Busy has become the new fine.
Casually ask someone how they’re doing today, and on autopilot, they might say they’re fine—but chances are they’ll add, “Fine, but busy. You?”
It’s strange to not be busy. No one answers that greeting with, “Fine—finished my to-do list yesterday and had time to leisurely work on my [insert hobby] before getting an early night”
We’ve decided to put this blog together just to begin the discussion around busyness. We’re no experts and we don’t have all the answers! In fact, we wondered whether to even write this as we’re yet to have kids, a mortgage and other adult responsibilities!! But we figured if we were feeling like this, others would be too.
So let’s chat about the busyness of life while we’re all still figuring it out!
Worth and Identity
If you look up the meaning of the word busy, synonyms include: occupied, crowded, demanding, hectic and tiring. All pretty negative full on words. When someone is asked to describe a piece of art and they say it looks a little ‘busy’, they mean there’s far too much going on.
Would you say these are an accurate description of how you’re doing right now? Are you constantly bogged down and busy or constantly hectic?
I was once challenged that the next time someone asks, rather than saying ‘busy,’ tell them in more detail what’s going on.
I realised that I had for so long replied using the word busy, that I no longer knew how to describe my week, my day, my life. I started asking myself questions- if I wasn’t busy, would I still feel fulfilled? Would I still feel like I’m doing a good job? Would I still feel loved by God if the busyness is taken away?
This lead to the crucial starting place of busyness—busyness is not bad in and of itself.
Busyness can also be defined as “full of activity.” That activity can be full of meaning and joy. God calls us to work, Proverbs tells us not to be lazy, we are designed to find fulfillment in a job well done (Matthew 25:14). But it’s when our identity is in being busy that we start on a dangerous path. The busyness contest is a difficult one to climb out of.
Ultimately our identity needs to be first in Christ. When Jesus is baptised in Luke 3, God the father says to Jesus, ‘you are my dearly loved son, and you bring me great joy.’
Before Jesus had done anything, before his earthly ministry has begun, before he gets into the busyness of life, God affirms his identity in being his loved son whom he’s proud of simply for just being him.
Our identity isn’t in what we achieve or how busy we are, it’s in the fact that we’re sons and daughters of the king, loved by him for just being us—not for what we’re doing and how busy our calendar is.
What would it look like if we were a generation who broke the norm of the busyness culture? What would it look like to celebrate someone who is achieving all they set out to but also well rested, rather than celebrating those who just seem busy?
We have split our thoughts into two categories of busy:
- The first we’ve named ‘unproductive busy’—for those who feel in a constant state of busy but seem to find themselves rarely achieving all they wish to.
- The second is ‘hectic busy’—for those who by nature of your job or current circumstance you find yourself always busy but not finding joy in that busyness.
The beauty of a List
Move away from feeling overwhelmed at one big task and break it down! Get creative with your lists! Use a list app, go old school and write it down or even get a white board, write down a list of everything you need to do, small things and the bigger tasks, and then work through it. Then once it’s done wipe it off. The great thing about getting it all down on paper is that you’re not constantly having to subconsciously remember everything and keep going over it in your mind. Often things can seem HUGE and scary and overwhelming in your head, but once you put them down in a list and you can see everything broken down into smaller tasks, it’s quickly a lot more manageable.
Pick n mix Priorities
Take a step back each day and set the priority for what you’re going to achieve. It’s so easy to tick off the fun little bits on your list that don’t matter as much, but often harder to tick off the big key things that take time and effort. Have a mix of them but once you have the priority set, you know what’s most important, rather than the most fun. The trick is don’t just think in terms of tasks, think in terms of everything.
For example, a priority for you today on your list might be to rest, spending some time in prayer or even catching up on a Netflix episode.
If you only see work related tasks as a priority then quickly you’re going to burn out and feel demotivated when you spend time ‘procrastinating.’ You need to have a pick n mix of tasks which are a priority for work and a priority for you. Once you have set the priorities make sure you achieve them. Don’t see it as an optional choice, be strict with yourself and make sure you get them done, then anything else on top is a bonus.
Each morning make the conscious effort to be positive and have a grateful heart. Psalm 136:26 says ‘Let your heart overflow with praise to the True God of heaven, for his faithful love lasts forever’ (author’s paraphrase).
