When Does Busy Become Too Busy?

Posted: January 20, 2013 in Time Management
Tags: , , , ,

The title of this post really is a question to you, the reader.  I want to know what your criteria are for knowing when you cross that line from just being busy to being too busy?  When does living an active, fulfilling life morph into having so many commitments and expectations that you begin to wonder if you are in an unhealthy zone?

As you might suspect, since I’m pondering the question myself, I am not quite sure where I am on that continuum at the moment.  I set a number of goals for the year that I blogged about on January 1.  So far, they are going well and I am enjoying the attempt at well-rounded goals categorized into areas of body, mind and spirit.  Where it gets a little old, though, is when I find myself on a Sunday night (like right now) wishing I could just veg in front of a TV for a while and relax, but I have a number of things I still want to cross off my list before going to bed and starting another work week tomorrow.  Does that mean I set too many goals, or am I just battling with a desire to be lazy?  I’m not sure.

Part of what drives me to try to accomplish a lot is a sense of purpose.  I don’t think I was put on this earth just to enjoy myself.  I can do more than that in making a difference for others, so it seems reasonable that my time – both at work and personally – should be given to that cause and not just for selfish pursuits.  Scientists tell us we use a small fraction of our brain capacity.  I also think we tend to use far less of our productivity potential than possible by thinking, for example, that work should be 40 hours per week and the rest is “free time” to do as we please.  Of course, parents with children at home know the “free time” concept in theory only, but now that it’s just my wife, my dog and me in our home, we have many more options in how we spend our time.

In my lazier or more physically tired moments, I want to spend time doing something rather mindless that isn’t on a to-do list.  I want to find a book to read for pleasure or take a nap or play with the dog or channel surf for a show or movie to watch without the guilt that usually accompanies such leisure activity.  I would love to spend time occasionally doing things just because I enjoy them and not because they are on a checklist.

Today, for example, I decided to stay home from church this morning (a once or twice a year rarity) and sleep later than normal, then catch up on some reading.  The reading was on my to-do list, though, and since getting up at the very late hour of 9:15, I’ve been busy tackling to-do list items ever since.  I still have reading about half of a new book, finishing out 10,000 pedometer steps for the day, plus another couple of items on the list – actions that would take me more hours combined than there are remaining tonight if I am to get a decent amount of sleep.  That’s discouraging.

So, back to my question to you, dear reader.  What is your criteria for knowing you are on the healthy side of the busy vs. too busy continuum?  For me, I’m thinking the physical criteria are far too little sleep or the appearance of other negative physical side effects, and the emotional criterion is a sense of being overwhelmed and trapped, neither of which are true for me yet.

What about you?  How do you know you’re too busy?  Tell me in a comment.

  1. dona says:

    When I find myself taking too much time to find lost keys and misplacing other things I need to stop life’s treadmill and take the Lord at His word when He told His people to take rest on the Sabbath.
    Your blog subjects are always though provoking. Thank you for keeping up that part of your commitment! dona

  2. dona says:


  3. Jeff Ross says:

    Thanks, dona. You have a very practical gauge there for sensing when you’re too busy.

  4. wjryan says:

    When I realize my beloved and I are passing each other as we complete family tasks, community committments, and work obligations then I know that we have overbooked – if we are not connected it is time for a break!

  5. The Dad says:

    I just recently realized that I too am very busy. Even though it seems like fun and not really work spending most all waking hours with a 3 year old can truly be work. What became evident to me is that I have lost connection with my spouse in just a relatively short amount of time due to my inability to recognize that all my time is totally being spent in one place.

    While it’s admirable for a dad to spend most of his free time with his kids, I have to remember the other important people in my life so I don’t lose that important connection. This includes myself.

  6. Susanna says:

    I can tell when I’m too busy when I’m stressed, too tired to think or or daydream. Usually that means I’m focused on the things that are urgent-not-important, or not-important rather than urgent-important. Self-care is in that important latter category but is frequently the first thing to go. Without proper self-care (rest, exercise, down-time, healthy diet, recreation time, family time), then productivity and creativity and happiness suffer. So in the end it’s worth the investment to invest in ourselves. We’re recharged to give to others, as opposed to giving while running on r.

    DOn’t feel guilty about your personal time. You need it, you deserve it. If you want others to balance their lives too you must model the change. Good luck!

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