Recently our family went to a community event at a local garden. First, we meandered through the gardens as the kids looked for statues on their scavenger hunt. Next, the kids used their creative talents as they painted on a large canvas. The outlines of shapes were largely ignored in their quest to spread as much paint as humanly possible.
Later we went to various tables with crafts, activities, and information about local businesses, groups, or clubs. One was offering a jewelry-making craft. My older daughter asked to make one, so I went along with her.
The woman at the table asked if we’d be interested in joining the group she was representing. Not one to mince words, I said that we weren’t interested. I mentioned that I hardly ever sign my kids up for after school activities because we don’t like having a full schedule. She replied that I could just drop her off since it sounds like I’m already so busy.
It was at this point that I clarified my statement. I told her that no it isn’t that we are already busy. It’s that we don’t want to become busy and that’s why we don’t do these extra things. We are intentionally un-busy.
Her expression reflected her confusion at what I’d just said. No response.
Our society is so used to the idea of busy that it makes people uncomfortable to consider the possibility of intentionally choosing not to be busy. It’s not normal.
We fill our schedules without even realizing what’s happened. We sign onto things without knowing why we are doing them. We go with the flow of what other parents do, what friends do, or what our family does without stopping to ask questions.
Do we want to be doing what we’re doing? If not, why are we?
This isn’t to say we should only do things we enjoy. As a parent, I do many things I don’t like doing. At times we should do things make us uncomfortable because it helps us grow. We need to be thoughtful in our choices.
We sign on to do things with no good reason. It’s a reflex to say yes. We want people to like us. We want to be helpful. We want to fit in. Everyone else seems to be busy so certainly we should be too.
Unless, of course, you don’t want to be.
If you’re tired of keeping up with the culture of busyness and want to resign you need to:
1. Consider your motives
2. Have clear priorities and boundaries
3. Wait to say yes
Why do you do what you do? If you’re saying yes to things our of guilt, obligation, or how you want to be perceived it’s time to stop. Those are not good reasons to say yes. When we do things out of guilt or perceived obligation it often leads to dissatisfaction and even resentment. It’s difficult to enjoy spending time doing things we wished we’d said no to.
Sometimes we may think because we were asked is reason enough to say yes. We want to be helpful or assume we’re supposed to be busy trying to do everything. We overcommit to the detriment of everyone we’ve said yes to. When you take on too much and you’re stretched too thin, everyone suffers including you, your family, and the people you’ve said yes to.
Other times we choose to have very busy schedules because we’ve let it define us. When we continue to pour ourselves into tasks, we can take our busyness on as part of our identity. But be warned, tying your self-worth up in the things you do will leave you worn out.
If you’re tired of feeling busy and overcommitted, take time to look over your schedule and ask what your motives are for each of the items listed. It may be time to let some of them go.
Have clear priorities and boundaries:
It becomes easier to say no when you are clear on your priorities and boundaries. When you’ve decided as a family that you will have dinner together 5 nights per week then any opportunity that conflicts with that becomes an easy no.
That isn’t to say you won’t be tempted. Sometimes great opportunities arise that you do want to add to your schedule. Be wise in doing so. Don’t constantly make exceptions or your boundaries have no meaning.
Be clear on what your personal and family values are. Protect your time. The world will fill your schedule up until you’re are drained and exhausted. Choosing to let go of busyness will mean you get used to saying no and saying it often. Don’t apologize for owning your schedule and choosing margin. Give yourself permission to live your life and to choose appropriate and healthy boundaries.
Wait to say yes:
To prevent overscheduling, wait to say yes to anything. Make a rule that you cannot say yes to any event, obligation, or commitment without considering it for a set period of time. It’s easy to say a quick yes without considering the implications. But when you’ve said yes to something, you by default are saying no to other things.
If you’re a people pleaser who is used to saying yes, this will be a greater challenge. Creating this habit will help you get your time and life back. After all, how you spend your time is how you spend your life. Make sure you are spending it on the things you intend and that are important to you.
When you’re busy you miss out on other opportunities. You don’t have the flexibility to enjoy a spontaneous family picnic. When you’re overcommitted you miss out on relaxing. When your life is moving too fast you miss you out on little moments and the simply joys. Enjoy nature. Enjoy your family. Enjoy rest. And enjoy your life by resigning from a culture of busy.
About the Author: Julianna is a professional declutterer and writer at The Simplicity Habit. She writes to encourage and inspire people who want to simplify their homes and their lives.