Check for symptoms of ‘busyness out of control’

No title required!  I just felt it would be rude not to take a photo as we walked past!
No title required! I just felt it would be rude not to take a photo as we walked past!

Just over a week ago I attended the London Women’s Convention, an annual event whose strap line is ‘encouraging women to live for Christ’.  This year the meeting was titled, ‘Busyness As Usual?’  What follows is a very brief summary of a seminar I attended and some thoughts I’ve had on busyness. I hope you will find it thought provoking and helpful whether or not you are a Christian.

Seminar, ‘Choosing a better kind of busyness’, led by Sian Baker.  Sian gave us this list of symptoms we can experience when busyness is out of control:

  • We lose our joy – too aware of failures, less aware of God’s grace
  • We have no time to enjoy God’s good gifts – nature, art, literature etc.
  • We are permanently tired – lack of sleep!
  • We are indecisive – wide variety of choices leads to procrastination
  • We avoid people – loose spontaneity as we try to keep to schedule
  • We start making mistakes – so much going on that in the end we can’t attend to details
  • We experience ill-health – the result of lack of sleep, unhealthy eating etc.

I can certainly recognise some of those symptoms in myself.  Recently I’ve found myself reluctant to deal with nitty-gritty details, the voice in my head says with a sigh, ‘I can’t be bothered.’  And ‘yes’ like the example given by Sian I have tried hiding in doorways rather than greet someone knowing a long conversation could ensue!

I have reached the conclusion that busyness is often worn as a badge of honour, even given the status of martydom (maybe that’s a bit extreme but you know what I mean?).  Often in answer to the question, ‘How are you?’ we hear or give the answers, ‘Busy’ or ‘Tired’.  It is good to have a sense of purpose, to wake up in the morning and have a reason to get of bed.  BUT that gets twisted so badly it’s easy to find that if we are not busy checking off items on our (impossibly long and restrictive) tick lists we are in danger of feeling out of step with modern living.  It’s tied up with that other question, ‘What do you do?’. We hear the reply and immediately form assumptions about the person from their answer – so much so that really the question could be, ‘Who are you?’.  It’s not easy to find a way out of the ‘busyness; what I do is who I am’ mindset. And I think it’s just as hard not to impose this thinking on our impressions of the people we meet.

As always it is the attitude behind what we do that is key.  Sian used a working day in the life of Jesus to illustrate this (Mark 1:32-42).  He remained focused on why he had come; to preach.  To do that effectively he needed to pray and he needed to keep moving on from one town or village to the next.  Despite the interruptions and clamour for him to divert from his route, Jesus kept in mind his main purpose and acted accordingly while always having space for compassionate encounters.  So using Jesus’ example we can try applying these tips and helps to get busyness under control:

  • Develop a balanced approach – know that working for God’s Kingdom will be demanding – we are urged in Ephesians to make the most of every opportunity!  But don’t forget God instituted a day of rest!
  • Resist pressure from others – to God only are we accountable, being driven by the expectations of others only compounds the busyness problem.  People pleasing…
  • Prioritise wisely – be prepared to say ‘no’.  Keep the  focus on keeping in line with Jesus.
  • Embrace life’s different stages – cultivate an adaptable mindset.
  • Put Jesus at the centre – practise abiding in Him (John 15).
  • Cultivate good discipline – give quality time to being with Jesus in prayer, getting to know him better through reading the Bible.  After all he did say “Come to me all you who are weary and burdened and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11:28)

Balance is a tricky concept to apply to the whole business of busyness.  As one person pointed out; if our approach to finding balance is to keep adding things to each side of the scales then eventually the whole structure will collapse!

I’ve resolved to change my attitude to to-do lists.  My list will be a list of reminders (because I do forget many things!) rather than an achievement-driven tick list and at the top I’m going to remind myself to practise living for and in Christ – concentrating less on my failures (because they will keep happening) and more on His grace to forgive, pick me up and set me back on the right path with the right attitude!

If this gets you thinking please do share your thoughts in a comment.  I’m linking this post with Nancy at Joy for Grace, Quilty Inspirations #5.


A gratuitous photo of Westminster Abbey because we walked past on our way to the conference!
A gratuitous photo of Westminster Abbey because we walked past on our way to the conference!

7 thoughts on “Check for symptoms of ‘busyness out of control’

  1. Thanks for linking to Quilty Inspiration, Allison.

    I’m at a time in my life when I have a little more freedom to choose how I spend my time and how much of it I spend on any given activity. It’s been a blessing to slow down and take a little longer with those things I most love and leave behind, or give less time, to non-essential activities. A while ago I read this acronym for BUSY: “Being Under Satan’s Grasp.” If we’re busy keeping up with everything we “should” do — or think we should be doing — our minds are drawn away from the very most important activities. It sounds like your conference was great.

    Your photos are beautiful. Love the cathedral!

    • Thanks for your comments Nancy. It is being driven by that ‘should do’ feeling that the Devil uses so well isn’t it? Westminster Abbey is an amazing place – full of history including the tombs of monarchs such as Tudor Queens Mary and Elizabeth I.

  2. I have a person in my life that shows all the symptoms of “busyness out of control” people have repeatedly pointed these out and kindly offered to help. Unfortunately, this person needs to be in control and seems to enjoy the badge of honour & the status of martyrdom. From the outside looking in it is quite sad and damaging to the martyr’s health and relationships.
    You obviously hit the mark & got me thinking Allison !

  3. Interesting post Allison. There was something in the last year about replacing the word Busy. Everyone is busy and have things to do. Instead of saying you’re busy, say what you are doing or why you can’t do something. Replace busy with your action. Maybe you aren’t really busy, but you want to avoid something or someone. It’s a challenge to change that perspective. Good luck as you change your perspective on your to-do list to more reminders. Reminders feel so much more flexible.

    • Thanks for you comments! Certainly for me there is a blurred line between busy and procrastination. That’s down to personal discipline – to just get on with the unappealing jobs on the to do or reminder list instead of putting other tasks/actions in the way.☺


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