Just over a week ago I attended the London Women’s Convention, an annual event whose strap line is ‘encouraging women to live for Christ’. This year the meeting was titled, ‘Busyness As Usual?’ What follows is a very brief summary of a seminar I attended and some thoughts I’ve had on busyness. I hope you will find it thought provoking and helpful whether or not you are a Christian.
Seminar, ‘Choosing a better kind of busyness’, led by Sian Baker. Sian gave us this list of symptoms we can experience when busyness is out of control:
- We lose our joy – too aware of failures, less aware of God’s grace
- We have no time to enjoy God’s good gifts – nature, art, literature etc.
- We are permanently tired – lack of sleep!
- We are indecisive – wide variety of choices leads to procrastination
- We avoid people – loose spontaneity as we try to keep to schedule
- We start making mistakes – so much going on that in the end we can’t attend to details
- We experience ill-health – the result of lack of sleep, unhealthy eating etc.
I can certainly recognise some of those symptoms in myself. Recently I’ve found myself reluctant to deal with nitty-gritty details, the voice in my head says with a sigh, ‘I can’t be bothered.’ And ‘yes’ like the example given by Sian I have tried hiding in doorways rather than greet someone knowing a long conversation could ensue!
I have reached the conclusion that busyness is often worn as a badge of honour, even given the status of martydom (maybe that’s a bit extreme but you know what I mean?). Often in answer to the question, ‘How are you?’ we hear or give the answers, ‘Busy’ or ‘Tired’. It is good to have a sense of purpose, to wake up in the morning and have a reason to get of bed. BUT that gets twisted so badly it’s easy to find that if we are not busy checking off items on our (impossibly long and restrictive) tick lists we are in danger of feeling out of step with modern living. It’s tied up with that other question, ‘What do you do?’. We hear the reply and immediately form assumptions about the person from their answer – so much so that really the question could be, ‘Who are you?’. It’s not easy to find a way out of the ‘busyness; what I do is who I am’ mindset. And I think it’s just as hard not to impose this thinking on our impressions of the people we meet.
As always it is the attitude behind what we do that is key. Sian used a working day in the life of Jesus to illustrate this (Mark 1:32-42). He remained focused on why he had come; to preach. To do that effectively he needed to pray and he needed to keep moving on from one town or village to the next. Despite the interruptions and clamour for him to divert from his route, Jesus kept in mind his main purpose and acted accordingly while always having space for compassionate encounters. So using Jesus’ example we can try applying these tips and helps to get busyness under control:
- Develop a balanced approach – know that working for God’s Kingdom will be demanding – we are urged in Ephesians to make the most of every opportunity! But don’t forget God instituted a day of rest!
- Resist pressure from others – to God only are we accountable, being driven by the expectations of others only compounds the busyness problem. People pleasing…
- Prioritise wisely – be prepared to say ‘no’. Keep the focus on keeping in line with Jesus.
- Embrace life’s different stages – cultivate an adaptable mindset.
- Put Jesus at the centre – practise abiding in Him (John 15).
- Cultivate good discipline – give quality time to being with Jesus in prayer, getting to know him better through reading the Bible. After all he did say “Come to me all you who are weary and burdened and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11:28)
Balance is a tricky concept to apply to the whole business of busyness. As one person pointed out; if our approach to finding balance is to keep adding things to each side of the scales then eventually the whole structure will collapse!
I’ve resolved to change my attitude to to-do lists. My list will be a list of reminders (because I do forget many things!) rather than an achievement-driven tick list and at the top I’m going to remind myself to practise living for and in Christ – concentrating less on my failures (because they will keep happening) and more on His grace to forgive, pick me up and set me back on the right path with the right attitude!
If this gets you thinking please do share your thoughts in a comment. I’m linking this post with Nancy at Joy for Grace, Quilty Inspirations #5.