When we are grateful and thankful, our lives are shifted into perspective. We automatically gain a positive outlook on life. Each time something goes wrong it’s a choice to respond maturely and problem solve a positive solution. Having this kind of mindset is fundamental in combatting the feeling of being overwhelmed, but it also leads to being joyful in all things. No matter if you have a massive to-do list or if you have the day off, when we approach all things with a grateful heart, the weight of the responsibilities lessen, the heaviness lifts! Be positive and look on the bright side, sure you have a lot to do, but think of the good that will come from it.
A quite important question is …. is your lifestyle attractive?
Those who don’t yet know Jesus will be watching our lives and observing how we live, what we say and how we respond. We as Christians show people who don’t yet know Jesus, what a life looks like with him. When we complain we’re so busy, tired, exhausted and overworked, it isn’t necessarily an attractive lifestyle. That doesn’t mean we need to be fake, or not authentic, of course we need to be real! But we also need to be WISE. Wisdom is such a precious gift that we need to continually chase. Let’s be wise in our actions, what we say, how we act, around those who do and especially those who don’t know Jesus. We need to be modelling a life filled with his love, joy, peace, purpose and fulfilment … sure we go through tough and hectic seasons but our lives should look attractive to outsiders, why? Because Jesus gives us the peace, perseverance and joy that we need! A life lived with Jesus is an incredible one!! One we want everyone to have, modelling it is the most authentic starting point.
Joshua 1:9 says ‘Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.’
God knows our limits. Sure it might be tough at times but rather than being afraid or discouraged in the busyness, we need to stand strong in the face of it. After all he’s going to be there alongside us every step of the way, maybe even teaching us a lesson in the busy seasons. Whenever I see things getting a little crazy or overwhelming, I remember this verse and it helps me to neither brag nor complain about it. Much like everything with Christ, when you remember that it all comes from Him. Rather than getting negative and worried, rejoice in it and see it as a joy to have been trusted with all of this incredible work. He is there in it all, hold on tight to that, no matter how long our list is!
‘Let your yes be yes and your no be no’ (Matthew 5:37)
Jesus says in Matthew 21:28-31 “But what do you think about this? A man with two sons told the older boy, ‘Son, go out and work in the vineyard today.’ The son answered, ‘No, I won’t go,’ but later he changed his mind and went anyway. Then the father told the other son, ‘You go,’ and he said, ‘Yes, sir, I will.’ But he didn’t go. “Which of the two obeyed his father?” They replied, “The first.”
Let’s be a generation who don’t shy away from commitment. If we agree to do something, let’s crack on and get it done to the best of our ability. If we can’t do something, let’s be honest and say! Chances are there is someone else out there best suited for that job. Sometimes saying no is better for everyone involved. Don’t shy away from saying no, stewarding your time, energy and skills for the Kingdom is key.
Don’t live on ‘power through’ mode!
If you find yourself drowning in the busyness it might be time to reassess…
Are you busy with all the things God has called you to? Are there some things you need to drop? Are you being fruitful in the areas you feel busy? Sometimes we need to be brave and say no or leave some things. Seth Godin’s book has great advice on this, The Dip: The extraordinary benefits of knowing when to quit (and when to stick)
Things will calm down after that next big event right? But what if the current season you are in is full of big event after big event? It’s here that it’s easy to slip into ‘power through, push through the season’ mode.
Do you tell yourself it’s okay to overwork and be exhausted because it’s just ‘this season’? Sometimes the reality is that, it isn’t just a season. It’s life.
You can easily form bad habits of never resting or only feeling like you can rest when all the work is done…which rarely is the case!! So quit the ‘power through’ mode and plan in regular rest! Don’t feel guilty when you rest. Learn how to switch off and rest well. Rest looks different for everyone—for some it’s having dinner with friends, for others it’s time alone reading a book, for others it’s time in the gym—whatever it is, do it! Don’t put off rest.
Look at the bigger picture
It’s easy to get caught up in the small tasks, the things you have to do, the long list in front of you.
But what about the bigger picture, what’s the reason you’re doing these things?
The things you’re struggling to do right now, what might they lead to? This is where things get really exciting! Not many incredible things happen for the Kingdom without a long list of actions happening first. The thing you need to do which you’ve been putting off and don’t really want to do, what might it lead to? For example that friend who doesn’t know Jesus but you know that scheduling in a coffee will make all the difference. Those late nights planning the Christmas party with your office staff, a church event or meeting up with old school mates because you know that may lead to a ‘yes’ when you invite them to Alpha. What might these things lead to?
