Best of Daily Reflections: Being Busy Is Not Cool

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In our culture, we think it is of high value to be "busy." Bob Robinson has found that his significance, though properly tied to the good work that he is called to do for God’s glory, must not be ultimately determined by how busy he is.

When I run into friends and acquaintances, they will usually ask me, “How’ve you been?” My reply is often, “Busy,” or “You know, keeping my head above water,” or “Keeping all the plates spinning.” Why do I answer like this?

Sure, it’s a way of saying that I am diligent in all my various duties, but more likely it is a way to proudly state that I am significant.

I like to be busy and I like to brag that I am busy.

Meredith Fineman in the Harvard Business Review writes,

“Here’s the thing: it’s harming how we communicate, connect, and interact. Everyone is busy, in different sorts of ways. Maybe you have lots of clients, or are starting a new business, or are taking care of a newborn. The point is this: with limited time and unlimited demands on that time, it’s easy to fill your plate with activities constantly. But this doesn’t mean that you should.

To assume that being ‘busy’ (at this point it has totally lost its meaning) is cool, or brag-worthy, or tweetable, is ridiculous. By lobbing these brags, endlessly puffing our shoulders about how ‘up to my neck’ we are, we’re missing out on important connections with family and friends, as well as personal time. In addition to having entire conversations about how busy we are, we fail to share feelings with friends and family, ask about important matters, and realize that the ‘busy’ is something that can be put on hold for a little while.”

I am starting to figure this out: My significance, though properly tied to the good work that I do for God’s glory, must not be ultimately determined by how busy I am in doing so. God is not asking me to be so busy that I don’t have time for relationships.

I am notoriously guilty of tapping away on this laptop at the kitchen table instead of spending time helping my kids with their homework or taking a leisurely walk with my wife. Today I saw an old friend at the coffee shop. My first inclination was to groan inwardly – “I am too busy to talk! I’ve got to write this post about how being busy is not cool!” Ironic, isn’t it? We had a great talk, deep and intense, about very important things. I should never be too busy for that.

Laura Vanderkam, at Fast Company’s excellent blog, How to Be a Success at Everything, writes,

“Anyone can be busy. It’s easy to fill your time if that’s your only goal.

In our hectic world, the ultimate sign of success is empty space on your calendar.

Empty space means that you control your time, and that you do not have to bend to other people’s schedules and whims. If you want to work from home – and then go swimming at 3 p.m. on a beautiful August afternoon – you can do so. If you want to spend the morning thinking through a perplexing but promising new line of business, you can…

…It’s not about having a million things to do. Everyone has a million things to do. The ultimate sign of success is having a million things to do but only doing a few of them.”

“Only doing a few of them.” Easier said than done, but crucial. I think that I need to prayerfully assess why I am so busy.

  • Am I “busy” because I want to impress others? All I need to impress is God, and he already sees me through the lens of his Son, Jesus Christ.
  • Am I “busy” because I want to meet or exceed others’ expectations? Why am I a people pleaser? Am I unable to say “no” to some good things so that I can concentrate on better things?
  • Am I “busy” because I like to be in control of everything, or perhaps because I fear being out of control? Isn’t God in control?
  • Am I “busy” because I like the adrenaline rush of it?
  • Am I “busy” because I want to escape the rest of life so I pour myself too much into my work?
  • Am I “busy” because I find my identity in my accomplishments? Why am I trying to prove my worth? Do I not know that my identity is in Christ?
  • Am I “busy” because I worry that if I don’t, I might get fired or I might not make enough money to get by? Have I forgotten the wonderful promise in Matthew 6:25-33, where Jesus says not to worry, that God feeds the birds in the air and clothes the flowers in the field in splendor, and that I am much more valuable to God than they?

Why are you “busy?”

Is being busy is a drug to which you are addicted?