.
It’s in our nature to have a full life.
We love living life to the full!
But in at the start of 2015 things changed. I fell off a ladder and sustained a minor brain injury. And busyness began to happen around me rather than to me.
Enforced rest is hard. And it wasn’t fun rest either:
I couldn’t watch that movie.
I couldn’t read my favourite book.
I couldn’t listen to my favourite album.
I couldn’t go out for a meal with friends & family.
For about 3 months.
I mainly just had to lie there in a dark and quiet room feeling unwell.
Comparatively (to normality) I couldn’t DO anything.
Now if you know me personally, you will know I am a DOER. It’s in my nature to DO a lot of different things at the same time.
But suddenly I couldn’t
And it was hard.
And at these moments the question flies around your head:
Who am I when I can’t really DO anything?
An interesting question in itself and something I will come back to later.
Even now, 5 months on from the accident, I am so much better and improving each week, but I still cannot rush about as I did before without feeling the impact. My head begins to get cloudy and dizzy and everything takes much more energy.
I cannot DO busyness, like I used to and it’s a challenge to me.
A couple of months ago, I read an article called ‘Busy Is a Sickness’ by a guy called Scott Dannemiller. It said a lot of what I had been thinking about for a while.
In it Scott discusses two types of busyness.
1. Busyness we can’t control: Which he writes primarily affects the poor because their economic reality simply does not allow for downtime. They have to work 2 or 3 jobs just to make ends meet.
2. Busyness we can control: Self-created stress. He writes, “Most of the time, I manufacture urgency in the hope that it will create urgency in others. Instead, it only creates anxiety, resentment and spite. Which is absolutely counter-productive. And even in the cases where the urgency is real, it’s often due to a packed schedule I created.”
Why do so many of us get caught up in a cycle of busyness that we can control and yet can often feel out of control?
Scott Dannemiller writes:
“… we are defined by what we do. Our careers. What we produce. It’s the first question asked (of us)…. The implication is that if I am not busy doing something, I am somehow less than. Not worthy. Or at least worth less than those who are producing something.”
He goes on to make the case that many of us can use busyness because ‘we are afraid of ourselves’. True quiet time can be a challenge and also very revealing – as we come face to face with ourselves and our own thoughts.
So busyness is very linked to our identity.
1. It helps us to feel like, and let others know, we are DOING something useful or important.
2. It can keep us distracted from facing ourselves and our thoughts.
Perhaps Busyness is a sickness of epidemic proportions!
“We are defined by what we do.” – Scott Dannemiller
So many of us often feel crazy busy. The irony is, we complain about it and yet we can simultaneously wear it as a badge of honour. We mention it to empathise with others, but it can then quickly become something we compete over.
It can be a reality.
But also an excuse.
Busy, busy, busy…. Rush, Rush, Rush!!
No wonder people want to:
Drink it away.
Eat it away.
Medicate it away.
Self medicate it away.
The pressure of life.
The realisation that life and responsibility is not easy.
That it involves a lot of hard work.
That it never seems to end.
Of all I need to DO!
The modern world we live in demands more and more of our time and attention as technology invades every part of our lives. Until our lives can feel out of our control.
It can feel overwhelming!
Yet do we have more control over it than we might think?
This is something I have increasingly thought about and my answer is, of course: Yes & No!
After 10 years of having children I know full well that having kids makes life hectic. You have these little people dependent on you 24/7 however tired, exhausted & in need of a break you are. When you have kids busyness is often an inevitability. Even holidays can be exhausting.
But there is still a lot of choices I make each day in how I use and view my time. Often:
I chose it,
I agreed to it.
I took on that job.
Said yes to that appointment.
Agreed to that meet up.
Answered my phone.
Took on that new responsibility.
So I must either accept the consequences of my choices, do it with a humble heart and increase my capacity – which is a good thing to do and something some of us need to learn to do more.
Or I have to decide to somehow change it, whilst maintaining my integrity and honouring my commitments wherever possible.
There is no point in complaining or getting bitter about the choices I have made.
If my busyness is out of control maybe I need to think carefully about my life and make different choices. Change may not be possible over night but there are always ways forward.
What about the times when busyness is not a choice?
Life will always bring seasons that feel uncontrollable. Things happen that we did not expect in our personal lives and jobs and the balance in our life quickly shifts to ‘unbearable’. Sometimes we just have to manage and find a way through a particularly exhausting season.
Matt and I faced this, at the start of the year. We had to quickly make a lot of changes when I was ill. Matt couldn’t DO it all on his own as I wrote about here.
It showed us that we could scale back when we needed to. We can say no and reevaluate what needs to change. Lessons I hope we will apply more in the future.
I have realised that I need to ‘break free’ from a busy mindset and its hold on my identity and discover a rhythm of life that works for me and my family.
Much of our busyness is a choice. We can get frustrated by it and yet we often choose it. Sometimes we can end up blaming others and get angry about it. And yet we have agreed to it or allowed the people around us, or our own mindsets, to influence it.
I know Matt and I will always live a ‘full life’ even amidst challenging seasons. But I have realised that I need to ‘break free’ from a busy mindset and its hold on my identity and discover a rhythm of life that works for me and my family.
A life rhythm that continues to thrive on a ‘full and purposeful life’ which will inevitably include a lot of hard work, generosity of time, sacrifice, commitment and responsibility. But one that does not pull us into a place that is consistently overwhelming and potentially damaging to our health, faith, marriage and family.
Busyness will take everything if we let it!
To end I wanted to again use Scott Dannemiller’s words because he says it so well.
“So my prayer today is this. That I stop defining myself by my doing, and start defining myself by my being. That I stop measuring time by the clock on the wall, and start measuring it by the experiences I share with those around me. And that I stop seeing my life as “busy,” and instead, see it for what it truly is.
Do you think busyness is a choice or do you think of it as an inevitability?
How could you bring a better rhythm to your life and see busyness a different way?
I invite you to discuss or comment below, or on my social media links, I would love to hear what you think.