You are the hands and feet of Christ here on planet earth today, or to put it differently, He doesn’t have any hands or feet on this planet apart from ours. What is He going to do through us with these small tasks we’re faced with today? Always look at the bigger picture. This is when things become a joy and really exciting rather than a huge overwhelming list of tasks.
Be accountable in the Busy!
Accountability is so important to every area of our lives. From our prayer lives to our personal lives, we’re told to be a community of believers supporting, guiding and walking alongside one another. This should be the exact same when it comes to trying to thrive in the busy. As we mentioned at the start, the often undetected race to seam and look busy to others, to feel a sense of worth and importance, means we rarely let others know when we’re struggling with the busyness.
What would it look like if you had a few people around you to continually call you up on this and ensure you thrive in the busy and don’t burn out. Who around you could you help encourage and bring advice when they are struggling? Be accountable in the busy.
Ultimately in all seasons busy or not, we need to devote our everything to Jesus.
Know that it is only the Holy Spirit who gives joy, peace and patience. So if you want joy and peace in the busyness, it will only come through Him.
Spending time with Jesus, reading our Bibles, praying and worshiping should always be an absolute pleasure and never a chore or an item on our todo list or a ‘I really should do it.’
So let’s make the time for it! Yes we’re busy, but we still manage to scroll through Facebook, tweet a quote, Instagram our dinner and Snapchat that funny office prank!
Let’s carve out time in our day to spend time with Jesus.
30 minutes each day for Jesus is really not that much considering we have 23 and a half hours left for other activities!
The more we give over to God, the less overwhelmed in the busy we will feel. Something which helped me with this is that I actually scheduled ‘coffee with Jesus.’ If I had ‘coffee with Abbey’ in my diary, I wouldn’t stand her up, I wouldn’t miss out on coffee and use the excuse ‘I just got too busy,’ I also wouldn’t sit with Abbey for an hour chatting for ten minutes and then scrolling through Facebook. So diary in Jesus time, and actually go for a coffee, a walk, find a comfy sofa and spend some quality time with Him.
After all, everything else is meaningless. Ecclesiastes is sometimes a helpful book for someone who can’t prevent the busy—everything is meaningless without God.
Unless our whole lives, every action, every word, every thought, every step is devoted to Jesus, it is all meaningless. We can easily find ourselves filling our lives with busy for what?
A point worth mentioning is that sometimes we might not understand why we’re so busy right now, why we’re slogging away at a certain job or project; but that’s okay, because life has been given to us by the King and sometimes that’s all we need to know.
Ecclesiastes 11:7-8 reads: ‘Oh, how sweet the light of the day, and how wonderful to live in the sunshine! Even if you live a long time, don’t take a single day for granted. Take Delight in each light-filled hour.’
Yes you’re crazy busy, tired and maybe a little overwhelmed—but let’s remember to try and take delight in each light filled hour—it has been given to us both by the King and for the King.
There isn’t a top secret formula to thriving in the art of busy, the answer is and always will be ‘through Christ.’
Over to You
Now it’s over to you, here are three challenges from us to you so that you can find the art of busy:
- The Easy Challenge – Ban yourself from using the word ‘busy’ for a whole 24 hours. Describe your day, in another way and actually tell people how you are.
- The Medium Challenge – Whatever your current ‘devotional time’ is for Jesus each day – double it! So if you spend 10 minutes a day praying and reading your bible, spend 20, if it’s 30 minutes spend an hour! If it’s 0, well then start somewhere and get cracking making time for Jesus.
- The Hard Challenge – Go that one step further and hold someone else accountable in their busyness. Make sure they are thriving and supported in the busy times and not struggling through the hectic day to day.
LUKE HAMILTON currently lives in London where he works for Reality Church London and studies theology at London School of Theology. Luke was raised in the village of Surrey, England. Church was part of the routine, but little else. Fast forward a few years and when making the most of the long summer breaks in-between university terms Luke found himself working at a children’s camp in West Virginia, USA. This is where it all changed and he audibly heard the Lord. Realizing how truly sovereign and loving God is, Luke relinquished control of his life and surrendered himself wholeheartedly to Christ and started exploring the calling to ministry. Arriving back in London, Luke felt convicted to step into this calling. Spending two years as a children’s Pastor and going back to college to study Christian Leadership before taking up a role at Alpha International, a ministry serving churches in their mission to introduce people to Christ. You can contact Luke about his future plans and needs… [email protected]
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