If busyness were a currency, there would be a monumental number of billionaires in Western culture. We Americans frequently fill our day from the moment we wake up until our heads hit the pillow, and then stir and repeat all week long—even on Sundays. And Sundays all too often have become just another day for us to skip Mass, grocery shop, do laundry, meal prep, and whatever else we want to catch up on before Monday circles back with its list of demands. I wonder how many parents are taking their children to sports games and/or tournaments on the weekends rather than Church services or Mass?
Although busyness is an epidemic, particularly in the US which makes an idol out of always hustling, I do believe certain types of people fall more into its trap. Tammi and I have already discussed the beauty of the CliftonStrengths Finder, which has taught me about how to live out my top five strengths, the primary one being strategic. One thing we haven’t really discussed here, though, has been the Four Temperaments, which I find fascinating. The four temperaments revolve more around who you inherently are, in terms of traits, as opposed to where your greatest potential lies, as we see in the StrengthsFinder. Yet both of these help us to know who God created us to be and why we think, act, and behave in certain ways.
Back when I was single, I was on CatholicMatch.com for a stint, and I did the temperament test there. I learned that I have Choleric-Sanguine temperament. I have since discovered that it is quite rare for women to have a predominantly choleric temperament, which makes me a results-oriented person. According to the FourTemperaments.com, Cholerics have “active, positive, and forward movement, in an antagonistic environment.” And I influence my “environment by overcoming opposition to get results.” We Cholerics are bold risk-takers who thrive under pressure, often becoming bored when things fail to happen fast enough. Between my strategic mind and results-oriented temperament, it is not uncommon for me to pack my days with many task-oriented items. My challenge often resides in trying to be still, quiet, and contemplative.
In my younger days, particularly in my 20s, I found it even harder to be slow and still. As a youthful extrovert, I didn’t want to miss out on anything, which caused me to say yes to too many things. As a “helper” who loved God and people, I did lots of service-oriented activities and ministries, often pouring myself out on the daily. I had yet to learn my limits, and others would take as much as I was willing to give. So I would run myself ragged, often resulting in exhaustion, a spike of migraines—sometimes both.
My parents would try to counsel me, but I was fiercely independent—working, living with roommates, out on my own, and “doing my own thing.” But I’ll never forget a piece of advice my dad told me to serve as a gauge as to when I needed to say no. Dad advised, “If just thinking about doing another thing makes you feel tired, say no.” A couple decades later, I still find myself calling that to mind when new opportunities arise; however, I also find myself more easily tired!
That was one practical way that I began to learn how to be less busy—saying no. Although my people-pleaser side felt bad and like I needed to explain myself, I began to grow through my mistakes of over-committing to the point of putting up my “no” boundaries. I even recall one of my bosses telling me that he respected my decision to not take on an additional role in my work duties, as I had discerned that I did not think I could do everything well. I’m proud of mid-twenties Lisa who was beginning to learn how to not let my employers or employees take too much from my self-sacrificing nature, both through my successes and failures.
This leads to a very important lesson that I needed to come to understand—business, people, ministry, the world, (whomever or whatever it is), will take every ounce of energy from me if I allow it. There will never be a lack of needs or work to be done. So, if I make myself the primary source of taking all that on upon myself to complete it, I forever will be working and doing. That is not what God wants of me. He doesn’t want that for you either, friend.
While we must work in order to provide for ourselves, and God calls us to do good works, neither is meant to be an idol or a source of “enslavement.” Work is an idol when it comes before anyone or anything else—whether that is your family, your partner, God, etc. The workaholic constantly strives after producing, advancing, meeting goals/deadlines, climbing “the ladder” to reap further success. The enslavement happens when we cannot rest—nothing can wait until later—and while we are garnering success in business, we are failing personally—in not making time for God, to be present to our loved ones, and to take care of responsibilities at home and with our families. I’ve done this before, and it makes loved ones feel like they are always getting the short end of the stick—not a priority, which leads to resentment. Trust me, it’s not worth it.
So, how then do we abide more with God?
I’ve been working on this for some time now, friend. So let me give you a couple of good tips on how to be less busy and abide in God.
Prayer. Make time every single day for prayer. And do not leave it up to chance as to when you will get to it. Like I passed along in my blog on “Creating a Prayer Space in Your Home,” make an appointment with God just like all of your other “tasks” for the day. And then keep it. This will order everything else you do, so don’t fall into the “I’m too busy to pray” trap. That’s exactly what the Devil wants. In fact, St. Ignatius would advise that whenever you feel like that, you should do double the amount of prayer to help you better navigate through it. Prayer is all about abiding—staying with the Lord, so this is the lynch pin.
Use a tool to help you prioritize what must be done and when it needs to be done by. Whether it’s the Monk Manual that we love (see Alyssa’s review of it here), which is a powerful tool to help balance being + doing, or another planner system, pick one thing to help orchestrate the amount of busyness you allow in your life. We also have some free downloads we created in our shop that you can use for daily and weekly planning. Prioritizing is a crucial part of not becoming overly busy—as it helps you to focus on the right things, not just whatever is at hand, you feel like doing, or whatever others are pressing on you.
Prioritizing is creating an order for your activity to flow around. Ask yourself:
- What must be done today?
- What must be done this week?
- What must be done this month?
- What then may fall under my longer-term priorities?
Build in down-time into your schedule and priorities. Make sure that your priorities aren’t always goal-oriented in terms of money-making, ministry-building… but that they involve things that you enjoy, relax you, and provide down-time. Being uber-focused constantly is a drain and will actually make you less productive over time. I am writing this blog in our friends’ log cabin in Colorado right now. My husband and I are working from here this week, after a 2-week bucket list trip to Montana that we’ve finally made a reality after years. For those 2 weeks, I did not allow myself to work, and had prepared my team for the month prior so that everyone would be on board with what needed to be done in my absence. It worked, because things kept going forward in my absence!
Since I took that down-time out in nature, with friends, taking time to slow down and enjoy life as we adventured, I now feel so much more creative. I have given my mind and my body the space that they’ve needed to decompress. And they are now more willing to come up with new ideas and creations since I’ve honored their need to slow down and abide.
I hope that these life lessons from a “worker bee” will help you to be less busy and abide in God, too! Busyness never brings peace friend, only God can do that.