The Year of Not Being Busy

2020: I refuse to edit a month of blog posts about productivity without sharing my stance on busyness. So today I’m excited to share with you a blog post I wrote several years ago (2018) when I fasted the use of the word busy for one whole year (2017), and what I learned about the value of time.

‘Being in a hurry.  Getting to the next thing without fully entering the thing in front of me.  I cannot think of a single advantage I’ve ever gained from being in a hurry.  But a thousand broken and missed things, tens of thousands, lie in the wake of all the rushing… Through all that haste I thought I was making up time.  It turns out I was throwing it away’ – One Thousand Gifts, Ann Voskamp

Last year I decided to give up the right to use the word ‘busy’.  Why?  Because I had grown incredibly tired of busy as an excuse in other people’s lives and when I further pondered, my own.  I was sick of a world where the things I value and commit to become the excuse for why I’m aloof or untouchable.  I have time. I use my time wisely.  Why am I acting as if life is happening to me instead of owning my intentional choices?

The year of not being busy was in no way the year of being lazy – so let’s clear that up.  When I gave up the right to use the term ‘I’m busy’ I did not give up all my commitments with it.  I read 136 books, participated in 2 book clubs (one I was in charge of that met in my home), hosted and lead a bible study as we read through the entire bible in a year, served on the prayer team at my church, traveled 15 week/weekends, and still managed to talk to my best friends every single week.  I flew all the way to North Carolina to date my nieces and nephews one-on-one and still had time to host monthly game nights and cook through about 100 new recipes while inviting new people to the dining table.  I also enjoyed the most opportunities to speak (in public!) that I’ve had yet.  It was a good, full year.

Here was the most valuable lesson of my sacrifice: let your no be no.  The bible is of course quite clear about how we should just say yes or no and let that be enough.  So why did I find myself having these long explanations?  Why did I ever believe people wanted to hear them?  This year I quit saying: I would but… and just said: no, not at this time.  As it turns out, that was enough.  People respect it.  I’m on committees and in focus groups and leading a few too many things so when I say: no, I mean it.  I am protective of my time because when I’m not: I don’t like me.  I refuse to be the person you ask to coffee who says: I’m available on a Tuesday at 6 am 3 months from now – will you take that?  I require room in my life for the people I love. I create space.

January has been off to a rocky start. So how will 2018 be different because of the year without busy?  I learned a lot about myself last year.  As it turns out, not making excuses was harder than I’d like to admit.  I’ve always said to anyone who will listen that I hate excuses. I do.  However, 2017 taught me how much I even hated my own excuses.  So I’m not bringing them back in 2018.  I tell myself almost every morning as I drag the laundry down 2 flights of stairs and throw it in the washer on my way out the door to work:  you’re not that busy.  Why?  Because I don’t want to feel busy even when my life is full. I want to enjoy the things I’ve committed too and the people I’m spending my life with.  I don’t want to be bogged down in the emptiness of busy.  So I pep talk myself: you’ve got time.  And then I fill it with what matters to me. This is a lifestyle of abundance.

No excuses, just this intentional life I’ve built over the years and time for what I value.  For those of you who need this permission: what other people value doesn’t have to be important to you.  We get invited to do a lot of things.  Even to be in charge of them.  None of them are bad things or things that don’t matter – but they don’t all matter to me.  I know my strengths but I also know my areas of disinterest. I’ve started being really, really honest about them.  Just because I CAN do something, doesn’t mean I do.  I’m capable of things I quite simply don’t want to spend the time and energy on because they’re not ‘my things’.

So for those wondering, in the fullness of 2018 – I’m still not busy.  I refuse to live telling myself or anyone else I’m too busy.  What I am saying more and more of is no.  No to the wrong things so that I can say a lot more yes to what I value most.  Owning my decisions and my time, I’ve been able to be more honest than ever before about what I want to do and what I don’t. This week I hope you’ll spend some time praying about your perspective on the fullness of life and avoiding the trap of busy.


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