“If time is money, then I’m broke. I think a lot of us are.” — Jeff Shinabarger
And by our own accounts, many of us are broke, time wise. What is the most common short answer to the question, how are you? Busy. Tired. (Or both.)
I use the term busy and busyness to refer to any use of our time that habitually distracts us from meaningful connections with people and from a mindful pursuit of what we want most in life.
Ultimately, we do choose how we spend our time. Minimalism is a mindset that helps us focus on a greater purpose for our life and on our own lasting happiness. A minimalist mindset reclaims our attention so that we can use our time here for a greater purpose and to find what we were made for—and I believe that is the pursuit that brings us an enduring happiness.
Corporate advertising and social media tell us what a happy and successful family should look like: the perfect house, obedient and adorable children excelling in multiple extracurricular activities, parents doing it all perfectly (just like Pinterest shows us) while climbing their career ladder flawlessly.
We don’t have to follow this dream, and we may want to start asking ourselves if this is a worthwhile dream at all. I can’t imagine anyone gets to the end of their life wishing they’d spent more time pursuing status, possessions and money, or less time on relationships with those they love.
But, we don’t have to wait until the end years of our life. We are free to stop the glorification of busyness and teach our children new values to live by. We can de-own our busyness along with all of our other excess. We can accept reality (it always wins anyway)—we aren’t made to do it all. We are made for regular cycles of rest and play. We are made for lasting and meaningful connections.
Why are Americans so impressed with busyness?
Somewhere around the end of the 20th century, busyness became not just a way of life but a badge of honor or status. Before this, people of higher social status were proud of their leisure time. In today’s culture, we think busy people are more important than those with more leisure time. We have devalued rest.
We might read and even believe stories like Being Busy is Actually Better For Your Brain that imply your long to-do list isn’t such a bad thing because people who are busier are more likely to enjoy better cognition. But are they confusing busy with active?
What are we so afraid of?
We’re afraid of falling behind; so we rarely slow down.
We’re afraid of looking lazy; so we can’t be seen doing any activity that even resembles rest.
We’re afraid we won’t get that pay raise; so we work ourselves into misery.
We’re afraid of missing out; so we say yes when we should say no.
We’re afraid our loved ones won’t be happy; so we buy them that useless expensive gift.
We’re afraid people will think we are stupid so we hide behind a facade that we know what we’re doing—all the time.
What have we believed for our families?
That if we push harder…we’ll get further.
That if we keep our kids busy…they wont get into trouble.
That if we’re always doing, we’ll be better, smarter, and happier.
That if our children play 3 musical instruments, ace their 5 AP classes, and…then they’ll get into that college we want them to.
That if we give our children more stuff, they’ll be happier and more successful.
We’ve believed that busier is better and that it equals success. And we are losing our balance in the lie that more is better.
The price of busyness might be higher than you think.
It’s costing us relationships and rest, purpose, and fulfillment. We’re too busy to know our neighbors, take a vacation, sleep well most nights, eat meals together with our family, and play with our children. We’re so busy that by the time we’ve caught our breath it’s when our head hits the pillow. As we pack our schedules full we become so focused on our to-do list that we lose our to-be list.
The lifestyle of the tired and busy comes at the cost of missing out on what matters most. Become unbusy and you and your family can pursue deeper and meaningful relationships with those you love, sleep better, use more time for creative play, and experience the freedom of living a simpler life unbusy.
The Secret to Becoming Unbusy
In my own life there, are some things I’ve embraced to ditch the broke in busyness life. After all, there is no joy in living the life of The Tired and Busy.
Here are some ways I’ve learned to ditch the “broke in busyness” lifestyle:
1. Understand that being busy is a choice.
Our busyness is usually self-imposed. Look at your family’s schedule and determine if your default is busy. Acknowledge that if you fill your calendar, you can un-fill it also.
Give yourself and your children a pause. Teach them to question and assess the pace of their lives. What are they allowing in that isn’t helping them be their best self? It’s important to check in with ourselves and our children and make sure we’re doing ok. To pause and assess regularly is important for reflection and processing emotions to grow as individuals.
2. Recognize the value in rest.
Rest can be described as inactivity and freedom from activity or labor. When we fail to recognize the value in rest, we remain busy, missing out on what matters most. But when we recognize the value in rest, we can start to identify the busyness and carve out time to create a more fulfilling life. Reducing our busyness will increase the strength in our relationships and community.
3. Redefine your priorities.
When everything becomes a priority, nothing is priority. Save the word priority for things that really are a priority in your life. We’ve let things take the place of what matters most. So ask yourself, “What are the three or so most important things in your life?” Start with those and build your life around them.
4. Schedule regular times for rest.
Many times we become accustom to our busyness. We don’t realize just how busy we are until we stop and take a rest.
Planning time with nothing scheduled will give your family time to rest, recharge and connect. Instead of limiting your family’s vacations and time for rest to a single weeklong vacation each year or 2-day vacations here and there, build rest into your schedule weekly.
When we drive our lives at the speed of chaos, we’re bound for whiplash.
5. Do one thing at a time.
We all want to be be productive. But what good is productive at the cost of presence? Do one thing at a time as much as possible. I know it looks good when we can do a lot, and multi-tasking has a place. But if you’re eating dinner, don’t pick up you phone for mindless scrolling—just eat. If your child is telling you about their day, look them in the eye, connect, and listen to them.
When we do too many things at once we’re not fully present and engaged. It’s a superficial connection.
Sometimes you realize that the whole point of getting things done—the things that matter most—is knowing what to leave undone. I don’t have to do it all and neither do you. The desire to do more keeps us busy doing just that—more—counting the things we do instead of doing the things that count.
I’ve asked myself, what am I celebrating in these fleeting moments of my life?
What if we stopped celebrating doing it all as a measure of success and self-worth? What if instead, we celebrated togetherness, gratitude, contentment, and well-being with the people we love? If you too would like to embrace an unbusy life, minimalism can be the vehicle to take you there.
Reducing our possession, schedules, our kids schedules, and simplifying our family’s lives to pursue greater fulfillment takes an intentional approach in our ‘more is always better’ culture.
But I encourage you to take the step, or better yet dive in, because a purposeful and fulfilling life isn’t found in the rich and famous or the tired and busy. It’s found in enough.