How Busy is Too Busy

In the U.S., at least in middle-class, professional circles, busyness is the new social capital. (I think I read this once, but can’t find the article. Let me know if you know of it.)

I have been crazy busy this month, with work for InterVarsity and Urbana, leading a weekly small group Bible study at our church, normal family and house stuff, and launching our latest book.

My body is naturally waking up between 5:00 and 5:40 am. I make tea, and sit down before the sun gets up. It’s lovely. I often read a bit of the Bible and other books I’m reading (currently Love Does and Prayer). I take care of some emails and catch up on social media stuff for the book.

On Tuesdays and Thursdays, I get the kids up at 6:30 and out the door at 7:10. I try to leave for work right after that, and I’m in the office all day. I come home, cook on Mondays and Saturdays. We frequently have people over. And this week, I’m traveling yesterday and today. I’m exhausted.

I think I deal with busyness and stress pretty well. How busy is too busy for me?

  • Losing sleep. If I wake up in the morning (or worse, in the night) thinking about problems, tasks, or relationships, I am too busy.
  • Cranky at my family. If I am snapping, raising my voice, growling (seriously), or holing up away from Chrissy and the kids, I am too busy.
  • Sacrificing exercise. If I am not getting my heart rate up or even walking or stretching, I am too busy.
  • God seems distant from me. If I am not enjoying at least occasional time dedicated to reading the Bible and praying for issues I face and for people I know, I am too busy.

But Jesus said his yoke is easy and his burden is light. So what gives? Why are we so busy? Why are we so stressed? Is it because we are too plugged in? (That’s the hypothesis my new friend Trent Sheppard shared with me this morning.) Are we too distant from natural rhythms of darkness and daylight because of electricity?

I know for us, it seems all the things we’re busy with are good—I work for a great Christian organization, Chrissy’s studying, we’re spending time with the kids, we serve a limited amount at church, we’re writing articles and books that seem to be helping others.

What do we cut?

Last year, I got to interview Kevin Jenkins, the president of World Vision International, because he’s an InterVarsity alumnus. He game me some of his hard-lived wisdom.

Go ahead and be busy. People who are gifted in their area, for their career will not be balanced. You will be asked to go through extremely busy seasons. So do the hard things—be very busy. But make afterward, you need to come up for air and make amends. If you’ve not spent much time with your spouse, go on a date. If you’ve not seen your friends in a long time, set something up. If you’ve not exercised or done something you enjoy, get it on your calendar.

I think that’s a very helpful perspective.

How do you know when you are too busy? And what do you do about it?


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