Perhaps the biggest lesson I am learning this year is one that I’ve known for a long time, yet must continually re-learn. While it has been good and helpful for me to spell out my many goals for the year related to body, mind and spirit, and to post monthly progress updates here, I have increasingly felt as the year has progressed that I simply have too many of them. I did not allow myself time to relax or to do many unplanned things for fun either by myself or with others. I’ve been busy and I’ve accomplished most of what I set out to do. I suspect all but my two reading goals will be met by the end of the year.
But being busy doesn’t prove that any of that time is meaningfully spent. Filling all of one’s waking hours with activity is no guarantee of significance, either in the short term or long term. So, in a nutshell, here is the lesson I have had to learn again for the umpteenth time:
Do not equate busyness with significance.
This applies in any area of life…
In work, are you doing a lot of things that keep you busy and seem to keep the boss happy? If so, that’s good in a way, unless you have a sense that your time could be better spent doing something with greater significance and long-term impact. Different people can find satisfaction in about any kind of work, so what others consider significant may vary from what you consider it to be. Do what you think is significant.
In education, we can spend so much time studying, pursuing degrees, and learning more for that next certification or license. A real danger is that we eventually look back and wonder where the time went and if it was all worth it, especially when so many graduates don’t even end up actually working in fields that they spent years and tens of thousands of dollars preparing to do. Is such an education a smart path, or could a more significant path be chosen?
In home and family life, busyness can easily be the enemy of relationships. With everyone in the household having their own busy schedule, little time is left for each other. That can’t be what is best for the relationships and for modeling healthy families to the next generation.
In volunteer involvement with other organizations, it is possible to get so busy that we do harm to ourselves in our perceived effort to serve others. I see it all the time in the church when calendars are filled with activities and people feel like they must participate in as many as possible to be a good church member or faithful Christian. Trust me when I say that being super busy inside the walls of the church may be the worst thing for Christians, keeping us from being salt and light outside the church walls in a needy, dark world. Certainly many avenues of volunteer service are significant in improving the lives of others, but it can also be an unhealthy drain on the one giving all the time as well as a potential distraction keeping you from doing something more significant.
Whether the busyness that fills our lives comes from work, school, extracurricular activities, or even volunteerism, we must evaluate the significance of how we spend our time and not just assume we are making a positive, significant difference in our world just because we’re busy. A genuine analysis on that basis might lead some of us to radically change our involvement in activities and organizations. It might cause us to alter our schedule so that we do what is most important instead of what we or others deem to be the most urgent. It might help us actually move from mere busyness to true significance.
And somewhere in that schedule change there must be some down time for rest, relaxation and personal renewal. Without it, you will wear down and burn out unnecessarily. How will you continue to be significant at all if you allow that to happen?