By: Mark Merrill
In so many meetings and on phone calls I’ve had recently, I’ll ask the other person, “So, how you doing?” Most of the time I get a similar answer, something like, “Doin’ fine, just crazy busy!”
Now some people are stretched to the max through no fault of their own—maybe they are a single parent, or their spouse is sick or some other challenge is making them really busy. They’re not choosing the pressure, and they need all the help and support the rest of us can give them to keep going.
But it seems to me that, for many people, their crazy busy life is a choice. Yes, a choice. Somehow they appear to get some sense of significance or satisfaction, or perhaps an adrenaline rush from having so much to do. Now, I’ve been guilty of being crazy busy and saying it too. But I’m learning that busyness is not a badge of honor.
Busyness can be a sign of impending trouble. Having too much on your plate compromises your health, robs you of your joy, and over time damages your relationships. But it doesn’t have to be that way. If you want to swap crazy busy for a sane, well-paced life, here are six things you can do.
1. Decide to change.
Yes, it’s really as basic as that. Remember though, as they say in recovery circles, that simple isn’t necessarily easy. But, like people dealing with addictions, you have got to come to a place of being sick and tired of being sick and tired. Acknowledge the problem and make a choice to change. No one is going to come and rescue you; you have to determine that your current lifestyle is not working for you or those you love. These 4 Important Choices Every Parent Must Make might help inspire you to decide to do things differently. Draw a line in the sand.
2. Make a list.
If you are going to go to war, you have to know your enemy. Take some time to identify why, where, and how you are so busy. Keep a timeline for a week, detailing all that you do, from work to commuting to family commitments and hobbies. Chances are that at first glance, all that you list will seem to be good things. But something has to go. Separate that list into two columns: the first, important/non-negotiable and the second, negotiable. Now you are going to have to make some hard choices about eliminating items from column two. That golf game on Saturday with your friends may be fun, but can you find another way and time to meet with your friends that doesn’t swallow up so much time? The ideas in this 30-Day Challenge to a Less Frazzled Life could help.
3. Involve the family.
Crazy-busyness is typically a team sport! That means you aren’t going to solve things by going solo. Consider How to Be a Team Player in Your Own Home. Ask your spouse to make their own list and compare notes. See how your two schedules clash, intersect, and overlap. Don’t forget to include the children’s activities which can eat up a huge amount of time. When our children were young, Susan and I limited their extracurricular activity to one sport per semester. Apart from anything, it’s important for children to learn to be still and enjoy the simple things of life without having to be entertained and stimulated by one organized activity after another.
4. Put it on the calendar.
Only by putting everything on a calendar can you really get an idea of what demands are being made on your time. I made a point of recording not just my own work and other activities on my calendar but also children’s activities too. I also included all the things that Susan and I do together, such as our date nights. That way I always know what everyone is doing. Some families find it helpful to write everyone’s schedules on the same “command central” calendar that all can refer to.
5. Create “white space” on your schedule.
On my calendar, I also intentionally create white space. That is the time when absolutely nothing is on my schedule. I try to create 15-30 minutes of white space between appointments, so I’m not rushing from one to another, especially if a meeting is running late. As our kids were growing up, I made extra white space on my calendar at night and on the weekends so I could always be available to them.
6. Get some help.
Going against our culture’s busy-busy stream can feel a bit lonely but reach out for some help. For example, maybe you can swap babysitting sessions with friends who have children the same age to make date night with your spouse possible.